State Aeronautics Directors Meet For The Betterment of The Industry

88th Annual NASAO Convention & Trade Show Held In St. Paul
by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer – December 2019/January 2020

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA – The fall season started on a strong note for the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO), with the 88th Annual Convention and Trade Show held at the beautiful and historic Intercontinental St. Paul Riverfront hotel along the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, September 7-11, 2019. The event was hosted by the chair of the organization, Cassandra Isackson, Director of the Minnesota DOT Office of Aeronautics, and her staff, with assistance from “AirTAP,” the Airport Technical Assistance Program of the University of Minnesota.

With over 80 speakers, 40 exhibitors, and 300 attendees, the convention got off to a  good start.

NASAO President and Chief Executive Officer, Shelly Simi, welcomed attendees to the convention, as did St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. In opening comments, Simi recognized her predecessor, Henry Ogrodzinski, for his 17 years of service to the organization. Ogrodzinski died in 2014 after a long battle with cancer.

The Business of Managing State Air Transportation Systems

Socializing and networking plays an important role at conferences and conventions, but there was no question that the state aeronautics directors at the NASAO Convention & Trade Show were there to get down to the business of managing their state air transportation systems.

Sessions covered dozens of topics essential to directors, including the future of urban air mobility, and guidance and research for state aviation systems; airport needs and revenue sources and strategies for state aviation programs; understanding the intricacies of FAA funding; advancing aviation through partnerships; unmanned aircraft systems legislation; effective airport land-use compatibility planning strategies; and learning how states can help airports prepare for the future.

A panel discussion featuring top industry leaders was of great interest to me, and should be to everyone in aviation.

The panel consisted of the President and CEO of the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA), Mark Baker; the President and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Pete Bunce; the President of Innovation & Operations at Cirrus Aircraft, Patrick Waddick; and the Executive Vice President of Flying/Air Operations at Delta Air Lines, Bill Lentsch.

The discussion focused on the growing demand for employees in aviation, and not just pilots. The opportunities for anyone seeking an aviation career has never been better. General aviation organizations, such as AOPA, GAMA, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), and aircraft manufacturers, such as Cirrus Aircraft and Piper Aircraft, have long invested their time and resources to promote flight training and aviation careers, through their education and scholarship programs, and advocacy. It is nice to see the airlines finally coming onboard with attractive salaries and scholarships.

The exhibition hall at the convention was filled with regional and national companies, presenting their products and services. Many of these firms were also sponsors of the convention. There was much to learn from meeting with exhibitors.

A general session speaker I felt was exceptional was Jayshree Seth of 3M, formerly known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, which has one of the largest corporate flight departments in the country, located at St. Paul Downtown Airport. 3M is headquartered in nearby Maplewood, Minnesota.

3M is an American multinational conglomerate corporation operating in the fields of industry, worker safety, health care, and consumer goods. The company produces over 60,000 products under several world-renowned brands.

Jayshree Seth is a corporate scientist and leads applied technology development projects for 3M’s Industrial Adhesives and Tapes Division, the largest industrial business at 3M. In 2018, she was appointed 3M’s first-ever Chief Science Advocate and is using her scientific knowledge, technical expertise and professional experience to advance science and communicate the importance and benefits of science in everyday life. Her talk focused on creating a work environment that encourages creativity and independence, which empowers employees to be more productive because they feel self-worth and enjoy what they are doing.

Another riveting speaker was the Associate Administrator for Airports at the Federal Aviation Administration, D. Kirk Shaffer. Shaffer is a private pilot, and has more than 30 years of experience as a lawyer, entrepreneur, airport executive, advocate, and regulator. At the FAA, he leads more than 500 employees, manages an annual budget of $3.35 billion, and is responsible for administering Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants totaling $7 billion annually, a topic discussed in length elsewhere in this issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine.

Shaffer’s talk focused on the importance of having his staff accomplish certain objectives, rather than looking for reasons not to do something. He believes that FAA District Offices should be viewed as “partners” with states and airport sponsors, working together to achieve the same objectives: airport safety, capacity and security.

All of the speakers I had the opportunity to listen to were outstanding, and it is hoped that the directors of each state aeronautics office will encourage their state airport associations to invite at least one of them to their state airport conference.

NASAO Announces 2019-2020 Board Members 

NASAO announced the members of its 2019-2020 boards of directors at its awards dinner ceremony at the conclusion of the convention. The NASAO Executive Board is comprised of state aviation directors or their selected representatives. The ushering in of the new board was commemorated by the passing of the gavel from NASAO Immediate Past Chair, Cassandra Isackson of Minnesota, to Incoming Chair, John Binder of Alaska.

Members of the 2019-2020 NASAO Executive Board include:
• John Binder, Alaska – NASAO Chair
• Bobby Walston, North Carolina – NASAO Vice Chair
• Anthony McCloskey, Pennsylvania – NASAO Treasurer
• Dave Ulane, Colorado – NASAO Secretary
• Cassandra Isackson, Minnesota – NASAO Immediate Past Chair

Members of the 2019-2020 NASAO Regional Board include:
• Dr. Jeff DeCarlo, Massachusetts – New England Region
• Mark Flynn, Virginia– Eastern Region
• James Stephens, South Carolina – Southern Region
• Bob Brock, Kansas – Central Region
• Kyle Wanner, North Dakota – Great Lakes Region
• Dan Moran, New Mexico – Southwest Region
• Jared Esselman, Utah – Northwest Mountain Region
• Amy Choi, California – Western Pacific Region

The NASAO Center for Aviation Research and Education voted Jared Esselman, Director of Utah Aeronautics, as its chairperson. Esselman follows Dr. Jeff DeCarlo, Administrator of Massachusetts Aeronautics, who served as chairperson for the past three years.

In addition to Online Aviation Training, the NASAO Center also coordinates academic scholarships for college students, and manages the U.S. portion of the International Youth Aviation Art Contest, among other programs.

To help raise funds for additional scholarship and education initiatives, the center has created 2020 Art Contest Calendars. For additional information, email

Awards & Recognition

The awards dinner honored those who have made significant contributions to the aviation industry.

The “Kenneth A. Rowe Ambassador of Aviation Award” is NASAO’s most prestigious award, established in 1994. Presented in the name of Kenneth A. Rowe, the award honors a state aviation director who embodies the spirit, optimism, and fierce pride in the capabilities of state aviation agencies. The 2019 Rowe Award was presented to Bobby Walston, Director of the North Carolina Division of Aviation, and the 2019-2020 Vice-Chair of NASAO.

NASAO’s “State Aviation Distinguished Service Award” honors state aviation personnel (other than the director) who have exceled in their service and dedication to aviation progress and development in their state. Shahn Sederberg of the Colorado Division of Aeronautics received this year’s award.

NASAO’s “Most Innovative State Program Award” recognizes truly unique and service-oriented state aviation programs, projects, and activities. The State of North Carolina received this year’s award for its Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Office.

North Carolina’s nationally recognized UAS program brings together cutting-edge technology, partnerships and experience to drive innovation in the state and beyond. The UAS Program Office exemplifies innovation in action, using drones in new and innovative ways to benefit the state and its citizens.

The NASAO Center for Aviation Research and Education recognizes state aviation agencies for their efforts in educating and motivating the public with aviation-related education programs with its “Aviation Education Program Award.” This year, NASAO presented its “Aviation Education & Outreach Program Award” to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Aeronautics Division, for its competitive, 100% reimbursable grant program for nonprofits, local governments, educational institutions and private entities working to advance aviation and aeronautics-related education, career fields and industry throughout the state. Tennessee-funded programs that provide pilot training, aircraft maintenance technician training, and aviation engineering training, are eligible to receive up to $200,000 in grants.

The NASAO Board Chair selects an individual to receive the “NASAO Chairman’s Award,” which goes to an individual who has shown exemplary dedication to the aviation industry and has supported NASAOs mission. This year’s recipient is Kathleen Vesely, Assistant Director at the Minnesota Office of Aeronautics.

The President and CEO of NASAO selects an individual to receive the “NASAO Presidents Award.” The recipient is an individual who has helped promote the mission of NASAO and provided standout support to the association throughout the year. The recipient of the 2019 NASAO Presidents Award is Joseph Miniace, Central Region Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration.

The evening also celebrated a renewal of a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) between NASAO and the Federal Aviation Administration. The MOU focuses on aviation education programming and was signed by 2018-2019 NASAO Chair, Cassandra Isackson, and Carl Burleson, Chief of Staff and former Acting Deputy Administrator of the FAA.

Debut of New Modules For Aviation Online Training!

The NASAO Convention marked the launch of three new modules in NASAO’s Online Aviation Training Program.

Jviation, Inc., the Diamond Sponsor for NASAO’s Annual Convention & Trade show, developed the training system platform, and was onsite to walk attendees through the new program.

The new modules focus on the fundamentals of airport planning, environmental planning and engineering. NASAO’s state members and business partners have complimentary access to the training program. Email NASAO for program specifics:   

  89th Annual NASAO Convention & Trade Show

The National Association of State Aviation Officials is dedicated to representing the aviation interests of states and the public before policymakers at the federal level. NASAO works closely with the Department of Transportation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Transportation Research Board, and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and maintains an official memorandum of understanding with the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The 89th Annual NASAO Convention & Trade Show will be held September 13-16, 2020 at the Hyatt Regency in Greenville, South Carolina (

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