Annual Wisconsin Aviation Conference Held in Green Bay

Photos and Story by Rose Dorcey

The 56th Annual Wisconsin Aviation Conference, held last month at Hotel Sierra in Green Bay, brought together professionals from all areas of the aviation community. Airport managers, engineers, pilots, municipal airport committee members, aviation business owners, and state and federal officials discussed and exchanged ideas and information of interest to all parties. The event was cosponsored by the Wisconsin Airport Management Association (WAMA), Wisconsin Aviation Exhibitors and Consultants Association, Wisconsin Aviation Trades Association (WATA), and Wisconsin Business Aviation Association (WBAA).
The event brought together more than 200 people from throughout the state and beyond, kicking off the first afternoon with a choice of two icebreaker events, golf or a round of sporting clays. A highly anticipated opening reception and dinner was held at Lambeau Field, with welcoming remarks from Charity Speich, president of the WAMA; David Mann, president of WBAA, and Britt Solverson, WATA president.  (Peter Bunce shown right)

Tuesday morning’s opening general session provided an FAA update by Barry Cooper, administrator of the FAA Great Lakes Region. Conference attendees also had the opportunity to hear from and meet Steve Obenauer, the new manager of the FAA’s Minneapolis Airports District Office. After a break, Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb shared governmental views on the importance of aviation in his State of the State session. David Greene, director of the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics, provided updates on state airport projects and funding. (Right – Austin Straubel Interntional Airport Director, Tom Miller and airport staff. Miller received the Wisconsin Airport Person of the Year award.)
At Tuesday’s luncheon, sponsored by Oshkosh Corporation, Johnson Insurance, and Short Elliot Hendrickson, Charity Speich presented several WAMA scholarships. Burnett County Airport Manager Jeremy Sickler received a $500 professional development scholarship to pursue his certified member status with the American Association of Airport Executives. Jeremy has been a WAMA member for three years and is active in assisting the organization with the Wisconsin Aviation Conference.
A second professional development scholarship of $1,500 was awarded to Abe Weber, Landside Operations Supervisor at the Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW) in Appleton. Abe is obtaining his masters degree from the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay. Abe has been with the Outagamie County Airport for six years and continues to work while maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.722 in his master’s program. (Pictured left – Charity Speich, outgoing president and incoming president Marty Lenss.)
WAMA also awards up to two scholarships annually for a student enrolled in a bachelor’s aviation degree program at an accredited Wisconsin college or university and/or a student enrolled in an associate’s degree or technical college program pursuing a degree in the aviation field. Terry O’Dell of Menasha, Wisconsin, received a scholarship to assist with his education at the University of North Dakota. He is a sophomore majoring in Air Traffic Control. Terry currently has a 3.394 grade point average and hopes to move back to Wisconsin as an FAA Air Traffic Controller.         
Each year WAMA recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to aviation by awarding its Distinguished Service Award. This year’s recipient is retired Congressman David Obey. Speich said that Mr. Obey has been a great friend to Wisconsin aviation and in particular to the airports in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District. During his term in Congress, the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport (RHI) received approximately $26.5 million in federal aid including but not limited to a new primary runway with instrument landing system, a new passenger terminal, and an infrared deicing facility.
Mr. Obey, who was not present, was also instrumental in supporting projects at the Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA) and the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport (EAU) among others.
EAA President Rod Hightower was the luncheon speaker, providing an update of EAA activities and its goals in growing aviation. The presentation ended with a rousing video promoting EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011.
Tuesday’s afternoon breakout sessions were well attended. Subjects such as social media marketing through Facebook, airport storm-water utilities, the current state and plans for NOTAMS, preserving airports through FAA grant assurances, and blizzard response and recovery procedures and planning provided a wide array of learning opportunities. (Pictured right – Jeff Baum, left, presents Curt Drumm with the Aviation Business of the Year award.)
Peter Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, was Tuesday evening’s annual banquet speaker, sponsored by Mead & Hunt. Bunce provided statistics and meaningful data about aircraft sales and future aviation outlooks.
Charity Speich then presented the WAMA Lifetime Service Award to Tony Snieg, who retired in January of 2011 after 39 years with Milwaukee County and 28 years at General Mitchell International Airport (MKE). Snieg retired as Deputy Airport Director, Finance and Administration, a position he held since 1987. Prior to that position, he served in various positions related to the airport including airport business manager, budget analyst, and air pollution control technician. Tony is also a charter member and treasurer for 27 years of the Mitchell Gallery of Flight Aviation Museum located at Mitchell. The award honors those who “have devoted themselves to promoting and serving Wisconsin aviation for at least 10 years.”

Wednesday morning provided several hours of concurrent professional sessions. FAA Airport Certification Inspector Michael Stephens, along with Jason Suckow and Charles Lovell of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provided an overview of wildlife services and the airport wildlife hazards management programs. Richard Mamrosh of the National Weather Service in Green Bay gave an interactive talk about the wide variety of weather information available for pilots, how it’s produced, and where it can be found on the internet. He also discussed how the information could be interpreted and used by pilots and airport managers. Several attendees were impressed enough afterward to ask Mamrosh to give a similar presentation at their airport and organizational meetings.
Curt Drumm of Lakeshore Aviation received the Wisconsin Aviation Trades Association’s Business of the Year award at Wednesday’s noon luncheon. His successful business is located at Manitowoc County Airport (MTW). Tom Miller received the Wisconsin Aviation Person of the Year award. Since becoming airport director at Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB) in 2001, Miller has completed approximately $54.4 million in capital improvements at the airport. The projects and continued development of air service coupled with dramatic improvements to general aviation facilities have revitalized the aviation market in Green Bay.
Nathan Phelps, a reporter with the Green Bay Press Gazette, received WAMA’s Blue Light Award, for excellence in reporting Wisconsin aviation news and information.
The 57th annual Wisconsin Aviation Conference will be held May 7-9, 2012 at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells.