Wheels Up: More than a Half Century at the Airport and a Lifetime in a Fascinating Industry

By Charles Koukoulis on January 13, 2013 from Wheels Up via Connect-Bridgeport.com

A couple months ago I was visiting Jeff Toquinto at the Connect-Bridgeport offices.  We talked about a lot of things and off course the topic of the airport and the aviation industry came up.  As we talked he mentioned that aviation is a fascinating industry and suggested that I write a blog on the topic.  I was flattered to have such an offer and so here we are, the first installment of 'Wheels Up!'  I hope to share some insight to the aviation industry and how it impacts our daily lives, the economic contribution, opportunities, challenges and some historical information.  I hope it will be of interest to the readers.  Of course I will give some history and profile our local airport.  We are very fortunate to have such an excellent facility that is such a key asset to the growth and development of the area.
I guess I should make a brief introduction of myself for those of you who don't know me.  I am a Bridgeport native and graduate of Bridgeport High School.  I attended West Virginia University and received my BS in Aviation from Salem College.  My father brought his business, AeroMech, to the airport in 1951.  There is a very rich history there and I'll share some of the legacy he created in future writings.
So naturally, I literally grew up at the airport.  My parents worked together from the time they married in 1952 and my bassinette and play pen were in my mom's office ... my times have changed!  It was quite the playground.  Airplanes and flying and all the magic associated with a young imagination.  My father took me for my first airplane ride when I was five weeks old.  I later made my first solo flight on my sixteenth birthday.  I was flying before I was driving.  Well enough of that for now.  AeroMech was acquired by another company and we formed KCI Aviation in 1985.   I have spent my entire life involved in the aviation business.  Having worked in all areas of AeroMech I gained a lot of experience.  My last assignment was Executive Vice President/General Manager overseeing the Fixed Base Operations and the Airline Division.  Well, we are still here at the airport.
I would also like to invite your comments and questions as we begin this journey.  Please feel free to submit any topics of interest you would like me to address. 
Our industry is in a continuous state of change incorporating new technologies and innovations as quickly as they are developed.  I recently attended the National Business Aviation Association annual conference in Orlando, Florida.  It is one of the world's premiere aviation exhibitions.  Manufacturers of business aircraft, engines, avionics and all related elements are there with a significant presence.  There is a static display at the airport with all the latest aircraft.  The convention center is wall to wall with displays and exhibits.  It is quite an experience to behold. 
Besides showcasing all the latest offerings, there is an emphasis on the importance of this industry to our economy.  The conference not only focuses on the production of aircraft and all that goes into that, but what a vital tool the aircraft is to the business world and our society in general.  Transporting people and just in time goods and support services to places not served by the airlines is at the heart of the industry.  Moving people around the world doing business and providing services could not be done as efficiently via the airlines.  One of my heroes in the aviation business was Bill Lear.  Among the many things he invented, he developed the Learjet back in 1962.  It was the first real small business jet to be introduced and the Learjet family of aircraft continues today as a main stay of corporate fleets.  With that, my favorite Bill Lear story...It is said that when he first inaugurated the Lear 23 into service in Dallas, he put a sign up in the airline terminal that read, 'Welcome to Dallas/Forth Worth, Texas.  Your competition has been here and left on a new Learjet!'.  And so it began.  How far we've come from those days.
Well, I think that's it for this writing.  I hope you will enjoy the blog and join me in posting your experiences and giving me topics you would like to see discussed here.  Until the next time. Wheels Up!

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