[Archive Home][Date Prev][Date Next][Index]
"Ready for takeoff at Lambert Field"
Sunday, April 22, 2007
THE ST. LOUIS (MO)
Richard Hrabko, head of Spirit of St. Louis
Airport, checks out a drainage system along Long Road in Chesterfield on
Tuesday. He will take over as airport director of Lambert Field on
Richard Hrabko walked the concourses
as Lambert Field's interim director in late 2004 looking for the quick and,
sometimes, obvious fixes — adding plants near baggage claim, ordering fresh
paint in the parking garage and adding more metal detectors at the Concourse A
Hrabko returns to Lambert with the same determination on
Monday, but this time as its permanent chief. He leaves the helm at Spirit of
St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, where he's worked 43 years.
told him that's his baby. He raised it," St. Louis County Executive Charlie
Dooley said, referring to Spirit, the day Hrabko's new job was announced.
At Lambert, Hrabko will oversee efforts to lure more air service to St.
Louis and keep the airport on track financially. He also must carry out the $105
million Main Terminal renovation plan, seeded during his six months as interim
director when a task force of business leaders demanded improvements.
"I really believe in this project," said Hrabko, referring
to plans that involve adding retail and restaurant space, building pedestrian
links from the garage to the ticketing lobby, and injecting the airport with
flavor from the region.
"We want to give St. Louis a good image. We want
to make sure passengers are comfortable and can get in and out of the
Hrabko, 68, has served on Lambert's airport commission for six
years. He's aware of the region's anxiety about the airport — and understands
the pressures to fill empty gates.
The airport's newest runway —
finished last April at a cost of $1.1 billion — is hardly used.
number of scheduled departures dipped 5.5 percent in the 12 months ending in
January, compared with the same period ending in January 2006, according to the
Department of Transportation. Increasingly, larger airplanes are replacing
regional jets at Lambert, airport officials say, resulting in less frequency.
The number of boardings rose by about 2 percent in that same 12-month
period, ranking Lambert the 32nd busiest airport in the country in terms of
passengers. In 2001, it was No. 11.
Hrabko says the empty gates and
little-used runway puts Lambert in a strong position to attract carriers wanting
to expand. AirTran, a low-cost carrier, begins service to St. Louis next month.
"Our time will come," Hrabko said. "It will come in the foreseeable
future because of our wonderful — we don't want to have it, but we have it —
extra capacity. We have to capitalize on that negative asset."
replaces Kevin Dolliole, the former head of San Antonio International Airport
who resigned as Lambert's chief last month. Dolliole's family is still in Texas
and had resisted moving to St. Louis. The every-other-weekend commute was too
much, he said. Upgrading Lambert was Dolliole's focus, and that should continue
under Hrabko, Dolliole said. After all, Hrabko was a member of the committee
that ultimately recommended Dolliole's hire to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.
"He has the same kind of priorities that I had," Dolliole said of his
successor. On top of that, "He knows the airport really well. He knows what's
going on here."
Hrabko says he regrets not competing for Lambert's top
job in 2004. At the time, Hrabko wasn't crazy about the idea of running Lambert,
he said, and had projects to finish at Spirit.
Last month, when the
chief of staff for Slay approached Hrabko with a second shot, he didn't
hesitate. "It sounds corny, but it's kind of like doing your civic duty," Hrabko
said. "They needed somebody."
Hrabko began his career at Spirit in 1964
as an air traffic controller. He's run the airport since 1970.
decades, Hrabko's worked to please business clientele as dozens of corporations
store their private jets at Spirit. The airport is certified as an air carrier
airport by the Federal Aviation Administration, but it's used primarily for
general aviation purposes. The airport and its industrial park have 3,000
employees — most of whom work at the 130 businesses there.
knows how to navigate the federal bureaucracy, said Jim Brown, who lobbies
Congress for Lambert in Washington and has known Hrabko for decades.
"He's been through the federal wringer more times than you can count,"
Hrabko lacks a college degree. The St. Louis city code
requires a degree or "equivalent practical training" to serve as airport
director. Hrabko's leadership at Spirit, in addition to other accreditations,
qualifies as the equivalent, said Ed Rhode, Slay's spokesman.
also will be required to move to the city — leaving his house with a swimming
pool in O'Fallon, Mo.
"It's part of the deal," he said.
prepares to start his new job, Hrabko waves off any thought of when he might
retire. He plays guitar and sings for a local rock 'n' roll band called Last
Resort. He loves golf. He isn't ready to make either his life.
worked with Hrabko during his time as Lambert's interim director call him a
motivator. He encouraged staff to look at the airport the way passengers would
and keep an eye out for unclean restrooms and other sources of complaints.
"Dick has a way of energizing people," said Gerard Slay, who was hired
at Lambert before his brother was elected mayor. "It's a combination of his
knowledge of the industry and his personality."
Fair Use Notice
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
If you have any queries regarding this issue, please Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org