New San Jose, Calif. Airport Chief Looks at Expansion, Curfew, Track Record

As aviation director, Bill Sherry will oversee air service for about 11 million passengers a year, as well confront a formidable challenge.

A: I will enforce the curfew to the maximum extent possible. If an airline breaks that curfew, then I will use every measure I have available. If they're not breaking that curfew, then the only option I have at that point is to try to work with the carrier base and look at the alternatives available to try to achieve their business objectives while at the same time also trying to maintain the spirit of the curfew.

Q: San Jose officials have no solid financial plan to complete the expansion and airlines are balking at the share they're being asked to pay. What can you do about it?

A: At Fort Lauderdale when I came in, the airline relationship was extraordinarily poor. They wouldn't even come in to discuss the issues. Within six months, I got my first unanimous approval from them, and for every year thereafter, every single item, without exception, not only passed, but passed unanimously. Airlines have to be convinced the expansion is being done in a fiscally prudent way. Also, I broke the program into phases that weren't tied to a particular timeline, but to passenger traffic.

Q: What are San Jose's chances of becoming a bigger international airport? Or do you think it's destined to be for low-cost carriers?

A: My No. 1 priority is to achieve the objectives of the city council. One thing I will say, though, is that I think this airport needs to brand itself in terms of what distinguishes it and what distinguishes San Jose as a community. With all the other airports, and throughout my research and in my discussions, there's a big question mark every time I ask that question. It's going to be a top priority of mine working with the city council and City Manager Del Borgsdorf to come up with a business plan for this airport that sets forth what the goals and objectives are and how to achieve them.

Q: You're a nationally recognized expert. Why did you take the job?

A: I was looking for three things. I love challenges, and you have a bucket-load of challenges here. My wife and I were looking for a livable community, and the Bay Area is our favorite travel destination. We must have visited here two dozen times. The third thing is a connection with the people.

Q: After you left Fort Lauderdale, the Broward County Commission discovered that an artist painted your face, along with what appeared to be Jesus' face, in clouds on a decorative ceiling in a terminal hallway. The commission had the images removed after you left. Did you authorize them?

A: No, I had no idea until my project manager came to me and said, ''We might have a problem.'' By the way, the artist said the elderly man with the beard was Old Man Winter looking down at the tourists, not God or Jesus.

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