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What They Do

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An airport manager's job is to keep people moving in the right direction. That means decreasing flight delays as much as possible.

Airport managers handle everything from signing leases with airlines and concessionaires to meeting safety regulations. They prepare for emergencies and deal with foul weather. They also plan for the future growth of their airports. And they make sure the books stay in the black.

Across America, airport managers are dealing with stricter safety rules put in place to prevent terrorism. While these rules have created headaches for managers, most agree with their intent.

Larry Adams is an airport manager. "Fencing and controlled access gates are being placed at airports of almost all sizes," he says. Managers must oversee the construction.

"The [safety] rules have always been there, there's just been more emphasis placed on them by the FAA," says Adams. The rules, he adds, create an "awful lot more work."

Managers work for private airports or cities or towns. They may run passenger airports, cargo airfields or sites that handle both. While many are licensed pilots, it's not always a requirement for the job. When large airports go searching for someone to oversee operations, they are often more interested in finding someone with management experience.

Airport managers often deal with routine items -- deciding how many parking spaces an airport should have or how much taxi space. They also make sure the airport doesn't exceed noise limits or fly past curfew hours set to limit disturbances to neighbors. Baggage handling, newsstands and even shoe shining shops are all under their control.

Managers often report to airport committees or oversight groups. These boards usually have the final say in many decisions -- but a strong manager can help an airport grow by justifying the expense of improvements to private or public investors.

Airport managers with environmental and ecological education are especially desirable. "That is becoming really, really big," says Adams. "Particularly in the areas of storm water management, noise pollution and air quality."

According to Adams, airport managers only started dealing with these issues regularly in the early '90s. But today, environmental knowledge is imperative.

The added workload for managers, notes Adams, means greater pay. Adams has had to attend seminars and professional meetings to learn the environmental aspects of airport management.

At a Glance

Keep millions of travelers moving

  • Handle everything from leases to emergencies
  • More than 100 million people use North American airports each year
  • You'll need college courses and lots of experience


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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.