Well the day has finally come for me to “depart the pattern.” After 44 years in state aviation, first in Tennessee and then Texas, it is time for me to retire as Director of TxDOT’s Aviation Division (AVN) and give someone else the opportunity. When I left Tennessee on May 15, 1992, to join the newly created Aviation Division as their first director, there is no way I could have ever imagined that I would be there for 27 years. But without question, coming to Texas was one of the best decisions that I ever made.
Shortly after I arrived, I drove all over the state to take a look at the Texas general aviation (GA) airport system. Compared to Tennessee, I was shocked to see what poor condition most of the airports were in, particularly in the rural parts of the state. As I spent time with AVN staff, I also learned that our state airport improvement grant budget for the entire year was $1.4M, which was funding to support about 278 GA airports statewide.
However, after seeing the professionalism, dedication and commitment of the AVN staff, I said to myself, “This is going to be a lot of fun.” And it has been. Somehow, we figured out how to get the funding we needed and spent the next 27 years transforming the Texas GA system from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best.
No question the job was a challenge and still is today. Few people understand the true value of community airports, particularly to the rural areas of the state. They have not had the opportunity that I have to see new companies moving into cities and counties and creating jobs, with the local airport playing a major role.
As I leave, it is not easy to say goodbye to the fantastic staff of AVN and all of you that I have worked with over the years, many of whom have become good friends. Thank you for your belief in, and support of, GA airports in Texas. I hope to have the opportunity to visit with you next spring in Galveston at the Texas Aviation Conference.