Top 40 Under 40: Sara Freese

Dec. 3, 2014

Sara Freese is the Director of Aviation at the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.  She was appointed to her position in January 2013. She is responsible for the overall operation of the airport.  The airport operation includes being the landlord to several tenants and activities including, commercial air service, rent car companies, aircraft fueling and maintenance operations.  Major tenants include Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, American Eagle, Leading Edge and Bell Helicopter.  Other major responsibilities include long range planning, air service development and budgeting.

She started flying and earned her pilot’s license in high school. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation management and a Master of Science degree in aviation safety from Central Missouri State University (home of the 2014 D-II Men’s Basketball National champions) and holds an MBA from Upper Iowa University. She has started working on her Project Manager Professional certification.

Sara is an accredited airport executive (AAE) and is a regional examiner of the 12 member Board of Examiners for the American Association of Airport Executives. Her husband and two boys, age 7 and 9 keep her busy.  In her free time, she likes to play tennis and golf, camp and complete adventure races.

Top 40 Under 40 Questions        

1)      Why did you select aviation as a career? I knew I would always do something in aviation in my career. I soloed at age 16., and got my pilot’s license in high school. An airport is such a eclectic operation; a mix of many different businesses and people that all are needed for it to work in a safe manner. I’m excited to be a part of something that brings families together and also can be an economic engine of a community.

2)      What advice from a mentor helped you the most in your career?   Your perception is your reality. As a leader, you have to ‘walk the walk’. It is important to speak up for what is right; don’t let the fear of being wrong keep you on the bench.

3)      What is the biggest challenge you see facing aviation today? The industry needs to speak with one voice in DC.  There are substantial changes needed in the next few years to sustain the aviation system in terms of funding, business practices, and safety. These decisions in the short term will  set the tone for the future.  

4)      What advice would you give to others in the industry? Reach out and talk to your peers. Network. I wouldn’t be where I was at without asking questions, listening and learning from others in the industry. It’s a blessing to be in a position to mentor others.  

5)      What are three things we don’t know about you? I am a big history buff, I will listen to any type of music (seriously, you should see my playlist on my ipod!), and I  love to compete in adventure races.