Like family, crew works together to make Provo Airport succeed

Genelle Pugmire DAILY HERALD

Updated 14 hrs ago

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Like family, crew works together to make Provo Airport succeed 01

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  • Sammy Jo Hester

Kyle Hatch and Bridger Nemeth load bags onto the plane at the Provo Airport terminal on Thursday July 28, 2016. The Provo Airport provides commercial service as well as being a general aviation airfield. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald


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  • Sammy Jo Hester

Staff members prepare the plane for departure at the Provo Airport terminal on Thursday July 28, 2016. The Provo Airport provides commercial service as well as being a general aviation airfield. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald


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Passengers depart their plane after arriving at their destination at the Provo Airport terminal on Thursday July 28, 2016. The Provo Airport provides commercial service as well as being a general aviation airfield. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald


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  • Sammy Jo Hester

Bridger Nemeth carries bags at the Provo Airport terminal on Thursday, July 28, 2016. The Provo Airport provides commercial service as well as being a general aviation airfield. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald


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  • Sammy Jo Hester

Crew members prepare the plane for arrival at the Provo Airport terminal on Thursday, July 28, 2016. The Provo Airport provides commercial service as well as being a general aviation airfield. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald


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  • Sammy Jo Hester

Crew members prepare the plane for arrival at the Provo Airport terminal, on Thursday, July 28, 2016. The Provo Airport provides commercial service as well as being a general aviation airfield. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald


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  • Sammy Jo Hester

Crew members prepare the plane for departure at the Provo Airport terminal, Thursday July 28, 2016. The Provo Airport provides commercial service as well as being a general aviation airfield. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald


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  • Sammy Jo Hester

Passengers prepare to board a plane at the Provo Airport terminal, Thursday July 28, 2016. The Provo Airport provides commercial service as well as being a general aviation airfield. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald


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  • Sammy Jo Hester

Passengers prepare to board a plane at the Provo Airport terminal, Thursday July 28, 2016. The Provo Airport provides commercial service as well as being a general aviation airfield. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald


Buy Now

  • Sammy Jo Hester

Passengers prepare to board a plane at the Provo Airport terminal, Thursday July 28, 2016. The Provo Airport provides commercial service as well as being a general aviation airfield. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald

If you want to see what hard work is, just follow the footsteps of the crew at the Provo Airport.

Day in and day out these Provo and TAC Air employees keep the airport safe, clean and ready for the hundreds of passengers that go through the terminal each week, including corporate and private jets that pepper the field.

Steve Gleason, airport manager, is reticent to pat his own back and swift to start sharing names of workers.

The first faces the public typically see are at the Allegiant ticket desk. Claudia Mendoza and Jordan Stacy are contracted from TAC Air to work for Allegiant in helping passengers with tickets, checking in baggage, and more.

“There is never a dull moment,” Mendoza said. “We want customers to keep coming.”

Stacy said he loves working at the terminal.

“We work with great people and it makes the job great,” Stacy said.

Those passengers are also greeted by a team of Transportation Security Administration workers, many who live in Utah County.

It is not unusual for airport crew to put in 13-hour days, day in and day out if needed. Many times the hours are more.

Municipal Councilman Gary Winterton is assigned to the airport board and is very aware of the hard work the men do. But he also gives a big nod to Suzan Nelson.

“With commercial flights come FAA regulations and requirements,” Winterton said. “This brings security challenges and opportunities. Suzan Nelson was hired to take care of the ‘badging’ requirements of the airport, which is a huge undertaking. Each badge needs to be maintained and accounted for to avoid governmental consequences.”

Winterton adds that Nelson does a great job and keeps the office on task.

Gleason said there are many things to be done to keep the airport primed and ready.

“Because I’m airport manager, I’m on call every minute of every day,” Gleason said.

Gleason said the shifts are broken up to where someone comes in early morning, midday and late shift. For instance, Gleason is a night guy. He is often called in at 2 a.m. to take care of a problem.

“Things rarely happen in the middle of the day,” Gleason said. “That makes it hard on family. We take separate vehicles to church and family functions in case I’m called.”

Trent Johnson, airport operations coordinator, does the 5 a.m. shift. He’s there to do the dark airfield inspections each morning.

Through his hard work and diligence to safety, Johnson recently received an award from the TSA as a security partner.

With help from Donovan Cheff, airport maintenance, these three men have the massive task of keeping weeds down, snow cleared, security ready, hosting top-notch events and an abundance of other duties.

Think of them this winter.

“We plow the whole airport by ourselves,” Gleason said. “That’s a lot of lane miles. It takes us between 14 to 16 hours to clear. A couple of years ago, it was below zero and snowing. I slept down here.

Gleason said there have been times when the snow was so heavy and coming down for days where they had to ask for help from the city to provide another snow removal truck and driver. They have specific regulations that must be followed on snow removal. For instance, the sand they use is a specialty mix and different than what would be used on a city street. They are also limited to how they can clear the snow.

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In the spring and summer, the task between Gleason, Johnson and Cheff, is mowing 1,000 acres of weed. The job is constant, someone is mowing all the time to meet regulations. They may take time off to run and act as security when a commercial flight lands and takes off, but they are usually back at mowing in short time.

To help comply with safety regulations, a Provo police officer and a fireman and truck must be at the airport for every landing and take-off of a commercial flight. Currently there are 12 flights in and 12 out each week. That will jump to 14 in September.

It’s a city airport and city employees are called from all departments to help out, public works, utilities, safety, and the budget department.

The dedication is real.

“We have to live within 30 minutes of the airport,” Gleason said. “Its 24/7 and 365 days a year and no one gets a whole weekend.”

But all of them say they love their jobs and what they do to serve the public. Sometimes serving means taking care of unsavory jobs, and keeping the runway clear isn’t always about snow and weeds.

Besides mowing, there is a whole wildlife plan Gleason and crew must follow, and it’s not just worrying about birds meeting up with jets. Many times, they must harvest mule deer that are in the way of arriving and departing planes.

“Seventeen years ago, I came from Economic Development to the airport,” Gleason said. “I had no aviation experience. Since then, I have received my private pilot’s license.”

While he says he knew nothing about aviation and airports, Gleason said he was sent to the airport because it was seen as an economic engine for the city and he knew about economics.

“I had been here a year-and-a-half when 9/11 happened. It was a baptism by fire.”

In throwing out names, Gleason said he owes a lot to Dan Shumway, former director of airport operations for 30 years prior.

“When I took the job as airport manager I was in over my head,” Gleason said. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”

He credits Shumway for being his mentor. He also gives credit to former mayor Lewis Billings.

“We would not have had commercial service without him,” Gleason said. “We’ve been blessed with mayors who understand what an airport can be for a city.”

Gleason knows the airport will never be smaller. In fact, Gleason continues to look for additional airlines that fit the Provo market and the needs of passengers. That could include flights to Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, Las Vegas or Seattle.

“We would really love a connecting airline,” Gleason said.

Residents should never expect to see Provo be like a Salt Lake International Airport, which sees about 1,000 flights a day.

As the second largest airport in the state, Provo could, at full buildout, see as many as 22 flights a day.

Winterton notes, “Provo city’s airport is a wonderful asset to our community and now has reached another plateau. There are further opportunities available because of the vision of past and current leaders at the airport but those opportunities will take commitments — a new terminal, larger taxi areas, greater service facilities and hanger growth.”

All of these will take funding and support. Nothing great comes without sacrifice but the benefits derived from these sacrifices will far outweigh the costs of obtaining them, Winterton added.

“With the vision and the team we have, we have accomplished much and as Mayor (John) Curtis has had many opportunities to say ‘look for the next big thing’ from the airport in the near future.”

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