After 23 years and seven months, Bob Porter has decided to hang up his wings on January 27, 2012, as airport manager at Arlington Municipal Airport.
Porter’s love of aviation and his business development skills helped transform Arlington’s airport, from what was considered a small general aviation airport in disrepair, into one of the finest municipal “reliever” airports in the United States, with an economic impact of more than $100 million annually.
In 1986, Arlington was considering privatizing its municipal airport. Instead, city staff proposed developing the airport into a facility that would enhance economic development. Porter was hired as the airport manager a short time later in 1988.
With the continuous support of Mayors Richard Greene, Elzie Odom, and Dr. Robert Cluck, along with the city council, he has directed an unprecedented record of growth and development.
“I call it riding the wave,” said Porter. “Fortunately, I’m still riding it. Along the way, I got to rebuild an airport.”
Porter consistently leveraged city appropriations, along with natural gas reserves found under the airport, into major federal grants for airport improvements. He boasts a list of projects under his leadership that include: the total rehabilitation of the runway and two runway extensions; replacing the majority of asphalt pavement with concrete; expanding the overall land size of the airport and the number of businesses utilizing the facility, including Bell Helicopter which first flight tested the V-22 Osprey at Arlington’s airport; constructing an air traffic control tower; installing a precision instrument landing system; and building a new terminal.
Recently, the city council approved a $7.8 million federal grant to expand the west taxiway, which opens up the airport’s future development for the next 20 years.
“I’m leaving at a perfect time,” said Porter.
There are many things Porter says he will miss and certainly many memories he will take with him such as the time an airport employee accidentally barged in on Governor Ann Richards, who was using the ladies room, and visits from Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton who used to pilot his own plane to visit his stores in the area.
“One of my most interesting days was when former Cowboys coach Tom Landry landed his single engine plane,” said Porter. “It was just he and I in the terminal lobby and we talked about flying and never once mentioned football.”
“But mostly, I’m going to miss our great staff,” he said. “I’ll miss the team spirit at city hall, and my friends in the aviation industry. I just like being around airplanes.”
Porter says he is still going to be “riding the wave,” just a different kind.
“I’m retiring from the air to the sea,” said Porter, who is a certified scuba instructor. “My wife and I plan to surround ourselves with salt water and palm trees. It’s going to be a great adventure!”