Top 40 Under 40: Frank McIllwain

Dec. 3, 2014


Frank McIllwain is a Vice President and Texas Aviation Director at Garver. His 16 years of airport design and construction management experience includes $160 million in airport improvement projects at more than 60 airports in the south central United States. As a licensed instrument-rated pilot, Frank is able to add the user’s perspective in his airport project designs. Clients who work with him often cite his emphasis on quality control and communication with stakeholders when discussing why they choose Frank to be their project manager. The variety of experience designing and managing projects Frank has worked on includes runway/taxiway rehabilitations, runway/taxiway extensions, apron reconstructions, drainage improvements, airfield lighting and signage projects, pavement marking, navigational aids, utility relocations, multi-agency review and coordination, and capital improvement plan implementation.

1)      Why did you select aviation as a career?

  1. As a child, a family friend flew my father and me to visit my grandparents. I was amazed by the way the pilot understood all the gauges and buttons in the cockpit. I never forgot that feeling which lead me to apply my civil engineering degree in the aviation industry.

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

  1. Apply wisdom to hard work. Sharpen the axe before trying to chop down a tree.

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

  1. Safety—in the cockpit, in the air, and on the ground—is paramount for future growth of the aviation industry.

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

  1. My advice for young airport engineers is to immerse yourself in the details and constantly seek opportunities to learn and challenge yourself.

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

  1. I lead a bible study in our office and co-lead a 9th grade class at my church.
  2. My early childhood home was on a lake, but today I’d rather snow ski than water ski.
  3. My favorite thing about spring and fall is coaching my oldest daughter’s softball team.