Those who have known Deborah Abingdon only as coordinator of Lincoln County Adult Literacy never suspected she was, quite literally, a serious flight risk.
But she has indeed flown from her former office in the Ruidoso Public Library to take a job as manager of the Belen Alexander Municipal Airport in Valencia County.
That makes her one of five women who manage airports in New Mexico.
“There’s not too many of us, but we happen to have a lot in New Mexico,” Abingdon told the Valencia County News-Bulletin, which announced her appointment in a story this week.
“I’m excited to be here and would like to encourage and support the youth, and especially young girls, not to be afraid of pursuing male-dominated fields,” she said.
Abingdon said she will miss her LCAL work in Ruidoso. “I always felt very appreciated and fulfilled,” she said.
In addition to her part-time job here overseeing a network of volunteers and programs that convey reading skills to adults in Lincoln County, Abingdon also taught for the past seven years in an air traffic control program she developed at ENMU-Roswell.
That position was the outgrowth of her lifelong interest in aviation.
“I learned to fly in Eugene, Oregon,” she told the News-Bulletin. “I took my first flying lesson when I was in my 20s. When I was a little girl, I lived next to a rural airport and airplanes would come in and out. It was something I always had an interest in.”
Twenty years later, Abingdon earned her private pilot’s license.
“I wanted more, so I went on to train for my commercial license and instrument rating,” she said. “I trained in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.”
Abingdon began looking for another job with an aviation connection when ENMU-Roswell indicated this spring that it was planning to discontinue the ATC program. But Abingdon told the Ruidoso News the school is reconsidering that decision.
“ENMU-Roswell has asked me to continue to teach a few courses and offered to let me teach them online with no obligation to travel to Roswell,” she said.
It’s clear that actually commuting to a second job would be tough to fit in with her new airport manager duties, which she told the News-Bulletin include “everything from making sure the runways are clear and secure to weed control.”
“With a small airport, you do everything,” she said. “Quite frankly, I’m still learning the responsibilities, but my main responsibility is maintaining a safe runway, so all the lights have to work and the runway needs to be kept clear of debris.”
As in her LCAL days, she will rely heavily on volunteers.
“I had some high school kids out at the airport one day,” she said. “We worked chopping thistles.”