State Aeronautics Offices Remained Strong, Despite Shutdown By Federal Government

by Dave Weiman

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – State aeronautics directors and members of their executive staffs gather each year to discuss issues of common concern, including the pending shutdown of the federal government this fall. State directors successfully held their 82nd Annual Convention of the National Association of State Aviation Officials in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, September 28 – October 1, 2013.

South Dakota Aviation Program Manager Bruce Lindholm, his staff and the South Dakota Aeronautics Commission welcomed more than 160 attendees to the convention.

Originally, the administrators of each of the nine Federal Aviation Administration Regions were to attend, but the pending federal shutdown, which did not begin until October 1, reduced that number from nine to one administrator. Those of us in the Great Lakes Region can be proud that our administrator, Barry Cooper, not only attended, but led several important sessions about the sequestration that threatened the closure of contract towers, and future funding for airport improvements.

In addition to Cooper, FAA representatives that arrived before the start of the federal shutdown included Ben De Leon, incoming Deputy Associate Administrator for Airports, Mike O’Donnell and Abagail Smith.

Committee meetings began already on Saturday, guest speakers spoke on such topics as how best to deal with “obstructions” near airports, and awards were presented at the Tuesday evening awards dinner. The exhibit hall was filled with airport vendors eager to talk business with decision-makers.

NASAO’s Kenneth R. Rowe Ambassador of Aviation Award went to Randall (Randy) Burdette, Director of the Virginia Department of Aviation.

NASAO’s Center for Aviation Research & Education presented its Aviation Education Program Award to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for its Wisconsin Aviation Career Education Program, which provides on-the-job training each summer for 35 disadvantaged students from the Milwaukee Public School System. On hand to accept the award was Wisconsin Aeronautics officials David Greene and Scott Brummond.

NASAO’s Most Innovative State Program Award went to the Colorado DOT Division of Aviation for its web-based information management system. Accepting the award was T.K. Gwin and David Gordon.

NASAO’s Distinguished Service Award was presented to Carol L. Aldrich, PE, of the Michigan Office of Aeronautics. Aldrich has been employed by the Michigan Department of Transportation for nearly 23 years. NASAO Chairman, Thomas M. Booth, presented the award to Aldrich, and Mike Trout, Executive Administrator for Michigan Aeronautics, was on hand to congratulate her.

For the second year running, the State Aviation Journal, in cooperation with NASAO, presented its State Aviation Newsletter Award to the Texas Department of Transportation, Aviation Division, for its newsletter “Wingtips.” Dave Fulton, Aviation Division Director, accepted the award.

NASAO members elected Christopher J. Willenborg, the Aeronautics Division Administrator for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), chairman for 2014. Willenborg has been a member of NASAO since November 2009 and previously served as NASAO’s vice chairman, treasurer and secretary.

As immediate past chairman, Thomas M. Booth, Director, Aeronautics Division, of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, continues to serve on the NASAO Executive Committee.

Within the Midwest, regional directors for 2014 include David M. Greene of Wisconsin, representing the Great Lakes Region, and Ronnie Mitchell of Nebraska in the Central Region. Board members each serve a one-year term from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. Together, the NASAO Executive Committee and the NASAO Regional Directors comprise the NASAO Board of Directors. The president of NASAO is Henry Ogrodzinski.

The National Association of State Aviation Officials is one of the most senior aviation organizations in the United States, predating even the Federal Aviation Administration’s predecessor, the Civil Aeronautics Authority. Since its founding in 1931, the association has represented the men and women in state government aviation agencies, who serve the public interest in the states, Guam and Puerto Rico. These highly skilled professionals are full partners with the federal government in the development and maintenance of the safest and most efficient aviation system in the world. They organize, promote, and fund a wide variety of aviation programs across the nation.

The NASAO Convention is the one time of the year that I am personally able to meet with the directors of many of the 12 states covered by Midwest Flyer Magazine. It was indeed an honor and a privilege to be invited to attend.

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