NASAO 90th Annual Convention Draws State Aviation Officials from Across the U.S.

State aviation officials from across the country landed in Colorado over the weekend for the National Association of State Aviation Official’s (NASAO) 90th Annual Convention & Trade Show, which runs through Wednesday at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs. 

A ribbon-cutting officially opens the conference. From left are Dave Ulane, Greg Pecoraro, Tony McCloskey and Greg Phillips. Above photo by Jim Bildilli. Photo below captured by drone courtesy of Shahn Sederberg, CDOT Division of Aeronautics. 

This year’s meeting, which promised to be filled with great content, exceptional networking opportunities and innovative training techniques, offered more than that; It was an opportunity to get together in person.

“Despite challenges of the pandemic, NASAO and the Colorado Division of Aeronautics have successfully gathered state aviation leaders, stakeholders, and industry for a 90th time,” stated Clayton Stambaugh, Deputy Director of Aeronautics, Illinois Department of Transportation. “Being back together, advancing industry priorities and raising emerging issues, has been reenergizing. The recharge is greatly appreciated.”

“The energy and enthusiasm at the NASAO conference is incredible,” agreed David Ulane, Director of the Colorado Division of Aeronautics. “Everyone is so excited to be together in person for the first time in two years!”

With last year’s convention held virtually, many shared how great it was to attend in person. “It is so nice to be back, face to face, with friends and colleagues. You don’t realize how much information, innovations and best practice ideas you miss until you get it back together exchanging ideas and brainstorming together,” said Jared Esselman, director of the Utah Division of Aeronautics. “Thank goodness for NASAO.”

“NASAO’s 90th Annual Convention is off to a great start,” said NASAO President and CEO, Greg Pecoraro. “State aviation programs play a critical role in our National Airspace System, and the leaders of those programs are here with other stakeholders for this in-person opportunity to learn about and discuss some of the most consequential issues in aviation today. We’ve had a great turnout and are enjoying a warm welcome from Colorado Springs”, added Pecoraro.

Conference sessions have been well attended. Photo by Shahn Sederberg, CDOT.

Sessions to date have included the Role of Airports in Economic Development, the Future of the Block Grant Program, Airline Industry Sustainability, Powering the Future of Aviation, and an update from Washington with FAA Associate Administrator Shannetta Griffin.

Anthony McCloskey, NASAO Vice Chair and Director of the Bureau of Aviation Multimodal Transportation, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, noted that this year’s convention is a success with attendees from across the country representing the states and industry. “The itinerary clearly reflects this year’s theme – ‘Honor the Past-Embrace the Future’ – by showcasing Airline Sustainability and a look into powering the future of Aviation.”   

On Monday evening attendees were treated to, A Night Under the Stars, and experienced a taste of Colorado local fare and a beer garden from local breweries – all in breathtaking surroundings. “The venue at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain was awesome,” said Ann Richart, Aeronautics Director, Nebraska Department of Transportation.

The Tuesday evening Awards Dinner will be held at the National Museum of World War II Aviation, which documents the role that military aviation played in the emergence of our nation as a world power. The museum tells the story of the tremendous technological advancements in aviation during the War and the contributions and sacrifices of the men and who won the air war.

Attendees have agreed that this has been a great event. “It’s been extremely encouraging to see our nation’s aviation leaders face to face again and be able to share our challenges and successes over the last year,” said John Binder, Deputy Commissioner, Alaska DOT. “Colorado has been a tremendous host and I applaud a job well done.”

“The Colorado Division of Aeronautics and NASAO have put on a great conference,” added Michelle Frazier, Director of Aeronautics for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. “It is wonderful to hear from industry leaders and collaborate with the other States.”

“Meeting in person for the first time since 2019, the NASAO annual conference kicked off with a terrific slate of speakers in a beautiful setting in Colorado Springs,” said Mark Flynn, Director, Virginia Department of Aviation. As for enduring the elevation of the venue – “A Virginia-based pilot is reminded why the Part 91.211 Supplemental Oxygen rule is important,” quipped Flynn

Summing it up, James Stephens, NASAO Secretary and Executive Director of the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission said, “This year’s annual conference hosted by our friend Dave Ulane here in Colorado was kicked off with much enthusiasm from our host, the exhibitors, and the attendees. It’s evident that this group has a strong desire to reconnect, learn from each other, and share successes that we’ve each been able to accomplish since our last meeting, and although we’ve all felt the impacts of COVID, there’s much to celebrate and share. I’m looking forward to the rest of the conference!”