In two months on the job, new airport manager Haley Walker has cleared the runway for several improvements for the Grant County Regional Airport in John Day.
Walker explained her priorities and planned projects to the Grant County Chamber of Commerce at the July 21 meeting.
“Safety is Number One,” she said, “and the customer is a close second.”
She said she’s hired three employees with “can-do” attitudes. They take initiative when pilots arrive at the self-fuel island, she said, offering a ladder and any other assistance needed.
A safety project expected to be completed in August is the addition of an automatic gate for the airfield and the Forest Service. In the summertime, the gate is used frequently and, if left open, could be a hazard if wildlife enter, she said.
Another safety need, she said, is the replacement of regulators that control the runway lights. Only one of the two runways has lights, and depending on the wind direction, a pilot may want to land on the currently unlit runway. Walker said they are expecting the delivery of the parts on Aug. 8.
A new stone sign is also being installed. Currently, the only sign displayed is from the Forest Service, which leases half of the airport. Walker said she wanted to show the airport’s official name in an additional sign. Last week, she said they’ve ordered an approximately 9,000-pound stone sign from Ontario Rock and Landscape Supplies.
“They’ll prepare the sign and deliver and place it,” she said.
Through grants from ConnectOregon and the FAA, the process has begun to write a master plan for the airport, which Walker hopes will lead to more opportunities for the airport in the future.
Walker also said she would like to start a youth aviation program at the airport. She plans to discuss ideas with the airport commission about starting an ongoing program to help youth gain an interest in aviation and retain that interest.
She said long-term goals at the airport include:
Walker said her background working in the airline industry has given her the experience to take on the management of the local airport.
“When the opportunity opened, I was drawn to it — I’m striving for continuous improvement,” she said. “Once you get the airline industry in your blood, it stays.”
Joe Intile, a former airport commissioner at the meeting, agreed.
“You’re a breath of fresh air,” he said, adding that what Walker said is true. “It doesn’t leave; it stays with you.”