2021 Airport Business Top 40 Under 40: Zachary Staff, PP, AICP, Regional Aviation Planning Manager, McFarland Johnson

Dec. 9, 2021

Zachary Staff went to school for urban planning and geography, happening into aviation by luck.

“It was a lot of luck,” said Staff. “I met the right people while I was doing internships who told me that airport planning was an interesting gig and I knew nothing about airports, so how hard could it be?”

With no formal aviation training or education, Staff taught himself all he knows of the industry and now serves as a regional aviation planning manager with McFarland Johnson. His education, focusing on the study of space and place, brings a unique perspective to the planning of airports and the impacts of an airport to the neighboring community, and vice-versa. Staff oversees a group five planners and technicians spread throughout locations across the east coast.

Staff uses his in-depth knowledge of AIP, PFC’s, and the COVID-19 relief bills to advocate for clients, and craftily navigates meetings with the FAA, often reminding them of their own AIP handbook on what is eligible. He excels at putting together fundable programs and maximizing eligibility. While his work includes the more typical master plans, business plans, and environmental assessments, Staff also completes specialized tasks such as Part 150 noise analyses, airport financial assessments, grant administration, project financial plans, airport joint use agreements, land acquisition, and PFC programs.

Staff said the variety of his work is what he enjoys most.

“I can be coming in and be working on a passenger facility charge application or a grant application or a master plan or a business plan, or I have experience in GIS and I am creating maps. Every day is a little different and I can focus on a different airport, in completely different parts of the country. It provides me a lot of variety and it's fun to see projects that I started, the planning phase, come into implementation down the road years from when it was conceived. It’s great to see how each project actually evolved through the design and construction process,” he added.

One of Staff’s many roles included developing a statewide General Aviation business plan for the State of Vermont. This plan enabled the GA system to transition to revenue positive and to prevent potential closure of airports where revenue was negative. Staff has also had a lead role in advancing the use of GIS in airport projects, including the use of GIS to enhance airport business plans by more precisely defining service areas and markets, allowing airports to more productive target their marketing activities, ultimately enhancing the bottom line. He has been critical in the developments of workflows and application of GIS as a key component to the development of MJ’s proprietary Dynamic Analysis Tool.

“Being able to work with airports, to come up with what I find to be logical solutions to their problems, cost efficient where possible, is a key focus area for the work that I do. I take a lot of pride in that and coming up with those realistic, “keep it simple” solutions for airports,” Staff said.

About the Author

Walker Jaroch | Editor

Contact: Walker Jaroch

Editor | AMT

[email protected]


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