The evening awards banquet, held on the second evening of the conference, provided a time for the Aviation Division to honor those individuals and airports who excelled in the past year. The winners from the Aviation Art Contest are also recognized for their outstanding art work.
Since 1989, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale has sponsored the International Aviation Art Contest to challenge young people to illustrate the importance of aviation through art. Demonstrating the impact of aeronautics through an interactive, fun medium such as art motivates youth of all ages to become more familiar with aeronautics, engineering and science. Children between the ages of 6 and 17 may participate.
This year was a special year for the Texas art contest. Quanjie Dai, placed 2nd in the national contest and placed 3rd in the international competition. Dai is a student at Calhoun High School in Port Lavaca. Congratulations Quanjie!
Also at the evening’s award ceremony, a video tribute to Wayne Collins was played. Collins died January 27 at his home in Mineola.
Texas Aviation Awards
RAMP Coordinator of the Year
The RAMP Coordinator of the Year Award is determined one of two ways – from a coordinator with many years of dedication or a coordinator who has had an outstanding year.
Javier Molinar, Odessa District, has worked with Texas airports in his district for a little over 10 years as a special crews department head and then recently as the official RAMP coordinator.
Despite having a heavy workload with 11 airports, Molinar has a reputation for always being responsive to requests from the airports in his district. On a recent crack seal project, he inspected and followed up with city and TxDOT planning staff on his recommendations. After he recommended adding the work to the district’s crack seal contract, he attended the preconstruction meeting and provided guidance and clarity for stakeholders. The project has resulted in the extended usability of the airfield pavement until funding to rehabilitate becomes available.
An airport sponsor describes Molinar as professional and prompt to respond to him when he calls regarding questions about the airport. He considers him a valuable asset to TxDOT because of his work ethic.
General Aviation Airport Manager of the Year
This year’s winner, Mike Geer from Aransas County Airport, immediately hit the ground running when he was hired at the airport.
Geer completed the Airport Master Plan making the airport grant eligible for many years to come. He developed a Customer Resource Management program, wherein raw data is collected from aviation based tourism, then formatted and communicated to local business owners in an effort to demonstrate the value of a high functioning airport within the community.
But nearly two years ago, an event happened that changed everything.
August 25, 2017, is a day that the local residents will never forget. It was the day Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall at peak intensity at this airport with winds of 130 mph becoming the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in 2005.
When Geer emerged from the terminal building, where he had stayed the night riding out the storm with his staff and a few family members, total devastation greeted them.
In all, nine hangars were destroyed, including four box hangars and five nests of T-hangars, for a total of more than 100,000 square feet of space. Extensive damage was done to the electrical infrastructure. An entire plane was lost that was later found mangled against a game fence on the other side of the airport.
Geer and his staff went straight to work, first clearing the primary runway of debris and then communicating with state and federal agencies that the airport was open to helicopter operations within 24 hours. They then got word to the same agencies that the airport was open and could sustain daytime fixed-wing operations within 72 hours. Currently, the airport is up and running at about 90% from an airport services standpoint and are back to normal on fuel delivery services.
Reliever Airport Manager of the Year
Simply put, this year’s reliever airport manager of the year winner, Aaron Barth, Assistant Airport System Director at City of Fort Worth, is a consummate professional.
Barth started his career at the airport in 2009 as airport manager and in this capacity, he has lead numerous efforts to strengthen the airport’s role in the Texas Airport System.
Barth has taken leadership roles throughout his tenure, from updating the airport’s minimum standards, to leading a multiagency taskforce, to coordinating the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems near airports. In addition to his daily duties at the airport, he is an active leader in the airport industry.
Barth and his staff are dedicated to making the airport a first class facility and are proactive when it comes to airport development. Each year, he conducts a comprehensive 5-Year Airport Capital Improvement Plan review. Over the course of the last two years, he has secured over $5 Million in grant awards to make necessary safety and design improvements to the airport. Furthermore, in 2018, the airport implemented a Pavement Management Program to further protect the investment in airfield pavement.
He is also extremely business savvy and has lead the airport to being financially self-sustainable for the first time in its history. He led an effort in 2017 to gain 100% federal funding for the Air Traffic Control Tower based on increased air traffic activity. He has also been efficient in the use of gas well revenue to balance the airports budget through revenue-producing ventures and has used public-private partnerships to help fund the construction of a fire station to service the airport and nearby city.
Most Improved Airport of the Year
The Angelina County Airport in Lufkin epitomizes true teamwork, as they utilized their available resources to completely revamp an airport that is popular for business aviation, training, and recreational flying.
Two years ago, using an airport improvement program grant, the airport began an ambitious project to improve their pavement surfaces. They removed and reinstalled portions of their taxiway and asphalt around their existing hangars. Then they performed crack sealing on all remaining taxiway and runway surfaces that were not replaced.
To finish off their new pavement, all taxiways and both runways were repainted. Making sure this work was built to last, extensive drainage improvements were made that included the installation of French drains around the taxiway and T-hangars, and the replacement of an inadequate drainage culvert on the entrance road with a box culvert to remove water from airport grounds
Visitors to the airport have taken notice of this airport’s impressive list of improvements, noting in their AirNav comments:
“The staff is friendly and helpful. There is reasonably priced fuel and good food at the Airport Cafe. The pilot lounge is comfortable and quiet. The bathrooms are clean and well kept. Couldn’t ask for more.”
General Aviation Airport of the Year
To say that Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport has consistently provided great service to tenants and the community while facing down several catastrophic events would be an understatement.
In 2016, historic flooding in central Texas made its way downstream to the airport. When the river finally crested, it was at record levels, causing flooding at the airport and the eventual temporary closure. The airport entry road was underwater for a week. To get to the airport to assess damage, Airport Manager Jeff Bilyeu relied on local officials to ferry him via airboat. Knowing the importance of keeping their tenants apprised of the airport’s current status, he posted continuous updates, along with photos and videos to their Facebook page.
In 2017, the arrival of Hurricane Harvey saw more flooding at the airport. To help prevent such future flooding, the Airport and County paid for realignment of drainage and construction of drainage ditches.
Many aviation businesses operate out of the airport, including Dow Chemical and Buc-ee’s, with both having based aircraft at the airport.
No airport does it alone, as our award winning airport certainly receives remarkable support from county officials. One of the officials noted “A thriving county airport is an important asset to the county. While some view it as a luxury for the big corporations and county elite, it can be a valuable resource to grow and support the local economy.”
Aviation Art Contest Winners
CATEGORY I (AGES 6–9)
1st Place: Diya Vermireddy, McCoy Elementary, Carrollton, TX
2nd Place: Akshaya Obilisetty, Hobby Center Dallas, McKinney, TX
3rd Place: Kashmira Kuloor, McCoy Elementary, Carrollton, TX
Honorable Mention: Tanishq Verma, Hobby Center Dallas, McKinney, TX
CATEGORY II (AGES 10–13)
1st Place: Maya Hopson, Danny Jones Middle School, Mansfield, TX
2nd Place: Sanjana Anand, Hobby Center Dallas, McKinney, TX
3rd Place: Chloe Ward, Danny Jones Middle School, Mansfield, TX
CATEGORY III (AGES 14–17)
1st Place: Quanjie Dai, Calhoun High School, Port Lavaca, TX
2nd Place: Kelly Xu, Calhoun High School, Port Lavaca, TX
3rd Place: Yiru Zhou, McKamy Middle School, Flower Mound, TX