Airport Business

JUN-JUL 2018

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30 airportbusiness June/July 2018 EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW By Benét Wilson Phoenix Rising Phoenix continues to see its airport grow and Jim Bennett is leading the dynamic change to its operations. Jim Bennett, A.A.E. was named director of aviation services for Phoenix in August 2015, where he oversees three airports: Phoenix Sky Harbor International, Phoenix Deer Valley and Phoenix Goodyear. The job is a homecoming of sorts, since he served as the city's assistant aviation director at Sky Harbor from 1988 to 1996. In that job, he oversaw construction and development of Terminal 4 and supervised the airport's finance, engineering, planning and maintenance operations, among other duties. In his career, Bennett served as president and CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which manages Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports. He also served as CEO for the UAE-based Abu Dhabi Airports Company, where he oversaw five airports in Abu Dhabi. He also served as president of his own consulting firm, serving foreign and domestic transportation companies. Bennett has a Bachelor's of Aviation Management from Auburn University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Michigan. His professional affiliations include being the former chairman of the American Association of Airport Executives and a past president of the Arizona Airports Association. He spoke to Airport Business magazine about his first industry job, overseeing major capital projects at MWAA and in Abu Dhabi, his return to Sky Harbor and the projects he's overseeing there. AIRPORT BUSINESS: WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST AIRPORT JOB IN THE INDUSTRY AND HOW DID YOU GET IT? JIM BENNETT: My first airport job was when I was a senior in high school. I got a summer job driving a tractor cutting grass at Birmingham Municipal Airport. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be in aviation business and work at an airport. I was bitten by the bug early on. While I was at Auburn, I had a co-op job at Birmingham [Shuttlesworth International] airport. After graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C., and became manager of technical services for the Airport Operators Council International, which is now ACI-NA. I then went to Flint, Mich., where I was director of aeronautics. AB: YOU OVERSAW THE D2 CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM AT WASHINGTON DULLES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT. WHY DID MWAA THINK IT WAS NEEDED AT THE TIME? JB: It was needed in order to transform Dulles and move it into the modern aviation industry. We needed to make facilities that were able to accommodate today's aviation industry. When Dulles was originally built and opened in 1962, there were no gates. Aircraft were parked on hardstands and passengers were driven to be loaded on their planes using mobile lounges. The industry has evolved since then and we needed to put in the infrastructure to accommodate that. AB: AFTER 15 YEARS AT MWAA, YOU RETIRED AND TOOK OVER AS HEAD OF ABU DHABI AIRPORTS COMPANY. WHY WAS THAT JOB SO INTRIGUING TO YOU? JB: I had a lways been intrigued about exploring how the model of a non-U.S. airport operated. Abu Dhabi Airports Company gave me the opportunity to be the CEO at another operating model. The airports company had a very aggressive capital development program underway and I wanted to experience putting that together. AB: WHAT WERE YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS DURING YOUR TENURE IN ABU DHABI? JB: Probably one of my biggest accomplishments was getting all the contracts in place for the development of a new midfield terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport that they're still building. We had to get through the procurement process, get it under contract and get the work started. AB: NOW YOU'RE BACK AT SKY HARBOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT. WHAT MADE THIS JOB SO ATTRACTIVE TO YOU? JB: Anyone who has ever known me knows I All photos courtesy of Phoenix Aviation Department

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