In Recognition of Leadership

March 29, 2011
The 2011 Ground Support Leaders of the Year awards acknowledged five individuals for their contributions to the industry.

Great leadership deserves a nod — not only to commend the individual but to inspire others. 

In an effort to recognize and inspire the GSE community, Ground Support Worldwide presented the Leaders of the Year awards at Cygnus Aviation Expo in Las Vegas. Nominations were submitted by the industry and voted upon by our editorial advisory board. Held during a luncheon at the convention center, five individuals were recognized for the contributions.

And this year’s recipients are…

Safety Leader of the Year: for a person or company who has introduced a new method, procedure or product to improve industry safety records

Don Redwine, reliability analyst, Southwest Airlines

Don Redwine envisioned a career in aviation at a young age. “On my first flight in the early 1970s, I informed my mother I would be in this business somehow,” he says. “It was just way too cool.” He has since spent 26 years in the industry, which initially began at Horton Aero Service in Lubbock Texas in 1978 where he was an apprentice A&P for three years. He then worked outside aviation before returning in1988 as a production painter at E.B.A. in Texas, where he eventually became a production manager building small-scale GSE for corporate and commuter markets. Redwine then took on the position of field service technician when E.B.A was acquired by DevTec. When the company became known as TLD, Redwine led a team of field service technicians that covered North and Central America, as well as English-speaking countries in the Pacific Rim.

Redwine transitioned into an airline career with Southwest in 2005 as a reliability analyst. He has since become involved in many aspects of airline ground safety, sitting in on several internal committees and groups focused on safety and reducing injuries. He has also been involved in the SAE G12 and AGE2 groups and the ANSI A92.7 working group. Redwine also has responsibility for creating and facilitating safety/technical training programs for the Southwest GSE group worldwide.

Introducing him at the reception, Rick Waugh, regional GSE manager at Southwest, says Redwine “does a tremendous job of working with our end users of our equipment.” He adds, “He explains the error in their rationale at times, or gives credit where credit is due when they come up with something that has merit.”

Redwine says, “I owe much of my success to the exceedingly competent group of people I have the pleasure of working with here at Southwest Airlines.”

Engineer/Innovator Leader of the Year: For a company or a person who has introduced a revolutionary product

Gene Velazquez, president and founder, One Mile Up Inc.  

Gene Velazquez is president and founder of One Mile Up Inc., a software company that has developed graphic solutions. In 1998 the company stepped into the aviation market, developing software to for aircraft interior rendering, paint scheme design, instrument panel layout, and also a software program for parking and stacking of aircraft called Hangar & Ramp Planner. One Mile Up’s Hangar & Ramp Planner was designed for better planning of aircraft parking to improve both profits and safety.

According to Velazquez, about 500 companies have purchased the software to assist in parking of aircraft. In 2010, One Mile Up implemented a beta testing site at Centennial Airport in Englewood, Colo., for a new web-based version of Hangar & Ramp Planner.

Introducing Velazquez at the reception, Mike Zimpel of Vail Valley Jet Center spoke about the benefits of the program. “Valle Valley Jet Center uses the One Mile Up Hangar Planner as a helpful tool for planning aircraft moves, ramp and hangar stacking,” he says. “We look forward to the latest version and improved levels of safety and efficiency this will bring.”

Green Leader of the Year: for a person or a company who has introduced environmentally friendly equipment or processes

Ryan Gibson, GSE general manager at AeroVironment Inc.

Ryan Gibson stepped into the aviation business in 1998 as a senior commodity manger at American Airlines. In 2002, he moved into a position with AeroVironment, a company specializing in fast-charging technology for electric vehicles. Gibson currently holds the title of GSE general manager at AeroVironment. In addition to his responsibilities with the company, Gibson regularly speaks at industry functions to explain the benefits of turning to electric GSE. Introducing Gibson at the reception, Debra Guinand says, “He has assisted in electrification of many airports, not only in the United States, but abroad.”

Accepting the award, Gibson says, “I just want to thank all of the users that buy the equipment. They’re the ones that do the most for the environment; I just facilitate it.”

Team Leader of the Year: similar to the original Leader of the Year Award, this title is for an individual who has taken a leadership role with personnel

Larry Laney, director of GSE, Southwest Airlines

Larry Laney is a two-time recipient of the Team Leader of the Year award. Laney began his career in 1987 with Southwest where he has been instrumental in developing maintenance programs and guiding his team through fleet requirements. Rick Agnor, manager GSE eastern region at Southwest, introduced Laney at the reception, saying he deserves the award for his dedication to his position. “They say fortune favors the brave and it indeed takes a lot for GSE leaders to perform in these tough times,” he says. “Many of us can lead but hopefully the exhibition of talent we saw this year might inspire our hidden talents to come forward. One person stood out because of his sheer determination, talent and energy in his GSE leadership performance.”

Laney accepted the award on behalf of the entire GSE team at Southwest. “I’m going to take credit for one thing, that I’ve done a great job of surrounding myself with talent,” he says. “I’m honored to receive this award for our team — certainly I didn’t do everything — and also for all the GSE mechanics in our system that really get the work done.”

Lifetime Achievement Award: for a person who has demonstrated commitment to the industry through a lifetime of dedicated service

Patrick O’Brien, president and CEO, MCM Engineering Inc.

Patrick O’Brien has been in GSE for more than 40 years, contributing his talent to 400 Hz applications. According to colleagues, his innovations helped transform the industry from mobile equipment to central system design. He founded MCM Engineering in 1991. Prior to that, O’Brien served as a chief engineer at companies such as Hobart Brother, Devtec (now TLD) and McCormick-Morgan.

Introducing him at the luncheon, colleague Paul Bade reflected on his experience working with O’Brien. “It’s not about putting in a lot of years, it’s about the body of work,” he says. “He’s been an innovator and a creator. I know that he’s made a big difference. Over the years, he’s taught a lot of us to do the right thing and that’s to serve our customers, to look out for quality and don’t let our customers make mistakes.”

Accepting the award, O’Brien offered advice to the crowd, advising them to “strengthen your strengths.” He also indicated that he did not plan to step away from the industry anytime soon. “I’m thinking about retiring in about 20 years,” he says.