formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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May 4, 2010 TXDOT awards: Airport and Manager of the Year

The Liberty Gazette
May 4, 2010

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely

Jim Little retired as a highly decorated Colonel from the U.S. Air Force and returned home to Big Spring, Texas. He had worked as an administrator, master instructor and planner while serving our country, and when he returned to civilian life he became the manager of the McMahon-Wrinkle Airport, formerly an air force base. As chairman of the air park development board and airport manager, Col. Little worked with TxDOT Aviation to build a top-flight air terminal facility. The 8,800’ runway of the old bombardier training base has been upgraded and now allows aircraft the size of Boeing 737s to land there, which translates to greater economic development for the area. As a founding member of the air museum that honors the airport’s great history, Col. Little helped organize the hugely successful base reunion which brings hundreds of visitors to the airport every year. And, he works for the future as well as preservation of the past. Under his guidance and direction the EAA’s Young Eagles program in Big Spring is giving young people their first flights in light airplanes, encouraging a whole new crop of future pilots.

TXDOT Aviation Director Dave Fulton handed Col. Little yet another award, for Airport Manager of the Year. As Fulton addressed over 450 attendees at the 2010 Texas Aviation Conference last month, he told the crowd that Col. Little “has been instrumental in maximizing the usage of the facilities located on the old air force base grounds with an occupancy rate over 95%.” Dave Fulton thanked the veteran for making that airport “the outstanding facility it is today.”

Of course, it takes community leadership with vision and understanding to find the right kind of person to be airport manager. The same is true for the airports named as Airport of the Year. According to Dave Fulton, this year’s winner was nominated for several reasons. “They have developed an airport management system which welcomes input and volunteerism, works in cooperation with their airport board, elected officials, business and industry, and other interested parties to ensure continued progress.” What a great idea!

Mike: It was Wood County Airport that was recognized as this year’s Airport of the Year. Their airport board has committed to an aggressive maintenance and improvement program utilizing grants and TxDOT personnel expertise to tackle vegetation problems, seal cracks, establish pavement maintenance programs, and improve ditches and drainage. Three new hangars will further their progress since aggressively competing for a Navy contract.

The United States Department of the Navy, following a long search for an airfield conducive for a testing ground, determined Wood County had exceptional qualities making the airport ideal for testing. Rear Admiral, Nevin Carr, Jr. noted that the exceptionally well-maintained conference facilities, availability of Jet-A fuel, and superb support provided by airport staff were key components of choosing the airport for the naval testing project.

When we look at all the honorees at the TXDOT Texas Aviation Conference we see people and communities who have a great deal of understanding of the aviation industry as a whole and who have the vision and drive to carry their plans through to fruition. They also have community leaders who recognize this and support them. Congratulations to Col. Little, Wood County, and all the winners of TXDOT Aviation awards. Well deserved!

Mike and Linda can be reached at

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