LONG BEACH, CALIF. — Chris Kunze, who managed the administration and operations of the Long Beach Airport (LGB) for nearly three decades, has been honored by the Southwest Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (SWAAAE) with the Wanamaker Award for his aviation industry leadership.
Presented in the memory of Robert Wanamaker, a prominent attorney and airport executive, the award was announced on July 22 at the SWAAAE’s 68th Annual Summer Conference in Long Beach before an audience of more than 250 airport executives and industry professionals.
During Kunze’s tenure at LGB, he promoted balance between general and commercial aviation businesses by forming strong partnerships with airport tenants, governmental agencies and airport industry stakeholder groups. Among his many accomplishments, he helped manage and settle 13 years of federal litigation to ensure the airport’s local control and exemption under the federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act.
Much of LGB’s current success is attributed to the efforts made by Chris Kunze and his staff to develop a vision and plan that would serve the best interests of the City of Long Beach. He focused on maximizing economic development and diversifying revenues at the airport to ensure its self-sustainability. He also established the groundwork for approval and construction of a new LGB parking structure and modernized terminal concourse.
“Chris is an intelligent, dedicated and loyal public servant who has greatly contributed to California airports and the aviation industry,” said Long Beach Airport Association President Curt Castagna. “His masterful handling of years of federal litigation and modernization of the Long Beach Airport terminal serves as a national model. There is no individual more deserving of this award.”
Prior to arriving in Long Beach in 1981, Kunze spent his early career managing Ventura County’s two airports. He handled the acquisition and re-opening in 1975 of the former Oxnard Air Force Base, now known as Camarillo Airport, and oversaw operations at Oxnard Airport, a small general aviation and limited airline service facility.
Among his professional accomplishments, Kunze chaired the Southern California Association of Governments’ Aviation Advisory Commission during development of the region’s aviation system plan, as well as the State of California’s Technical Advisory Committee on Aeronautics. He also served on the FAA’s Runway Safety Task Force, which developed the first national plan to enhance airport runway safety.
An adjunct professor in aviation-related courses at California State Universities Long Beach and Los Angeles, he has been instrumental in using his experience to educate and mentor tomorrow’s aviation leaders.
Kunze earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Economics from the University of Southern California and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Los Angeles. He also holds a certificate in Air Transportation Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
SWAAAE was originally formed in 1947 as the California Association of Airport Executives (CAAE). The organization expanded over the years and in 1979 became the Southwest Chapter of the nationwide American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE). The chapter’s membership includes airport representatives primarily from the states of California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. Since its founding, the purpose of the organization has been to bring together all persons representing public use airports as well as persons interested in and working for the benefit of aviation.
The California Association of Airport Executives (CAAAE), the forerunner organization to the SWAAAE, established the Wanamaker Award to honor the memory of Robert Wanamaker, a long-time member of the association and Executive Emeritus. Wanamaker was the owner of the airport in El Monte, Los Angeles County, from 1954 through 1971. He joined the CAAE in 1958 and served on numerous committees and as president in 1964. In January 1972, after selling his airport to the County of Los Angeles, he moved his residence to Incline Village, Nevada.
The Wanamaker Award, presented to one award recipient each, is intended for persons who are not currently exercising active responsibility for the management, general supervision or administration of a public-use airport. The goal of the award is to recognize individuals who have provided leadership for the betterment of airports or aviation in its entirety.