Top 40 Under 40: James Long

Dec. 3, 2014

James Long has been with HNTB Corporation for 6 years working as a Civil Engineer in the Aviation Infrastructure

group. Through his time at HNTB, James has played critical roles on a wide variety of projects including facilities

management, planning, design, and construction management. With his experience as a private pilot, James’s

passion and keen understanding of aviation has afforded him the opportunity to work closely with clients and

contractors on very complex projects.

Prior to his time with HNTB, James attended the University of California‐Berkeley, obtaining his degree in 2009

from the U.S. News & World Report #1 Ranked Undergraduate Civil Engineering Program. His 4 years at Berkeley

provided a strong foundation in critical problem solving and engineering that James was able to immediately apply

towards his career. A member of the UC Berkeley Lacrosse program, James balanced his academic endeavors with

a regimen of collegiate lacrosse. In parallel with his academic studies, James also pursued a lifelong passion for

aviation and obtained his Private Pilot’s license in 2007.

During his junior year at Cal, James started with HNTB as an intern in the Oakland, CA office. His affinity for

aviation and technical foundation allowed James to quickly integrate within the aviation planning group, working

on terminal planning up and down the west coast. Upon graduating, James headed south to Los Angeles to

continue his career in aviation by joining the dynamic aviation infrastructure group with HNTB’s Southern

California practice. Building upon his prior experience in aviation, James immediately took on lead design rolls for

diverse aviation projects at commercial, military, and general aviation airfields throughout the southwest. James

continues to grow in his roll, now a project manager within the group taking on significant responsibilities beyond

his tenure.

James currently lives in Redondo Beach, California with his fiancée Caitlin and their Labrador named Kona. James

spends most of his weekends outdoors, riding the slopes, scuba diving under the waves, or cruising around the

lake. When not buried by work, James and Caitlin can often be found running off to the airport in search of new

adventures as the two travel the globe.

1)      Why did you select aviation as a career?

  • For my entire life, I’ve been fascinated by aviation and great feats of civil engineering.  I could not choose between them so at U.C. Berkeley I pursued civil engineering and on the side earned my pilot’s license.  It wasn’t until my junior year, while sitting in an upper division civil engineering course called CE 153- Airport Planning and Design, that I realized I could combine both of my passions into a career.  That course exposed me to aviation infrastructure design through basic airport design and direct interaction with both airport staff and the consultants who help support them.  Building upon one of the relationships established during that class, I started my career with HNTB and have never looked back.

2)      What advice from a mentor helped you the most in your career?

  • During my undergrad education, one of my professors was explaining the importance of not specializing too early.  Taking this advice to heart, I wandered through the diverse course offerings at Cal to develop a broad technical foundation.  Though now focusing on aviation infrastructure, I continue to gravitate towards new and challenging projects to expand upon my breadth of knowledge.  This focus on remaining unfocused has allowed me to approach problems from varying perspectives and draw on a wide range of experience to develop holistic solutions.  Without a doubt, the advice to stay general in my studies and early career has been a significant contributor to my success.

3)      What is the biggest challenge you see facing aviation today?

  • Much of our infrastructure is over-capacity and well beyond its useful life, however due to limited funding and or political hurdles, a lot of investment in infrastructure is being differed.  As air traffic continues to pick up, the traveling public will continue to see increasing delays as congested facilities become more impacted.  In order to maintain our air transportation system, significant investment is required in airfield, terminal, navigation, and public transit infrastructure across the country.  Airfields need to actively manage their infrastructure assets with proactive maintenance regimes and sophisticated capital plans.  Investment in terminal facilities need to match passenger demand and focus on customer experience.  Improvements to our aging navigation infrastructure are required to improve airspace efficiency and bring our flight procedures into the 21st century.  The communities surrounding our busy airports need to invest on public transit connections to improve mobility and reduce congestion along many terminal curbsides.  Our aviation infrastructure, much like our roads, bridges, and railways, need significant investment.

4)      What advice would you give to others in the industry?

  • I think all too often, those of us designing aviation infrastructure work within a box and avoid coordination with stakeholders and the end users of our facilities.  Some of this may be derived from the commonly strained relationship between airports and their surrounding communities, but if proactively managed, stakeholder outreach can be a significant contributor to a project’s success.  We had great success at Van Nuys Airport on an initially political runway replacement by reaching out to the stakeholders and inviting them into aspects of the design process.  Stakeholder inclusion in the process has forever improved their relationship with the airport and provided significant insight that would not have otherwise been available. 

5)      What are three things we don’t know about you?

  • Spent the first 10 years of my life as an Army brat, moving almost constantly.
  • Been to every continent except for Antarctica
  • Huge fan of SciFi movies, Star Wars > Star Trek