Coleman Awarded NC Airports Association’s Highest Honor

May 2, 2022

The director of the Fayetteville Regional Airport, Dr. Toney Coleman, has been awarded the 2022 Willard G. Plentl Aviation Professional of the Year Award from the North Carolina Airports Association (NCAA).

Of his award, Coleman shares, “Isaiah 40:31 says, ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.’ And Philippians 4:13 says, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,' and you’ve summed up my philosophy for life. William G. Plentl Jr and I shared that philosophy, and I am truly humbled and honored to receive an award that bears his name and links to his professional legacy.” 

The award honors an aviation professional who emulates the dedication and leadership of Willard Plentl, who worked in the industry for more than 50 years. With his years of dedicated service to the aviation profession and demonstrated success, Coleman is a clear and deserving winner of the 2022 award. The award is given through a special nomination and selection committee to an individual who embodies leadership, commitment to aviation and community involvement—characteristics that define Coleman’s professionalism and approach. 

“Our airport has become one of the finest in the southeast thanks to Toney’s steady leadership and influence,” said Doug Hewett, city manager. “This well-deserved recognition signifies his passion for aviation, his dedication to impact and his commitment to exceptional leadership. I am proud he has chosen to make a difference here in the Fayetteville community and look forward to what he will accomplish in the future.”  

Toney Coleman served in the United States Army for 25 years as an Active Duty and Army Reserves Officer. During his military service, he deployed to the Middle East twice and earned many commendations for exemplary service including two bronze stars.  

From an early age, Coleman knew flying was his future and worked hard to save for flight lessons. He holds a commercial pilots license with instrument ratings in helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. His passion for the air matched his desire for education leading him to a bachelor’s degree from Winston Salem State University, a master’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a doctoral degree from Northcentral University.  

In 2006 he earned his Accredited Airport Executive Certification while in the role as deputy airport director at FAY, a position he held since 1993. In August 2020, Coleman took the reigns as the airport director following the retirement of Bradley Whited.  

Over the last two years, Coleman has shepherded major success at FAY with more than $55 million in renovations and infrastructure upgrades and responsiveness to a global pandemic ravaging the travel industry. FAY was one of the only regional airports to see growth during the pandemic by adding a direct flight to Dallas-Fort Worth and being one of the fastest to rebound in terms of enplanements. During 2021, passenger traffic increased 62% over the prior year topping 345,000 passengers.  

As a military veteran, Coleman understands the airport and his role to support and serve the nation’s largest military installation. He collaborated with Fort Bragg to temporarily relocate the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) aircraft to FAY while Pope Army Airfield underwent $81 million in repairs and upgrades.  

Since first watching the Blue Angels as a teenager in Winston-Salem, Coleman knew his life would be in the air and has dedicated both his personal and professional life to this chosen profession. Toney has served on the NCAA Board in a variety of capacities, including president. In addition, he also served as president of the Southeast Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (SEC-AAAE). SEC-AAAE is the largest chapter of the American Association of Airport executives consisting of nearly 700 members from 12 states, including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Coleman also served for years on the National AAAE Board. During his tenure on the National AAAE Board, Coleman chaired the Diversity Committee (aka DE&I), the National Airports Conference, and the Finance & Administration Conference, and he continues to serve on the AAAE Ethics Committee.