2017 Airport Business Top 40 Under 40: Keri Lyn Lyons

Nov. 3, 2017

Keri Lyn Lyons
Airport Certification and Safety Specialist
AGE: 38

  • Alma Mater: B.S. Aviation Business Administration, Minor in Aviation Safety, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (2001); Master of Public Administration, Graduate Minor Aviation Administration, University of Nebraska at Omaha (2005).
  • What is your dream job? Training service dogs.
  • What person has impacted your career the most? It’s impossible to name just one person because different people have impacted different phases of my career. My parents believed in my dreams and gave me the opportunity to start flight training and attend Embry-Riddle; one of my college professors, Dr. Seth Young encouraged me to pursue my studies in airport safety and security, which led to employment with the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General months after 9/11; and my former manager at the FAA, Michael W. Brown, whose leadership style and passion for aviation inspired me to be creative and flourish in my current position.
  • If I could visit any airport in the world, it would be: I love history, so I’d love to go island hopping visiting the various fields once used during World War II on the Pacific front.
  • If I could have dinner with anyone living or dead: My great grandmother

Keri Lyons is passionate about all things aviation and approaches every day and every situation with professionalism, technical expertise and a calm commitment to safety. She has been actively involved in the airport industry for more than 15 years, working for the FAA’s Office of Airports and the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General.

Lyons has been a participating member with the American Association of Airport Executives; serves on an advisory board for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and serves as an adjunct instructor at the FAA Academy and Embry-Riddle.

As an airport certification safety specialist and a program manager with the FAA, Lyons has worked on guidance regarding airport certification and safety for FAA staff and the airport community. She is a subject matter expert on airport Safety Management Systems and she leads the FAA’s airports team responsible for drafting new standards and guidance for the integration of commercial space activities on airports.

Because of her technical knowledge, Lyons is able to take complicated subjects and write clear guidance that is used by the FAA and the aviation industry. She has developed and provided technical training for FAA staff.

Lyons is a 2007 recipient of the Alumni Excellence in Public Service Award from the University of Nebraska. She has been recognized within the FAA for her innovation with a Progress Pioneer Award in 2009 and the Extra Mile Award in 2017. She exemplifies dedication, initiative, and leadership on a daily basis.

Lyons enjoys the challenge and diversity in her job. “My job requires constant vigilance in balancing the need for new regulations, standards or policies, all while minimizing the impact those will have on the variety of airport operations in the National Airspace System (NAS). “This year marks my 10th working on the Safety Management System rulemaking,” she said. “But even after all that time, I’m still challenged on a daily basis to address
lessons learned from our evolving programs, changes in administration processes and requirements, and industry concerns.”

More recently, Lyons has been part of the Office of Airports team, analyzing the impact of commercial space operations on federally obligated or certificated airports. “After UAS, commercial space will be the next new entrant making waves in the NAS,” she said.

For the first 10 years of her career, Lyons said her age was her biggest career challenge. “Most employees begin their federal career after years in the private sector. I entered federal service right out of college and began working on national policy shortly thereafter,” she said. “I worked hard to be a sponge, gathering as much institutional knowledge from my peers as

At conferences, Lyons would take time to talk one on one with airport managers and other stakeholders about the impact of FAA decisions, policies and standards. “I became one of the youngest employees in the Office of Airports to teach at the FAA Academy,” she said. “Surprisingly, I’m still the youngest specialist in my division.”

Lyons caught the aviation bug in the third grade and never shook it off. “Even though aviation operates on a global scale, it’s surprising how small of a world it really is,” she observed. “I love that about it. I can be walking in an airport, or sitting at a conference and know at least one or two people either from school, work, or aviation organizations. I also love the uniqueness of it and how easy it is to talk to fellow aviation buffs.”

Lyons’ career advice is simple. “Don’t just sit back. Fight for what you want.”