Q: Before you pursued a career in the airline industry you dabbled in the rodeo. Tell me about that experience.
A: In [my] senior year of high school and freshman year of college, I was doing amateur rodeo in Kansas and Tennessee. I did bareback and rode a few bulls. It was a terrible experience. I can't remember it because I was knocked out a few times. I had a few friends who were rodeo clowns and they talked me into it. I had a pretty good-sized accident where I separated my shoulder, and that's when I said that was enough.
Q: So what sparked the interest in flying?
A: My uncle was a crop duster, and he got me interested in flying when I was 14 or 15. He had taken me up several times in planes. I took a class with an organization that my mother was affiliated with. I was tagging along every day, and I was enjoying it so much that I continued on and went ahead and took lessons. I passed my written exam and had my license by the time I was 17. I wanted to join the Air Force but I needed my mom and dad's signature. Vietnam was still going on then and they didn't want anything to do with that. So I took the civilian route. After high school I made the decision pretty easily that I didn't want to fly as a career, so I got into management, which is why I started at Middle Tennessee State University.
Q: Do you ever see a day when the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport will close?
A: That would be ridiculous. One thing we started doing was counting passengers not based here who are coming into the general aviation side, which are business jets. Everyone thinks if we don't have airline service, why do we have an airport. But there have been 2,119 passengers in five months, about 400 a month. The airline is a great thing because it adds an incentive for the general public to travel but we have more people flying in here on private jets than people realize.
Q: How important is the airport to the local economy?
A: The airport is extremely important to this area's economy. A study conducted a few years ago by the Department of Transportation found that the airport is providing $12 million of economic impact to the community, providing 142 jobs to people either directly employed by the airport or associated with it. I would think that those numbers have increased. Without the airport there are very few large companies that will land in a community. When they're researching an area or areas to locate their business, nine times out of 10 if they're a decent size they will want an airport in the community so they can fly in and out. And some of them will require an airport with passenger service.
Q: The Essential Air Service program provides subsidies for rural airports such as Cape Girardeau. Some say subsidies of thousands or even hundreds of dollars per passenger aren't justifiable. But others say it's essential for rural airports to operate. What is your take on the issue?
A: The subsidy is something that's been going on since deregulation came about. Congress knew the large airlines would absorb the smaller airlines. So the subsidies were established to allow those smaller communities to have that service. Initially it was a 10-year service, but it worked so well that the program continued. It allows rural America to connect with the large hubs. It's a feeder system. The larger air carriers depend on it to feed their own service.
Without it, would we have an air carrier? That's a tough question to answer. I don't know if we want to find out. The subsidy allows airlines to keep their fares down. Cape Air is one carrier that has used the subsidy to its advantage to keep fares down.
Q: What is the future of Cape Air here?
A: They have a great future here. We had a meeting at the state's other five essential air services that met with MoDOT recently. We're pushing for the U.S. Department of Transportation to change the Essential Air Service program to allow for more than a two-year period to contract with them. When you have to go out and rebid every two years, that's about the period of time when you get things to start working. I don't see this changing for some time and I'm sure the airline will continue to submit an application to DOT for Cape Girardeau.
Q: You've been known to visit a winery or two. How did you become interested in that activity?
A: In the fall we don't go to nearly as many as we do in the summer. When the weather is nice, my fiancee and I go twice a month, primarily in Missouri. I find wineries very relaxing and a way to get away. Wineries are a nice way to relax, eat some good food and drink a nice glass of wine.
Q: You also brew your own beer and make your own wine. What brought that about? And what's the difference between making beer and wine?
A: We made wine about three years ago and over the last couple of months I got the desire to brew my own beer. It's not a second career but just for fun. On the beer side it's not that difficult. I'm by no means an expert but fortunately ran into someone who knew what they're doing. Wine has to sit longer. Patience is a virtue for making wine. If you wait and let it sit longer, the better it tastes.
Q: You have an interest in scuba diving. What sparked an interest in that hobby?
A: I took lessons when I was 18 and never finished it. I've had that itch for a long time. Finally, in 2004 I went to St. Louis and did my classwork for full certification. Then I went to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, to finish the certification by doing open water dives. I still go out and do it in Missouri and other places.