Visiting State Airport Councils

I’ve spent a lot of time traveling this summer; as have several ACI-NA staff.  Sure, some of it was vacation and some was family-oriented.  Some of it was to attend ACI-related meetings.

But a lot of it has been to attend state and regional airport and aviation meetings, to discuss the ACI-NA airport finance agenda and our Airports for the Future effort (www.airportsforthefuture.org).  I have been to the Florida Airports Council and the West Virginia Aviation Conference, and will be attending the New York Aviation Managers Association next month.  Debby McElroy has been to the California Airports Council, the Texas Commercial Airports Association meeting and the Mississippi meeting.  Jane Calderwood attended the Oklahoma meeting.

At the Florida Airports Council meeting earlier this summer.

We have gone to all of these in person.  This allows all of us to rub elbows with our members where they live, and also to meet with airport and other aviation stakeholders who may not be ACI-NA members but whose views are of critical importance as we seek to shape the future of aviation policy in this country.  These travels also provide strong evidence of the importance of air transportation to every region of this country.

All of these audiences understand that we need to change the way we do things in this country.  They understand that the current system is not adequate, that our competitors are moving ahead of us, and that some others in aviation seek to keep the system static because it serves their own interests.  It is true, there is not unanimous agreement on a certain specific way forward, but the general principles of a new aviation policy in this country are beginning to take shape.  I will have more to say about those principles in the weeks and months ahead.  In the meantime, please visit www.airportsforthefuture.org to learn more.

It needs also to be said that ACI-NA, through the efforts of our Canadian Airports Council office in Ottawa, is making a strong case for change in Canada as well.  We have gotten the attention of a Canadian Senate committee on the critical issues of the (lack of) competitiveness of Canadian airport policies and we are working together to change various security and facilitation policies on both sides of the North American border.  The imminent end of redundant bag re-screening and the Obama-Harper initiatives are evidence that this is taking hold.  And, to continue a theme, I will be speaking at a meeting of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association in late October.

Next week we at ACI-NA are off to Calgary for the ACI-NA and ACI World annual conferences, and hope to see many of you.  I will have more to say from there.

Lessons From My Mom

One of the cool things about travel is being able to tell people what you saw and experienced.  When I first started traveling (first plane ride was 51 years ago) you either had to wait till you got back, or send a post card, or talk to the people who were actually with you.  Nowadays, you can call on a cell phone from almost anywhere and you can share photos and impressions instantly.  I like to think I have evolved (mostly) with the times.

Over the more than a half century since my first plane ride, the person I have shared all those trips with was my mom.  She was with me when I took that first plane ride (I vividly remember how that TWA jet tilted upwards on takeoff and how cool that was).  She loved hearing about my high school trips to the Soviet Union and Greece, my honeymoon trip to Ireland and all the business trips and vacation trips I have taken.  She had always wanted to go to Singapore and so it was fun to call her from there in May.  I still remember the almost childlike wonder in her voice when I called from the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem the first time I went and told her that I was looking out my hotel window on to the Old City. The “Wow!” that came from her is something I will always remember.

My mom died last week so I will not be able to share those stories with her any longer.  She had had five heart attacks over the years, the last two of which were right after Christmas.  Last Thursday she had a couple more and it just turned out to be too much.  She withstood six, couldn’t get past the seventh.

One of the reasons it was always such fun to share impressions from my trips with her was that she always encouraged me to think about traveling and experiencing as much of the world as possible.  She didn’t travel widely outside the US herself; just a trip to Ireland and one or two times across the border into Canada or Mexico.  She did take three car trips across the US and pictures from the third of these decorated the walls around her desk at home.  But she had an unending curiosity and interest in the wider world and made sure that I would have the same.

I’ve been very fortunate.  I went to two good universities, have been lucky enough to have a chance to do meaningful work in Washington for more than three decades, and traveled the world.  But when I grew up I didn’t know anyone who did those kinds of things, that’s not the kind of place I am from.  But my mom always made sure to tell me that I could do those things and should not feel limited.  She took care never to squash any of my dreams, even those that were likely not attainable, like playing in the Major Leagues or competing in the Olympics or being an astronaut or being President.  She always had a positive reaction and told me to work toward that.  She knew that denigrating any dream, even those not really attainable, was a slippery slope and she made sure the ground beneath my feet was firm.  And the example of her commitment to her family is something that I have always drawn upon in my personal life.

One final thing. She left behind 15 grandchildren and three great grandchildren; with a fourth being born the day of her memorial service and a fifth now on the way.  Many of those grandchildren wrote (on Facebook; a place I don’t tread) and said some great things about what she taught them. About racial and ethnic tolerance, love of reading and learning, perseverance, and dealing with adversity.  These are important things; important, timeless, values.  She loved young people and to have all those young people, a half century or more younger than her, say those things is pretty remarkable.  If we can all have that kind of effect on the next generations the world will be a better place.

I am fortunate in many things.  But it all started the day I was born.  RIP Mom.