New Manager Aims for Growth at Airport While Keeping its Flavor
September 26, 2014
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  • ARLINGTON — When asked what drew him to the Arlington Municipal Airport, David Ryan cited its unique character and diverse services. “Arlington is different from a lot of airports, in that it offers a mix of a wide variety of aviation,” said Ryan, who stepped into the role of airport manager on Aug. 25.

    “We’ve got ultralights, gliders, corporate aviation, Cessnas and antiques,” he added. “We have a lot of aviation manufacturing, but we also have a lot of industrial businesses on the airport property that aren’t on the airfield.”

    Ryan has experienced a variety of aviation firsthand, starting in 1994 with seven years as operations safety supervisor of the Tulsa International Airport, where he then became the special projects manager for three years. The Oklahoma native moved to Anchorage, Alaska, in 2004 to work at Henderson Field, at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, where he did stints as the airport manager, airfield consultant and capital improvements project manager. His six years as airport manager at Friday Harbor, in the San Juan Islands, began in 2008.

    “I’ve loved the Pacific Northwest, and Friday Harbor was especially beautiful,” said Ryan, who oversaw $8 million in improvements to the airport there. “By the time I left, I’d done everything I felt I could. I was looking for bigger challenges and ways to make a difference. At Arlington, I can exercise the skills I’ve spent a lifetime learning.” Ryan sees the Arlington Airport as a collective host of opportunities for growth, from the ongoing development of its business center to capitalizing on the nationwide expansion of the industrial sector.

    “We want to maximize those areas that create jobs,” Ryan said. “We already employ hundreds of people here, but we’d like to see that multiplied many times over. Boeing is so close that some of their jobs spill over here, but it would be really nice to get more of them.”

    Ryan pointed out that even the airport manufacturers that don’t deal directly with Boeing still see their businesses benefit from it.

    “We’re in a perfect position to take advantage of the growth in the manufacturing sector,” Ryan said. “At the same time, I don’t want to see the character of the Arlington Airport change. I’m not looking to see us become Bellingham. We’re not going to start serving 737 traffic to Honolulu. We should keep the same flavor, but just enhance that flavor.” One aspect of the airport’s services that Ryan aims to enhance is the health of its general aviation sector.

    “Over the year, we’ve seen a decline in the number of private pilots, in part because it’s so expensive,” Ryan said. “Anything we can do to mentor future pilots, or foster an early interest in all aspects of aviation, is a benefit to this industry.”

    Ryan, 55, first obtained his pilot’s license at 25. Although he’s a veteran of the industry, he welcomes input from folks with all levels of experience in aviation, in order to keep it going.

    “I love aviation,” Ryan said. “It’s been part of my life for a long time.”

    •KIRK BOXLEITNER, Arlington Times Reporter or 360-659-1300 Ext. 5052