Saturday, May 20, 2017
Jim Foster takes over as airport manager
By Hasani Grayson
The Elko (NV) Daily Free Press
Jim Foster works at his desk at Elko Regional Airport.
ELKO – Being named as acting airport manager at Elko Regional Airport was the honor Jim Foster had been striving for since he started at the airport 17 years ago but his first day on the job quickly turned into a nightmare.
Foster’s fiancÚ Tiffany Urresti was on board an American Medflight plane that crashed in Elko on Nov. 18. Foster has since been named airport manager on a permanent basis but still has mixed emotions about that day, in which all four on board were killed.
“It was singlehandedly the greatest day of my career and the worst day of my personal life,” he said Wednesday. “Obviously it takes time to heal and to deal with things like that. City Manager Curtis Calder was great during that time period. He helped me out quite a bit and he let me take the time off in order to deal with what I needed to deal with at that time and slowly brought me back in.”
When Foster returned to the airport, he did so at the beginning of a difficult winter weather season. The long hours he logged in the early morning to keep the runway clear may have been tough for some to handle but Foster said he found peace in doing a familiar task.
“Right when I got back I was back into snow removal. I was out there 4 a.m. working to get everything taken care of out there,” he said. “The snow removal helped me out a lot. I came from the operation side of the airport. I did snow removal for 16 years and I don’t have to think about doing snow removal. It’s almost a reflex where I just go and do it and that really helped me out as far as keeping me focused and on track.”
Calder and Foster had a lot on their plate over the winter as they worked to keep the runways cleared of snow and avoid flight cancelations but Calder said Foster showed all the qualities he wanted to see in an airport manager during the winters months.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work directly with Jim on snow removal activities over the winter months,” he said. “That guy was as reliable as anybody I’ve ever seen and worked some extremely long hours to make sure that the airport stayed operational and that Skywest could get in and out of our airport regardless of weather conditions.”
Foster has held the airport manager position since April but he did not originally set out to have a career in aviation. Like a lot of college graduates, Foster was having trouble figuring out what to do with his life until his father pressured him to get out of the house.
“I had just finished college and I didn’t really have a career path yet and my father was hounding me to find a job, so I put in an application with the City of Elko as a seasonal employee,” he said. “At that time my application was given to the airport manager and he hired me as a seasonal employee, which turned into a full-time position.”
As airport manager Foster is now involved in the process of acquiring grants for the airport to help with its expansion.
Calder has been helping him along in the process and Foster explained that while airport staff is pleased with the service Skywest provides, the airport would like to welcome other airlines in to its terminal.
“It’s a big thing for the airport to get air service to Reno or to Vegas,” he said. “We can look at those other areas in the future, but getting that established will help us in the long run to help our customers out. Some of the fares will be more in line with the national average.”