Inside the Fence



John Infanger, Editorial Director

February 2000

Welcome to a new look for the new millennium. Reflections, predictions are pervasive when we turn a year, a decade, a century. In the 1900s, we built a world-class aviation system; today, we cannot make a decision to fund what we needed yesterday. And yet, the future looks bright — despite Congress and a Senator who wants to lead the country but can't lead aviation.

Recalling a few yesterdays ...

... Robert Duncan is someone who does not like to give in to adversity. In the early ’80s, he took an FBO dedicated to aircraft sales and escaped the business-eating interest rates by reformulating Duncan Aviation into one of the world's premier maintenance facilities. In 1989, he wanted to stimulate the moribund FBO industry and hosted a business aircraft auction. Among hundreds of aviation events, it was like no other. They made aircraft dance that day in Lincoln, NE. Don't know if Robert made or lost money on the deal and it was the only such auction ever held. But it was a noble effort. Teddy Roosevelt would have liked Robert Duncan.

... At times, an extra day on the road affords time to drop in on airports. One such visit led to meeting Don Campion at Ft. Lauderdale Executive. His business, Banyan Air Service, was housed in a lean-to attached to a hangar. Banyan recently opened its latest series of corporate hangars, having grown into a major FBO. Don still carries the air of that nice guy squeezing out a living in a lean-to.

... Milling among FBOs and airport managers uncovers disciples of a few mentors. Two that come to mind: John Tucker of Midcoast Aviation in St. Louis, and Peter Drahn, who manages the airport in Madison, WI. An interviewer's perspective: With both, too many good quotes and too little space.

... In thinking of accomplishments, Loretta Scott of Grand Prairie, TX, comes to mind. She helped orchestrate the current AAAE/NATA lease negotiations guide. It was an opportunity for the two groups to work closely together. One step ... a good step.

... Few days have been like the one spent with Dit Panfile in Chicago. He talked candidly of how he started Aero Services, built it into a national chain, went public, and lost control of the company. Later, he decided to get back into the FBO business and began opening Million Air franchises. If the chance arises, stand next to Dit at an NBAA reception — be awed at the number of people who come to him and act like he's their father. They're all former employees.

... Watching DOT Sec. Rodney Slater eloquently play host at the international Chicago Conference in December, a thought occurred: Why haven't we seen this man on TV news calling for new regs after a plane crashes? Doesn't he have a plane waiting on the tarmac in case of emergency, like his predecessor seemed to have? Perhaps Mr. Pena took the plane with him.

... A couple of quotes via the Chicago Tribune seem apt, as we look at 2000. Daniel Burnham is seen as the architect of 1900s Chicago. He instructed his protege: "Make no little plans."

But, he added, "Remember, that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us."

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Finally, a note: $536 was recently paid out to the Make A Wish Foundation by our publisher. It corresponded to the 536 surveys returned to us by readers earlier this year. Thanks for helping us and them.

And, thanks for reading.