By Rick Davenport
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
It was 2002 and Rob Blanchard was looking for civilian employment following his decorated, 23-year military career as a Navy aviation maintenance officer. But when he applied for the advertised aircraft log and records clerk job at McGregor Executive Airport (KPWG), the airport manager — who was about to retire — urged Rob to apply for his job. And he got it.
Fast forward 15 years and Rob Blanchard was on stage at the Annual Texas Aviation Conference receiving one of TxDOT’s most prestigious honors: The Airport Manager of the Year Award. To many of his colleagues, the honor was overdue.
“He is the best airport manager I’ve worked with in the 40 years I’ve been in the municipal management business,” McGregor City Manager Kevin Evans says. “He is focused, thorough, consistent, and he follows through. Rob is always focused on what is best for the airport.”
Over the last 15 years, under Blanchard’s leadership, McGregor Executive Airport has seen more than its share of major improvements: refurbished runways, new runway lighting, installation of precision approach path indicators, new airport signage, construction of additional hangars to keep up with demand, a new fuel site, construction of two new ramps, a refurbished north apron, new game fencing surrounding the airport’s 800 acres…..and the list goes on.
“I’ve become an expert in looking for money,” Blanchard admits. “I apply for TxDOT grants every chance I get. I could not do anything without TxDOT. They are there for support and they do a great job doing it.”
Blanchard is equally appreciative of the McGregor City Council because of its support of airport improvements and its belief in the value of aviation for a community. Unlike many general aviation airports, McGregor Executive Airport actually makes money for the city.
Situated just seven miles west of Waco, McGregor’s airport is a nearby, uncrowded alternative for business travelers and recreation seekers. And thanks to the improvements over the years, it provides a top-notch facility for pilots who conduct more than 40,000 operations each year.
So, after two successful careers, is the McGregor airport manager ready for retirement?
Blanchard says he still has plenty of work to do. He’s in the process of rehabilitating the terminal ramp, wants to have the southeast apron improved and would like to double the size of the west apron.
“I want to keep on contributing. Every year I seem to find a new challenge, so it looks like I will be here for a while,” he says.