Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2017
The Minnesota Council of Airports (MCOA), in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Office of Aeronautics, will be hosting the annual Minnesota Airports Conference at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato, Minnesota, April 12-14. The University of Minnesota Airport Technical Assistance Program (AirTAP) is facilitating the conference. The conference focuses on airport management, operations and maintenance, but is open to anyone interested in aviation. The general and breakout sessions, trade show and several social events provide an excellent network venue for those involved in aviation.
This year, the conference will kick off with a hands-on airport emergency planning technical workshop at Mankato Regional Airport. There will be several follow-up sessions on aviation safety and emergency planning by Tim LeBaron, Deputy Director of Regional Operations for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In one session, LeBaron will outline how an NTSB team worked to find the cause of a fatal accident involving a Boeing 747 that crashed during takeoff at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
Another conference highlight is Wednesday’s keynote speaker, U.S. Air Force Colonel Charles Knofczynski. Col. Knofczynski is the Director of Test at the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office and will be talking about the F-35 program. Col. Knofczynski received his commission from the United States Reserve Officer Training Corp at South Dakota State University in 1990. After attending Specialized Undergraduate Navigator Training, he was assigned as an operational F-15E electronic warfare officer, completing two combat deployments in the F-15E. As a follow on, he served at HQ U.S. Air Force in the Air Force Intern Program, then reassigned to fly with the U.S. Navy (USN) in the EA-6B, completing two more combat tours before being selected to attend the USN Test Pilot School (TPS). After graduating from USN TPS, he worked as the initial test weapons system officer on the YAL-1, Airborne Laser. He was later assigned to the Directorate of Requirements, HQ/ACC as Chief of Survivability, special programs. He has served as a Test Squadron Commander, as the Military Assistant and Deputy to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy, and as the Military Assistant to the Principle Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, the Pentagon, Washington D.C.
Also on Wednesday, the FAA and MnDOT will give presentations on federal and state funding and policy issues. Tentative speakers include Barry Cooper, Regional Administrator, FAA Great Lakes Region; Andy Peek, Manager, Dakota/Minnesota Airport District Office (ADO); Lindsay Butler, Assistant Manager, Minnesota ADO; and Cassandra Isackson, Director, MnDOT Office of Aeronautics.
The highlight of the conference is the annual awards luncheon on Thursday. Individuals, airport sponsors, consultants and construction firms are recognized for their contributions to improving aviation in Minnesota.
Thursday and Friday general and breakout sessions emphasize airport operations and maintenance, planning, and airport marketing that focuses on development, use and serving business customers. Friday’s keynote speaker is Brian Ryks, the new CEO for the Metropolitan Airports Commission. Ryks will discuss the state of airport business focusing on what’s happening nationally in aviation and how it affects Minnesota’s aviation industry.
Attendees can register for the entire conference or a single day. There is a special rate for college students. Anyone interested in learning more about the conference, lodging or registration can go to the conference facilitator’s website (http://www.airtap.umn.edu/events/airportsconference/2017/). Those interested in becoming a conference sponsor or exhibitor can learn more from the following link: http://www.airtap.umn.edu/events/airportsconference/2017/sponsors/index.html