A Passion For Aviation
By Bruce Carter, A.A.E.
Ithink it is very important for the AAAE membership to know a little bit about their chair, as I will serve in this capacity during the upcoming 12 months. This column is a way to
show you the passion that I have for aviation.
I have learned over the years that AAAE is led
by the most professional and dedicated CEO of any
aviation organization in Washington. Chip Barclay
leads a staff that is talented, efficient, effective and
committed to the airport members and corporate
partners. The AAAE staff has the people skills,
knowledge and experience to navigate through the
broad aviation and airport industries. Chip has
developed a unique business model that has allowed
AAAE to grow into one of the largest aviation
organizations in the world, and I continue to be
impressed by and marvel at the way he brings forth
his creative ideas and leadership qualities.
What makes a person interested in aviation? I
knew at a very young age that I was fascinated
with watching airplanes and going to airports. My
grade school classmates thought I was crazy since
I always was looking up at the sky and telling
them what kind of airplane was flying overhead.
On every family vacation I would beg my parents
to stop at an airport, no matter what size. To this
day, I remember my first two airplane rides —
Pipestone, Minn., at the age of five, and Carroll,
Iowa, at the age of seven.
My next-door neighbor in Glidden, Iowa, was a
member of AOPA, and I couldn’t wait to get the
month-old association magazine that he always
would save for me. When I was 14, I finally
convinced my parents to let me take flying lessons.
As I look back, I must have driven them nuts
because no one could solo until the age of 16 or
obtain a private pilot’s license until the age of 17.
My parents would have to drive me 20 miles to
the Clarion, Iowa, airport because, once again, you
needed to be 16 to drive a car. I didn’t know it at
the time, but Clarion would be a stepping stone in
my career, where I would eventually learn what
AAAE was all about.
Stick with me as I describe to you my pursuit
of happiness in the aviation industry. After
graduating from a Lutheran junior college in
Forest City, Iowa, where, by the way, I met my
future wife Faith, I entered the aviation program at
Mankato State. I was fortunate to be hired by Don
Kasner, the general manager of Pagra Air Taxi, as
a line boy to help with the cost of pursuing my
private, commercial, instrument and multi-engine
ratings. I became the chief pilot for the same FBO
but learned right away that if you didn’t have
military flying experience or tons of multi-engine
flying hours, no air carrier or corporate flight
department was going to hire you.
Now comes the fun part. In 1977, I took the air
traffic controller exam, eventually got an interview
at the Minneapolis center, and was hired by the
FAA Central Region to attend the FAA Academy in
Oklahoma City for a grueling five-month school to be
an air traffic controller. This adventure was pass/fail
— pass or go home! I graduated at the top of my class
and was assigned to the Des Moines air traffic control
tower, a level three facility. I loved working in the
tower cab but especially enjoyed working approach
and departure control. We all know what happened
in August 1981 when President Reagan fired 11,000
controllers. My dream of long-term employment with
FAA was shattered.
After a year of trying to find another job, with a
wonderful devoted wife and two sons ages seven
and three, we as a family moved to Clarion, Iowa;
yes, the place where I took my first flying lesson.
As the new airport operator and FBO owner, my
wife and I worked endless hours for two solid
years offering aircraft maintenance, fueling, flight
instruction, charter service and hangar rental.
We also mowed the grass, plowed the snow and
maintained the airport that we truly loved.
Yet, flying almost on a daily basis and being
away from the family was making life very
difficult. I made the decision to apply for the
operations manager job in Waterloo, Iowa, and I
was hired in the summer of 1984. Waterloo, Iowa,
Livingston Bettsworth Field, was the home of
famous aviator John Livingston and the 1951 chair
of AAAE, Walter Bettsworth.
After I was hired, the airport manager retired,
and the position was filled by a veteran airport
professional Roy (Bud) Jamesen, A.A.E., who
previously served in Cedar Rapids. I did not know
it at the time, but Bud was a true supporter of
AAAE and the Great Lakes Chapter. The previous
year, Bud sponsored and hosted the annual Great
Lakes Chapter conference in Cedar Rapids. In
1986, Bud allowed my family and me to attend our
first conference at Madden’s Resort in Brainard,
Minn. We have attended every chapter conference