Two minutes with Joe Barkevich - airport planner extraordinaire
What originally sparked your interest in the field of aviation?
While in high school at a friend’s house, a family friend who was a pilot asked, “Who wants to go flying?” Thirty minutes later at the local general aviation (GA) airport, the four of us were airborne in a Cessna 172. The impromptu freedom of being in the air…in the sky…was amazing. That’s what started the “aviation bug.”
Do you think being a pilot yourself influences how you approach the airport planning process?
Yes, having a pilot’s prospective as an airport user provides a rapport with airport sponsors, many of whom are pilots. Being able to understand the airport environment, how it works and how to navigate the airspace between airports, creates a knowledge base for working with the FAA and state aviation officials. Additionally, the fact that I’m familiar with the type of aircraft that operate at these facilities and have a relationship with the pilots that fly them helps me truly understand their needs and how we can help guide the airport sponsors with their development goals.
What trends are you seeing and where do you see the aviation industry going from here?
We’re seeing an increase in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) as well as an increase in corporate traffic; however, recreational flying is still subject to the health of the economy. And fuel prices can have a big impact since many recreational fliers are inherently sensitive to the price of fuel.
What are the biggest challenges you see facing aviation clients these days?
That’s an easy one – money. Finding matching funds for available grants is an on-going challenge for smaller and medium GA airport sponsors. All airports, GA and commercial, are seeing some difficulty navigating the complexity of FAA grants due to tightening rules that dictate what is eligible for the different types of funding and what is not.
Personal use of GA aircraft has been on the decline; however, business use at GA airports continues to appear strong. How does this impact the planning process?
When we study the needs of an airport, we try to understand the needs of the airport’s critical users. Corporate use of aircraft as well as the size of the aircraft is on the rise, so more and more we are creating environments that meet these needs from the geometry of the airfield to amenities on the landside. Luckily, we started the process of accommodating these types of aircraft many years ago for our clients. New GPS approaches were enabled by land acquisition and obstruction removal off runway ends, and expanded airfield geometry was realized to prepare for the anticipated larger aircraft.
For those younger viewers out there, if they were interested in either being a pilot or getting involved in the aviation industry, what advice would you give them?
Take advantage of the many opportunities to get a Young Eagles Flight or Introductory Flight at a nearby GA airport. Becoming a student, and ultimately a licensed pilot, might be a goal for some, but any interest in aviation could lead to a variety of aviation-related careers (i.e., airport engineering/planning, airport management/operations, aircraft design, aviation materials engineering, etc.). In my case, I became a professional airport planner years before I received my pilot’s license. I’m happy to say that it’s a rewarding career filled with so many opportunities to help our local airports and meet interesting people. The sky is the limit!