Front-Line Aviation Experience Prepares Clayton Stambaugh to Lead in Illinois

Clayton Stambaugh believes the one thing that remains universal, especially among historic figures, is a distinct level of selflessness. “You get what you give,” says Stambaugh, recently appointed as the Deputy Director of Aeronautics for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). “That inspires me profoundly.”

Clayton Stambaugh

Stambaugh said he has been fortunate to have had many personal and professional mentors that have helped him prepare for his new role, which began April 16th. Before moving up, he served as an aviation program manager and facilities specialist for IDOT, where he managed the Illinois Aviation System Plan process and supported the development of annual and multiyear airport improvement programs.

“I believe my frontline experience as a pilot, graduate assistant working with FAA on the National Airport Safety Data Collection Program (5010), an airport manager at a municipality, and my work at IDOT, has provided me a systematic knowledge of how aviation is administered with a fundamental understanding of the bottom line and overall purpose,” said Stambaugh.

Stambaugh grew up around heavy machinery on farms and at coal mines. He watched skilled operators manipulate controls and levers into precision maneuvers. “That was always fascinating, like watching an artist at work,” said Stambaugh. “That lends itself with anything transportation, and I soon became fascinated with aviation.” Although Stambaugh says flying is wonderful, and something he just had to do, he found there’s so much more than just being a pilot. “It’s like theater, really. So many pieces, roles, and people putting on an amazing show,” said Stambaugh. “I’m lucky to have a part in it all.”  

In a world of COVID-19, with employees working from home, the graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale said working remotely has it’s challenges, but there continues to be a lot of innovation in delivering technical assistance and oversight for all of IDOT. “We have all been forced to leverage technology and new processes, and I think on the other side of this challenge, we will be better positioned than ever before because of that.”

Once Illinois emerges from the virus, the biggest challenge for Stambaugh will be to set an overall strategic direction for their programs to meet current and future challenges. “IDOT is completing the Illinois Aviation System Plan and Economic Impact Analysis,” said Stambaugh. “We’re going to identify the issues, explore strategies to resolve those issues, implement new policies and programs, measure what’s been implemented, and evaluate.” Delivering airport improvement programs is just one of many challenges that needs considering. Stambaugh said workforce, emerging technology, environmental considerations, industry promotion, “and many others must be explored with a similar continual systematic management process.”

Stambaugh said one of his goals is to have all of Illinois Aviation work together and support each other in meeting current and future challenges. A collaborative approach with clear objectives and goals, from individuals to organizations large and small – “that’s how we ensure success.”

To relax and unwind, Stambaugh really enjoys cooking. “I also listen to a lot of music, and hiking is always great when I get the opportunity. Of course, spending time with family and friends is up there as well.”

Stambaugh holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation Management and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Aviation Flight from SIU. He holds a Commercial Pilot Certificate for Airplane Single and Multi-Engine Land with an Instrument Airplane rating, as well as a Remote Pilot Certificate.

What is his favorite airplane you ask? The Douglas DC-3.