Winston Venable was born on an Air Force Base in Arizona, and has been fascinated by airplanes ever since.
He got his pilots license about 15 year ago, just because he could, and was once part-owner of an airplane based at the Redwodo Falls airport.
When the opportunity to become the new manager of the Redwood Falls airport on January 1, Venable grabbed it.
The opportunity came about because the city’s funding for the airport was threatened.
The Federal Avaition Administration (FFA) gives up to $150,000 a year for improvements to the airport, and another $30,000 for maintanence to keep the runways safe for pilots.
The city is currently putting together a long range plan for the airport’s next 20 or so years. New hangers and longer runways are part, so keeping that state and federal funding continuing is a must.
However, to maintain enough funding to continue with airport improvements over the next 20 or so years, the city needs to get that number up to at least 20,000 operations a year.
(An operation is ever time an aircraft takes off or lands. If a pilot takes off from the Redwood runway, then comes back to land there, it’s counted as two operations.)
According to Redwood Falls City Project manager Jim Doering, the airport had 9,828 operations in 2012.
Having North Air Care based at the airport helps tremendously. Every time a North Air Care helicoptor takes off and lands, that counts at two operations.
According to Doering, having more businesses and private pilots based a the Redwood Falls airport is vital to keeping the state and federal funding coming.
“The change to a full-time position came from wanting full-time attention given to the airport,” said Doering.
Marketing is going to be a much more important part of the airport manager’s job in the future.
“The job description now includes working with pilots and industry,” said Doering. “We’d like to see the offices rented in the terminal, and more pilots basing their planes there for business and contract flying.”
Just being available at the airport is an important part of Venable’s new position.
“Pilots like to talk. If they stop by to get gas, or to plug in their airplane overnight, and there’s no one here, they won’t stop by again. I’ve also noticed they like good stiff coffee, so strong a spoon stands up in it.”
The better word of mouth the airport gets, the more are likely to stop by.
“The price of fuel is down (since Jan. 1),” Venable said. “A lot of general aviation pilots were concerned about prices. If a pilot thinks Redwood charges too much, he might not stop here to refuel on his way back.”
Page 2 of 2 - “We used to have a lot of North Dakota aviation students from Grand Forks fly down here to refuel, then fly back again,” Venable said.
And he’ll have the strong coffee on for them when they’re here.