Airports are one of the most important infrastructures in any physical location, given how vital it is in maintaining an area’s connectivity to the rest of the world. This is why airport management is of the utmost importance. There are so many factors that determine whether or not an airport manager can keep that ship running. Brendan O’Reilly, the Airport Manager of Fullerton Municipal Airport, chats with David Yu about the importance of determining the day-to-day operations of an airport. Through thick and thin, the effectivity of an airport manager will ultimately determine if the airport will keep running.
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Managing An Airport With Brendan O’Reilly
I interviewed Brendan O’Reilly. He’s the Airport Manager of Fullerton Municipal Airport and has worked extensively in airport operations throughout his career. Join me as he talks about his lifelong passion for General Aviation and his pursuit of bringing people together and building a sense of community at the airport. To find out more about my aviation-related show, please check out www.TheLevelPlaneField.com. If you have any financial questions, consult your attorney, accountant or financial advisor. If you’re interested in how I help airline pilots as a Certified Financial Planner practitioner, please visit www.PacUnited.com.
Brendan O’Reilly, thank you for coming onto the show. You are a private pilot, an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic and a lifelong supporter of General Aviation. You’ve worked in various positions through the aviation industry and now combine your wealth of experience and knowledge and your role as the Airport Manager of the Fullerton Municipal Airport. Welcome to the show, Brendan.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Brendan O’Reilly?
I was one of those kids that grew up and my dad took me down to this airport, this is my local airport. He sat me on the bench and said, “You want to see some airplanes?” I said, “Sure.” I was enthralled with it right away. I didn’t want to go home. My dad saw that spark in me and then he took me down the next El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. They had their open house air show and I remember that. I was seven years old. I couldn’t get enough of that. The Blue Angels were the highlight. Once I saw the Blue Angels, I was like, “That’s what I want to do right there.” The ability to sit in aircraft and walk through them and talk to the pilots and ask them, “How did you get here? How do you become a fighter pilot or a helicopter pilot?” I knew exactly what I wanted to do. My whole education focused on math and science. I was good in those areas anyway. I joined the Civil Air Patrol when I was twelve minimum age.
At twelve, did you have any flying experience prior to joining the Civil Air Patrol?
No. Unfortunately, my family and our family friends sometimes you know somebody who’s a pilot or their friend or whatnot. We didn’t know any people involved in aviation. My way into getting my first flight on a little airplane was through Civil Air Patrol. We saw an article in the local paper that these kids come every week and do drilling and leadership in aviation education. I thought, “Sign me up.” I got the first time to go up an actual airplane, which was a sailplane out of 29 Palms. I had already spent a lot of time reading everything I could about aircraft in general and flight controls, what they did and what’s the nail around and all that. I knew how to fly before I ever stepped foot in a plane.
The first instructor I went up with in this sailplane, when he let me have my stick time, he said, “You’re a natural, kid. Where did you learn to do that?” I said, “I read books on it.” He grabbed my dad when we landed and said, “You should let him keep pursuing this because he seems to like it and get it right away.” I was twelve years old. I did a few more years of that. As I could afford it, I would go out to Chino Airport or here to Fullerton and take a lesson in a 152. Here and there though, nothing consistent. My folks couldn’t afford to do something like private pilot education for me. I was the fifth kid, the last kid. I continued through high school and had my plan to go and get an Aeronautical Engineering degree. Go into the Navy and do the whole flight officer training thing.
Unfortunately, my dad passed away unexpectedly on the first day of college. I had turned eighteen and he had turned 49. He had been my mentor and he exposed me to all this. I knew he loved aviation too. To lose him at that age, it was unexpected and difficult. I went into a depression for a couple of years there and I couldn’t stick to my studying and I couldn’t concentrate. I honestly blew a couple of years of my education at least. By the time I got squared away and back on track, I didn’t have a degree and I was still years away from it. I knew that was an entry barrier to the military. I decided to try a commercial airline type of school. I went out to the Mesa Airlines Flight Academy out in New Mexico. I did that. I got my private pilot license there. I started my instrument training. I was talking to all my classmates and the guys that were further along in the program and I decided airline flying wasn’t for me.
Why was it not for you?
It was a number of things. One, I didn’t love it. I always wanted to fly upside down, turn and burn, do fun stuff, and straight and level flying in fifteen-degree banks. I was 21. There was a surplus of qualified pilot candidates. The airlines were choosy with who they picked and had to have your degree and so many hours. You got paid peanuts. The guys that had finished the class and were flying right seat for Mesa or one of their subsidiaries were barely making it struggling and working 2 or 3 jobs.
At the time, how much were regional pilots getting paid?
I was barely above minimum wage. I remember Mesa paid something like $9, under $10 an hour to be flying.
If you think about it, you have to go through many hurdles, training and all these hours and instruments. At least when you first start off, you have to think that you get paid $9 to $10 an hour.
You have to want it. You have to be driven. Some of the people, their grandparents were paying for their education. I wasn’t one of those guys. I had to get loans and make payments. I weighed it out and I said, “This isn’t for me. I don’t want to dump $60,000.” That was many years ago. That was a scary number to me. I decided, “I could come back to this.” I pulled out of the program, I came back home to California and figured, “What do I want to do now?” I was interested in hotrods and working on cars and making them faster. A few of my friends said, “You’d be a good aircraft mechanic.” I knew I wanted to be around airplanes.
Did you ever think about working on airplanes or anything before that?
Not really. It was always the pilots, that’s the guy. He gets all the glory. No doubt, the maintenance folks are just as important. I laugh now. I said, “Pilots are a dime a dozen.” When I meet a cocky pilot around here, it’s like, “Wow, another pilot, whoop-de-doo,” to mess with them sometimes. I can say that because I’m a pilot, but I’m teasing. I didn’t think of that until later on. I thought, “Keeping my feet on the ground and a lot of the mechanics that I started meeting they all own aircraft or they fly also.” Not all but a lot, a good percentage. When I was at Mesa Airlines, I was in training. You schedule, they have six airplanes and there’s a ton of guys all fighting for scheduling. If a plane goes down for maintenance, you’re grounded and waiting. I remember I was next up for one of the 836 Bonanzas coming out of maintenance. The mechanic for Mesa said, “I’ve got to take it up and test fly. Do you want to go with me?” “Sure, why not?” I was already familiar with that aircraft by then but I was impressed at how smooth he was. He knew that aircraft inside and out. He flew it smoother than any of my instructors or any of the pilots I had been with. That left an impression with me for sure.
I’ve never thought about that. That holds a whole lot of truth to it. If you work on an aircraft, you’d know the ins and outs of it. You know all the characteristics.
Part of being a good pilot is knowing what to do when things go wrong. I always like to know how things work so it did fit even though it wasn’t as sexy as being a pilot, it did fit for me. I spent a couple of years at Mt. SAC, San Antonio College. Full-time and grossed every day up there learning everything. I got both my Airframe and Powerplant licenses.
I don’t know a whole lot about the A&P stuff. What was the cost between the A&P versus your normal flight school?
It’s cheaper than a flight school. With A&P programs, you can go private. There are plenty of those schools and they’re fairly expensive, not terribly, not as much as flight training for sure. Fortunately, Long Beach College, Mt. San Antonio, Orange Coast or one of those smaller community colleges all had A&P programs, which costs no more than regular community college.
It’s normal community college course costs.
The Mt. SAC program, they have air traffic program, they have a flight pilot program also. They have what’s called the college aviation where students compete with Embry-Riddle and the more well-known schools and they do quite well against them. I got to be in the college aviation group for a while and while I was getting my A&P, I continued flying their 172 and their 152 at a good cost to low cost for the college kids. I flew those as much as I could during that. Somewhere along the way, I met my wife. I wanted a job and started making money. I tinkered around with GA. My first job was down at Long Beach Airport. I was working on some fixed-wing and some helicopter stuff. I spent about a year doing that and then I went and got hired at LAX by a foreign carrier part 129 airline working on the DC-9-30s. That was my first real turbine experience.
How was that experience working on a large aircraft?When you get to the top or the upper levels, it's well worth it, but you don't start out doing it. Click To Tweet
It was great and we got to not only fix them and do the maintenance but when the airplanes came into the Tom Bradley Terminal, we would have to taxi them back to maintenance. We got to fire them up and taxi them around and jockey the throttles and throw the thrust reversers. It was a lot of fun. A good group of guys down there are sharp mechanics. I learned a lot.
What were the pay and benefits like over there?
It was quite good. I was making $40,000 to $50,000 a year and I was 23.
Back then, that was much higher than it is right now, as far as the value of it.
It was good. I was able to go buy a new truck. At 23, that’s a big deal like, “I can afford a new car.” I think about doing things I never did before. It was good. I spent a few years down there doing that. All the while, the one thing about airline job is the schedule is crazy. You’re always going to be working weekends, holidays. They never close. If you think about it, the planes fly all day. They get wrenched on at night. I was a graveyard for a couple of years and that’s awful. To me, that’s an awful thing to do to your body.
You got married too.
I was 25, so not quite yet.
How did the graveyard shifts affect the whole dynamic, family life?
It’s tough. One of my buddies spent more time with my wife on the weekends than I did. I joked about, “You guys haven’t something going on,” which wasn’t at all the case. I couldn’t be there Friday night, Saturday night when most 23, 24-year-olds are out doing their thing on the weekends. I was at work. I enjoyed it when I got there, but leaving the house always sucks.
Did your wife think you’re crazy?
She was supportive. She’s much smarter than me. She knew it’s not ideal, but some things you just don’t talk about and put it out there. You bite your lip and do about what you’ve got to do, pay your dues.
If you’re passionate about it, you have to start somewhere.
The one common thing with aviation whether you’re going to be a pilot, a mechanic, airport manager or air traffic controller, you’ve got to pay your dues. You’ve got to put in the time and do all this stuff that nobody wants like the odd shifts and work your way up. When you get to the top or the upper levels, it’s well worth it and they’re great jobs, but you don’t start out doing that. A pilot flying for Ameriflight, you’re going to be flying in the snow in Minneapolis. Now that I have a regular 8:00 to 5:00 type job, you can appreciate it.
You can always draw back on those experiences too whenever you need to. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing to have.
It’s all about growing up in experience and wisdom. Appreciating what you have and what you’ve worked for. It’s worth the payoff. You’ve got to be ready to sacrifice.
What happened after the LAX A&P gig?
I was chugging along there and 9/11 happened. That was a big eye-opener to me that the guys that started at the foreign carrier I was with were getting absorbed into Delta, Continental, American, United and that was the next step for me. I saw when things went bad, the economy went down and bankruptcies, you should be ready to take your family and move to wherever their hub is or where they need people.
That’s an interesting point because you did work in the aviation industry in one form because you always hear about pilots. You hear about pilots getting furloughed, you hear about pilots getting their pensions taken away in times of a recession. How did that affect you working for the airlines after as an A&P mechanic?
That’s where I was coming to grip with that instability.
Did they furlough people on your end or that they fired people or lay-off people?
They did. We had a small crew in American where I’d go visit them on my break. There are two guys on a wing doing a flap bloop and two guys on the other wing and two guys in the cockpit. It’s 8 or 10 guys per aircraft. We had 1 or 2 and we did everything right. I laughed at that because I thought, “I’m doing everything. You’re doing a flap bloop. How boring is that?” I knew I was going to get married. We’d have kids eventually and I didn’t want to be up and moving on a whim’s notice to Georgia. I would be fine with travel. I don’t know that my wife would. Her family was all here. I started thinking down the road what’s going to happen and what my next step was. I’m always trying to plan ahead.
One day I was working, it was very stormy down there at LAX. The wind blows right down the runway, super cold, wet. I was doing a jackscrew after that big Alaska Airline, the vertical stabilizer. The DC-9 MD-80 has a T-tail. You’re way up there, 30 feet high, checking that out and there’s hydraulic fluid on those big airplanes that you don’t always realize is there. You’ve got a harness and you strap in so you don’t fall off 30 feet. I got up there, I was slipping around in the rain and I was thinking, “I’m 24 now and this is okay. Do I want to be doing this when I’m 40? Maybe not.” That moment I saw one of the LAX operations cars, those white police cars doing a FOD check down the runway. I love cars and speed and going fast.
They boogie down those runways because they’ve got to get the spacing of the two-minute intervals. You’ve got to boogie. I thought, “That looks fun. They’re getting paid to go 120 down the runway. How do I do that?” I started asking around and talking to people and I realized, “That’s airport operations, LAWA.” I said, “I like the idea of working at the airport, but maintaining the airport facility as opposed to the aircraft.” I’d already finished the two-year degree at Mt. SAC with my A&P. I remember the instructor from Cal State LA visited our class when we were finishing up saying, “You can transfer your credits from this program right into our aviation management program.” I didn’t think much of it when he came and visited, but here I was slipping around on the tail and thinking, “How long do I want to do this?” It all clicked, “That’s what I need to do. That’s my next step.”
I went right over the next day and registered, “When can I start this program? I want in.” I did that. I kept working as an A&P and then finished my Bachelor’s degree at Cal State LA. I’d arrive at LAX at 6:00 AM, work until 4:00. I got in the car and drive to Cal State LA. I was young and I have class from 6:00 until about 9:00 or 9:30, sometimes 10:00 and come home and crash out and do it all over again. I did that for 2.5 years. When I was done with my degree, I knew I wanted to switch gears and get into the airport side of things.
I had trouble with that because I was making decent money and going back to an entry-level operations job, it’s a huge step back. My wife said, “Think of it as a paid internship. If this is what you want to do, do your time again.” I thought, “We’re back again, pay your dues.” I got a little job at El Mani Airport as part-time. Like a sponge absorbing everything I could, I worked closely with the operations guys, “What are our responsibilities? How do we do it?” There tended to be a lot of turnover in that entry-level spot. I was a pilot, I was a mechanic, I had a degree. I had higher calls than most of the guys I was working with. I rose through that crowd quickly.
What was the transition like going from a mechanic to working in operations? I’d imagine it’s a big change and a big shift in responsibilities.
It was big, but knowing why it’s important to make sure all the runway lights work properly and all the striping is correct. Being a pilot, knowing the importance of that and then knowing the interaction between ATC and airport management and the pilot side, having the background of having worked at a small GA repair shop. What it takes for them to be successful and how they fit into the airport mix and how the airport management deals with those businesses. That was where I tied it all together. I spent about a year at El Mani scraping, chopping weeds, spraying, placing light bulbs and mowing. I loved every minute of it. I was making peanuts. Good thing my wife was working and we got by.
I worked for American Airports, which is a contractor for LA County Airports. They’re on the field doing the day-to-day management. The county still owns the airports. I worked for American Airports, but the county inspectors were constantly there monitoring the contract and doing projects. I got to know those guys and they saw that I was motivated and had a good basis and wanted to learn. One of their airport project coordinator spots opened up and they all asked me to apply. They said I’d be a good fit. It worked out and I started up with the county and that was 2006. I started learning how to deal with the FAA with Caltrans. Most people don’t know small airports, you think the FAA runs the show. Not at all, it’s Caltrans’ Division of Aeronautics. They issue our permit to operate, not FAA. They all interweave. The Caltrans inspector comes every year and does a 5010 inspection. I’ve got to go with those guys to each of the five airports, look for what they’re looking for.
What exactly is Caltrans responsible for at an airport?
The GA airports, they’re tasked with making sure that the airports are safe and up to the requirements. The FAA handles the part 139 or the larger, what you’d think of as an air carrier airport, LAX, John Wayne, Long Beach. The FAA inspectors do their certification, but Caltrans does the small. All the while, having been exposed to LAX, a busy air carrier airport, it’s like its own city down there with the number of people. I thought back to all my experiences at small airports. I took flying lessons out of Bracket Field. That was where I was flying with Mt. SAC. I took lessons out of Chino here and there and then at Fullerton. Those experiences being on smaller airports and the people you meet and the things you see in cool airplanes and cool people in general. I thought back and thought, “I’m a GA airport guy.” I decided then and there I was going to stay in the GA track and focus on that instead of going into the air carrier stuff.
It’s all about the community. It’s about building a community or being a part of a community. At a carrier airport, that’s business.
If you’re an employee there, you’re a number unfortunately. For instance, John Wayne, I believe employs about 300 people. I have five to run this entire airport. They have 300. Here, everyone knows who you are and they get to know your personality and what you like and don’t like. Who’s the manager of LAX? I don’t even know. What does he do? I don’t know. I decided I like being part of this small airport culture. That’s why I’m still here. I bring a lot of background to the job here. To get back on track on how I got here, I spent a few years at LA County and learning to deal with FAA, Caltrans, with the consultant, with the engineering team because it takes planners, engineers, all that to environmental people. We have many different things going on. When you run a big project like a runway overlay, you have to deal with all those entities throughout a three-year process. It takes three years from the inception of a project like, “Let’s rebuild our runway.”
Within that interwoven is the grant cycle. I learned how to apply for grants and manage them and how to spend the money correctly. Make sure that you’re meeting all the assurances that the FAA requires every time you sign a grant. It all interweaves. I was having a good time. I was making $70,000 to $75,000 a year or so. My title was Airport Project Coordinator. It was cool because I got to go around to all five LA County Airports and oversee projects and take a look at how the contractor’s doing on cutting the weeds and keeping the lights on and all that stuff. The unfortunate thing is our office is based down in Alhambra, not an airport. I always wanted to be there. You never know what’s going to land and show up here. It gets quite exciting. One time, three Blackhawks came in at the same time and that’s exciting. What are they doing? I have no idea. Maybe we’re under siege. I wanted to be back at the airport. I knew I wanted to be an airport manager eventually.
That was your goal. Going into airport operations all the way from the beginning, this is what you’re trying to achieve at the end of things.
It’s all about people and relationships. I met some great airport managers and learned from them and they were decent, honest guys and I respected that. That’s why I said, “I could put all this together and be an effective airport manager.” To do that, I knew I had to move and get another job and hone my skillset. A friend, a consultant I had been working with doing a master plan at Whiteman Airport. Consultants travel a lot. He called and said, “Hayward Airport up in the Bay Area, have you heard of it?” I said, “I’ve heard of it. I don’t know much about it.” He said, “The assistant manager or airport ops manager is leaving and it would be a perfect fit for you.” I said, “Thanks for the tip.” I looked at the job posting. I said, “This is what I need to keep progressing.” I went to my wife, we had two girls at that point, 2 and 4. I said, “What do you think about this?” I knew she had spent a lot of time in the Bay Area in college and had friends up there. I had asked her to move before at different job opportunities and she was like, “No way.” I won’t say where any of them were. This one clicked and she said, “Yes.” I said, “Whoa.” I applied and I got it.
I spent three years at a very busy GA airport. For comparison, Fullerton is 86 acres total and Hayward is 550 acres. Two runways instead of one, Gulfstream fives all the way down to Reno racers, Formula, sports class, unlimited, banner tellers, corporate style, everything going on there. It was fun. I met wonderful people, learned a ton, got to work with two super airport managers who are still my mentors and I still talk to them every few weeks and become good friends. They saw what my strengths were and worked with me on other things and cut me loose. Both of them left unexpectedly. I got to be an airport manager for the interim temporary while they recruited. It was scary, but it was super fun at the same time.
What was the shift from? What was the airport coordinator at the LA County and when you got to Hayward? What were you responsible for over there?”
That’s where I got to hone my craft being at the airport, seeing what’s going on day-to-day. One part of the job is being an airport cop. There are a lot of rules. I’m the one that has to enforce them. You have guys that consider themselves a little special because they fly and other people don’t or they have wealthy people that aren’t used to being told no. When you tell them you can’t do such that activity because it’s unsafe and it’s written in our rules and regs, they don’t like that. You have to be crafty on how you approach that. I watched some of my mentors how they approached things and said, “You never come at them and say, ‘What the heck are you doing?’ It’s more like, ‘Can you help me out here because you’re doing something that you’re not supposed to be doing. Now you’re putting me in an awkward situation because if I allow you to do it, everyone’s going to want to do and we can’t have that because then there’ll be chaos.’”
Most people understand when you come from that perspective, “Walk in my shoes. Spray painting my airplane in the hangar isn’t a good idea because one, you’re going to blow yourself up. Two, you’re getting overspray on everybody, all of your neighbor’s aircraft.” “I didn’t think of that.” You see some of the funniest things. To this day, one of my mentors said, “You should keep a diary because you can’t make up some of the craziness you see.” I’ve seen some funny stuff. When you get a bunch of us airport managers together at a conference and we’d go out after the sessions, that stories are crazy. I love my time there and I was being groomed to be the manager there. Even though it’s such a big scary airport with so much going on, I didn’t know that I was quite ready for it.
Then I got a call from another friend who said, “Didn’t you grow up in Fullerton?” I said, “Not exactly real close by, but that’s my hometown airport.” They said, “The manager left and they were going to be opening that spot up.” I said, “Wow.” I told my wife and she said, “I’d like to go home because all our family’s here.” We went up there with our kids and we didn’t know anybody. It was scary but we got through it and we made a lot of good friends and it was such a wonderful experience all around for the family and me. We knew we could do this on our own without any help and we did it. We both wanted to come back here, especially my wife. I applied and I thought, “I know how this works, I need to know what’s going on at this airport before I jump in.” Every job I’ve had in the airport sector was a good job, good pay and good benefits. It’s a little scary to walk away from that. I had people tell me, “You’re leaving the county? Nobody leaves the county. What do you do when you retire with the county?” I said, “It’s not for me. I still want to keep learning.”An airport manager is like an airport cop. There are a lot of rules, and you have to enforce them. Click To Tweet
It was LA County you were working with. Was Hayward a county or is it a city?
It’s a city and they’re under CalPERS. Fortunately, their pension program is reciprocal with CalPERS. Back then, I wasn’t even thinking about that. I didn’t think about that until I hit 40. I understood the basics, but 2.5% at 55 sounds good to me. The county city jobs have good benefits, medical coverage and retirement. That wasn’t at all the driving factor. I wanted to be at the airport. Most of them are owned by a city or county or government agency. That’s how it is. In many ways, I prefer working with a private sector, but I don’t have the luxury to do that. Here I am. I’m a government employee. People love to make fun of that but whatever. I love my job.
You’ve got good pay. I’m assuming as airport managers, you have some decent pay, some good benefits.
I can’t complain but I’m doing what I love. I tell people I get to hang out at the airport and I get paid because plenty of guys hang out just to hang out and I get paid. I immediately booked a flight down here and scheduled an interview with the FBOs, the flight schools. I knew Orange County Fire was based here.
Did you interview with the FBOs and all the tenants and stuff?
At Hayward, I was the number two guy. I was running the airport ops, the day-to-day stuff, where the airport managers are handling a lot of the politics in the city hall, the city council, the commission and all that stuff. I like that because that wasn’t my forte. I like the arrangement of being number two. I was learning and I was gaining confidence. I knew what I was doing, but if everything went wrong, I could still go to my boss and say, “I messed up.” You have that luxury and it’s nice to have that little insurance blanket.
Instead of you being the end all, be all and all the responsibilities fall on you.
That’s how it is here. That was a big adjustment. I interviewed all these different entities around the airport and found out what issues were going on and what was lacking and what the airport needed to grow. The good, the bad, the ugly before you jump in. All airports are politically-charged and there are local issues at each one. There’s an old saying we say that you’ve seen one airport, you’ve seen one airport because they have similar issues, but each one has its own unique, weird community politics going on.
You essentially work for the city council. You don’t know if they’re big supporters of the airport or they’re opposed or not. Santa Monica City Council does not want that airport. You don’t want to go into a job like that. I realized this is a great airport and there are a lot of great people here. There’s not a lot of cohesion among these all groups. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s bringing people together and bringing talents together that align. I knew I had a lot of confidence going into this, that I was the right guy for it and I had the right energy and the right vision. Not to be cocky, but I knew that this place needed a little kick in the pants, like a jumpstart. We have all the elements here to be a great airport. We need to change that energy. It is bringing energy to make it a fun place again, to bring in new business and get to increase the utilization. That was my main goal.
After talking to the FBO, the people that are based here, what were some of the big issues when you first came in?
There were a few issues and then a few ideas that were commonly thought by people that weren’t accurate. Everyone mentioned Buena Park. There was animosity between Fullerton and Buena Park because right across the street is Buena Park, a city boundary. There was some tension in the past with development that shouldn’t have taken place in Buena Park. I said, “We’re going to do it anyway even though it’s not a great idea.” The cities have moved past that now because I didn’t experience it, but everyone had talked about that. Everyone talked about helicopter noise and the noise complaints that we get from the people up in Amerige Heights. We do get those. That gets a big portion of my time and suspensions. Helicopters are noisy. Most of the helicopter pilots are keenly aware of that and most all of them recognize that they want to be friendly and it doesn’t do them any good to beat up neighborhoods and make people mad. Nobody wants that. Occasionally, you get a cowboy that doesn’t care and he’s going to fly it like he stole it late at night, turn and burn. I don’t know what that’s all about. I don’t know why those guys do that, but I’ve run across a few of them. For the most part, we have a lot of considerate professional pilots. The fire authority and law enforcement, consummate professionals and they get it. They don’t want to beat up. They want to be friendly neighbors.
The biggest challenge was trying to get the community involved and to wrap their heads around what is the value of a little airport in our city. We could use another strip mall with more Starbucks. Some people think that. The developers think of that. Once you close an airport, you never get it back. I realized that the key to this place, structurally it was going well. It needed some love and some TLC. We’re working on that incessantly, but there were no huge problems. The community figured out, “Those are rich guys that fly their planes on the weekends.” That’s why I said, “I’m going to take a three-pronged approach to this.” I always wanted to come to make field trips as a kid. Why can’t we go to the airport and learn about planes? I teamed up with the museum center down there because they have an education program.
Which museum center?
Fullerton. They have a great museum downtown with a lot of talented folks. They’re constantly bringing kids and doing classes and instruction.
I would have loved that as a kid. I’ve always been interested in aviation as a kid. I’ve never been to airports. No one ever took me on field trips to an airport to check out the planes. That would’ve been a neat experience.
Another thing with this airport in particular, it’s not very friendly looking. It looks very industrial and a lot of fencing and people think, “I’m not welcome there.” I wanted to change that. My wife and her mom and her family, they’re all from the education system. For a brief moment, I thought I’d be like a science teacher. I thought, “No, I’m not going to be happy unless I’m at the airport. Forget it.”
Did you ever think about air traffic, like ATC?
No, those guys were crazy.
I always see the control towers especially at LAX. That would be a cool job because every day you’re working up in the control tower. That’s not all you do, but you have a good view of all the cool planes and the big ones, all the small ones. I imagined that would be an awesome job, minus the stress. That’s beside the point.
I got turned off air traffic when I was taxing those airplanes at the LAX. It was so busy you could barely get a word in. By the time you key the bike, somebody is stepping on you. I thought, “This is nuts.” I wasn’t attracted to that. It is a fantastic career and unique guys and gals that make up a lot of those crews. Getting back to community involvement, I teamed up with the museum ladies. We met with the school district and we said, “We want to start a field trip program but we want some teeth to it, not just come look at airplanes are cool. How do we integrate this into their curriculum because we’ve got science?”
This is high school-aged kids or younger than that?
No. We wanted to go around the fourth or fifth grade. For me, that was a time that if you saw an airplane that was close, you go, “That is so cool.” It’s so impressionable. That’s when I wanted to hit these kids is right when that could stick. They said, “We’ve got all these items that we can integrate.” We put together a program. One of the volunteers here at the airport that’s a flight instructor was already a seventh-grade science teacher. She retired. She’s one of the docents. She put together a classroom module. We teach kids about direction and latitude, longitude. How do pilots find their way around the sky? We integrate GPS and maps and all that stuff. We walk out in one of the stations is at the windsock. We talked about what a windsock is, what it does, why it’s important or why it’s the color it is. Those things you don’t think about. We talk about direction and then we will make a call. One of us will have a radio and we’ll talk to the tower and we’ll ask them to turn the runway lights on. All the lights come on and the kids go, “Wow.” We try to make it as fun as we can. We go over to one of the maintenance shops and they open the hood, the cal of the airplane and the kids get to see what the engine looks like.
That’s cool because you’ve got to see all aspects of airport operations or what goes into running an entire airport.
Going back to my family background, some kids learn by seeing, some by reading, some by touching. We put airplane parts in their hands and we put models in their hands. We let them touch ailerons and sit in a cockpit and move the yolk. They get to sit in a simulator down at the flight school and fly for a couple of minutes. It’s a good experience. We got great feedback. That is off and running and we continue with that program. We’re definitely looking for more docents if anybody’s interested. I decided we have an open house event that was being run by a group of volunteers here, not well-organized and not well-attended. I thought, “If we’re going to open our doors to the public one day a year, we’ve got to make it big, make it cool and we’ve got to do it. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it.”
Bruce, who was a previous guest on here, was telling me about that. I’ve never been to an open house over here, but it’s supposed to be quite the event.
It’s a small-town event. It allows people to see what goes on here. For some people, like we were saying when we were young, to be walking on an aircraft parking ramp close to the runway is a thrill. I do it every day, so it’s not a big deal to me. People get a thrill by being here and it doesn’t even matter what’s going on. I have to keep reminding myself because I’m always trying to push for bigger and better and more exciting. Some people like being here. You’ve got to know that they’re enjoying it. We bring in military aircraft and unusual aircraft, everything in between. We bring a DC-3 in every year, which is always a crowd stopper, a favorite. We clear the entire south ramp other than some of the tenant aircraft that like to display their aircraft. We roped those off and all around we plug in neat stuff. The police department comes out with their SWAT vehicles, their robots and their dogs. The fire department is out.
Do they do demonstrations?
Yes. The museum center comes out with a booth and the library downtown and parks and rec and public works come out and bring tractors and all those things. We try to have something for everybody. We have a car club or two. I’d like to keep it aviation-focused. I don’t want to get overrun by hotrods. I love hotrods, but I don’t want 1,000 of them here. I want airplanes and helicopters. Who we have based here, the fire authority, the police helicopters all come out and display, the highway patrol, the air ambulance was here. They opened their ships up and the kids get to jump in there and take pictures. If you look on our website, we’ve got pictures and we need to add more. I love it when I see a kid in a helicopter with a huge grin. That’s me and I love it. That makes me smile.
I remember I was coming back from Hawaii with the kids and there was a Hawaiian 8330. They let the kids in. The kids got to put on the captain’s hat and mess with all the controls. It was cool seeing their faces. They’re excited about being in there and being able to touch all the knobs and the side controls.
You don’t know how big of an impression you’re leaving on the kids. Kids don’t know what they’re into until they’re exposed to it. I have two girls. They tend to be girly girls. I was hoping they’d be tomboys that rode motorcycles, but I lost out on that one. They still love coming down and sitting in airplanes and checking them out. There are kids there that I don’t see that are walking away and that registers. Someday down the road, they’re going to be sitting in Algebra class and they’ll be asked, “What do you want to do?” Maybe it’ll click, “I want to be a pilot because that was cool. I remember that experience I had at Fullerton or Hayward or wherever it was.” You never know what impression you’re leaving.
We all try to put our best foot forward that day. We offer cheap helicopter rides, $45. It’s a short ride, but it gets you the taste. Some people don’t like helicopters. They realize you don’t want to be stuck on it for 30 minutes if you don’t like it. It moves different and it vibrates different and some people are scared. We keep it a short, cheap ride. If people realize, “I’ve got to do that again,” then they know. They can come back and do something with one of our operators at a different time. The 99, I’m sure you’re familiar with them. We have a great group of ladies here at Fullerton 99. They’re at least 30 members. They’re active and helpful. They come out and do airplane rides. In fact, J. Bruce flies four them. Sometimes they don’t have enough pilots. They’ve flown something like 300 kids in a day. We’ve done up to 700 people through the helicopter rides in one day. That’s six hours. They’re going and you don’t know who you’re affecting in what way, but almost all of it is fascinating.
A lot of kids are getting affected by it. I don’t know whether it’s motivated or they get an interest in aviation. That’s awesome.
With the pilot shortage that they’ve talked about for many years, it’s finally here and it’s like, “It’s a lucrative career if you’re interested.”
It’s certainly a lot better now with bonuses and starting pay. Even at the regional level, it was a little bit ago.
That day, we had food and in 2018, we tried a band. That was a first. We have games and rides for kids. We do tours of the aircraft or the air traffic control tower, which is pretty unusual that you won’t find that. This is a contract tower run by Circo and the managers have always been great and they love showing people what they do. We take a small group up at a time and they get to see the perspective. Opening eyes to what is available, careers in aviation and different paths.
Have you got military aircraft you set in here?
We always seem to get at least 1 or 2. A couple of times we’ve had the Cobra attack helicopter.
Who doesn’t like a helicopter with a bunch of weapons on it?
The guys love meeting the community and people are always supportive in the military. The recruiters come out sometimes and then a bunch of local organizations. I didn’t know anything about Fullerton Fit Club. The Rotary guys come out and the Lions Club comes out and they love it. They get to show what they do and they all feel they have a little piece of the pie here. It makes me smile because it’s not my airport and it’s not the city’s airport. If you think about it, it’s the communities. They shouldn’t have a part of it.
It’s great especially open houses and making it an actual event, you’re not just, “We’re opening our doors, come by and maybe laugh like a grill.” I’ve got a grill going, but having like all these different events and demonstrations and you all making it this big thing. That’s important as far as establishing a local community, especially around the neighborhood and getting everyone to understand what the airport is all about.Many people go through the airport for different reasons, so they've got to know where to go. Click To Tweet
The one key to that is it’s free. We’ve talked about charging $5 or something because there are definitely expenses and you can’t get a vintage aircraft to fly in for free. If they’re out there, I haven’t touched it. They burn a lot of fuel and it takes a lot of maintenance. We’ve got to raise some money to put these on, but coming in is free. The helicopter rides and airplane rides are obviously not free, but you can come in and you can spend 8 hours here or 6 hours and learn and talk and have a great time without spending a dime.
When is it this 2019 or is it on a specific date every single or weekend every single year?
It was in May the day before Mother’s Day. That killed some of the crowd because some people have to celebrate Mother’s Day on Saturday. We got rained on 2 or 3 of the 5 years. We decided to push it in 2018 to June. I looked at the different calendars and made sure there weren’t any other competing air shows close by or competing city events. May tends to be overrun with events like baseball, graduations. Everybody’s having an event it seems in May. We decided to move it up a month in 2018 to June 22nd, and it worked out beautifully. In 2019, they changed Father’s Day. It’s going to be on June 13th. I don’t want to compete with Father’s Day either. June 13th tends to not be too hot at that point. The weather is still well. In 2018, we got sprinkled on in the morning and then it cleared up.
Bruce was talking about it. I was taking a little look into it. I definitely want to bring my kids here and I would love it, but they would love it. That sounds like a cool experience.
It’s a lot of work and a lot of energy and planning. There are always things that go wrong.
Did you ever look for volunteers?
Maybe if someone’s reading, I’d be willing to volunteer and help out a little bit too.
The Fullerton Airport Pilot Association is trying to take the reins of it with also my input and direction. At the end of the day, it’s the city’s responsibility to make sure it’s safe and well-run. We couldn’t do it without FAFSA in the 99s and all the other volunteers. Civil Air Patrol is involved in it. In fact, they run those tower tours completely on their own. They have a big display out here, cool stuff. Orange County Sheriff’s, Aero Bureau comes up and they’re a big help. It takes a lot of people and a lot of planning and it can be quite frustrating at times because volunteers they’ll go, “I’m not going to make that meeting and I’m going on vacation.” Whatever comes up, we make it happen and we get a lot of good feedback from people and that makes it all worth it.
You mentioned a few other things to me about the projects that you’re working on with the airport. What are some of the new and exciting things for you?
One thing I’m proud of is with a lot of people their exposure to the airport is through the restaurant. We got a new operator in 2014 and we knew we were going to have to do some construction in there, but we didn’t realize to what extent. Unfortunately, we had to close the restaurant for almost two years because everything they touched fell apart. It amounted to a complete overhaul of the facility. What we have now and what you saw is a fantastic new diner that’s aviation-themed, unique sense of style, an industrial aviation look. I hear from my office, people will walk in that haven’t been here in years and look at that runway lit up on the floor and they say, “It’s all new.”
I took a tour of the restaurant and I took some pictures. There is an actual runway on the restaurant floor, which is cool. It has the runway edge lines. I saw runway numbers and everything and definitely worth checking out. That’s for sure.
It’s unique and I don’t think you’ll find another one like it. It’s word of mouth advertising. They’re doing well. It’s called Wings Cafe. Brian and Sherry White run that. They’ve been open since 2015. They’re kicking butt and people love it. The next project for me, the big one is that we’re bursting out of the seams in the administration building here. I had to take over the pilot lounge to make our administration office because I’m big on customer service and having that open-door policy. Many people come through the airport for many different reasons. They need to know where to go, to ask some questions, to meet people. What this airport needs is a new administration building that’s much more user-friendly, some space to breathe a little bit. I could use a bigger office that’s better laid out and that thing.
Are you going to replace this building or an all separate building on the property?
This is where J. Bruce came into the picture. He helped us with our remodel initially. He did a fantastic job. We knew back then even when we were doing that remodel, what we ultimately want to see down the road. Let’s think big and maybe it will happen. We were going to punch out the front of the building and build a meeting space. All those groups I was talking about, the 99s, the Civil Air Patrol, we have several other groups, the Pilot Association, all doing things here but they’re all in their own location or their hangar. I would like a centralized place for them all to meet. There’s no real good meeting space here. AFI, our flight school of many years, they’re gracious and they let different groups use their facility, but it’s a maintenance hangar and they have to move planes out to set up to become a meeting room space.
The impetus for this next project or let’s call it phase two of our airport administration building rehab was to build onto this building. When we hired structural engineers and the architect and everyone started analyzing what it’s going to take to do this, they realized that this building is old and the way it was constructed in the ‘50s and then built on and then built onto again. They said, “You’re opening up a huge can of worms here. It’s going to cost you so much money to do what you want to do that we recommend starting fresh. Building an entirely new building right next door and we can build it to code, 288 to exactly what you want. It’s going to be faster, cheaper, easier. Leave this one alone.” We said, “You’re smarter than us. Let’s switch gears now.”
We looked at, “How are we going to do this?” J. Bruce came up with those concepts, which I can share. They’re super impressive but we’re going to build a two-storey building right next door. The whole upper floor is going to be a big multipurpose room and it can be sectioned off into little rooms. This will be used for field trips. The classes can come to meet here, have classroom lessons here. The Lions Club, the Rotary, the Red Hats, the Pilot Association, everyone will be welcome here to use this room and have meetings. Hopefully, they’ll eat at Wings afterward or take a tour.
Going back to all those community groups have some involvement here. That’s what I want and I believe that’s the key to keeping our airport open and not becoming a Santa Monica. Someday, there might be a big crash and that’s when all the pundits will come out and say, “We need to close that airport or it should be developed into a strip mall.” I need the community to come together and say, “We don’t like that because my kid came out there when he was young and sat in a helicopter and he’s a helicopter pilot now. My dad used to take me for pancakes and I love watching planes. I went there as a kid and went through a field trip,” or whatever. I want those people to come together and say, “No, we love our airport. We want to keep it open and for the future, it’s going to inspire who knows what.”
When you think about Uber Air and that urban air mobility movement that’s coming, I want to be part of that because that’s going to be a game-changer for small airports. I believe that’s where those services are going to happen. Back to this new building, I want it to be ready for that. The multipurpose room meeting area is the goal. With that, we said, “New offices would be nice and if we have extra space we can even lease out as a revenue-generator because making money always helps.” We’ll have extra space to do that. We’re going to have a new building next to an old building. Phase two, once the new building is built, we’ll be able to re-skin this building to make it look similar or newer. The architect J. Bruce has an awesome way of tying them together that you think, “It’s not a hodgepodge.” It’s beautiful. If we can get anything even close to the renderings, we’re in good shape.
I know we’ve talked about this a little bit too and everything goes back to establishing a community. Having a central meeting location is critical and getting everything. Everyone has a place to get together and as a place to hang out. It’s when everything is decentralized. It’s like you have these little small pockets, little groups here and there don’t necessarily interact with each other or even talk to each other or anything. If you have a central location, these groups will meet but don’t meet each other and they’ll start interacting and building this tight-knit community, which is important in a GA field. It’s something I’d look for and it’s something that I want to be a part of like this small community. It’s cool being a part of something. That’s what it’s all about.
You nailed it right on the head. We have many groups doing cool things. For instance, we have to build a plane nonprofit so high school kids come Saturday and spend hours and hours building aircraft parts, putting an airplane together from plans. They’re not necessarily talking to the aviation explorers or the Civil Air Patrol, they’re all doing the same thing. When we get them all together and we have a schedule posted on the wall and information about all the different groups. People come here and say, “My child loves planes. What can he do?” Hopefully, they find my office and I can grab them and say, “Here’s what we’ve got going on.” I don’t work on the weekends. I want them to come into the new building and look around and see exactly what’s going on. I had no idea my kid could come here and learn how to build planes or join Civil Air Patrol and whatever, fill in the blank, build a plane, build a rocket. There are many neat groups all out there doing great things.
We’ll get some good synergy when we can get them all under the same roof. Luckily, the airport’s making money and we’re in a position where we can do this. It makes me proud because we put into place some things to make more money, cut costs when I came on board a few years ago and those paid off. We’re in a position where we got city council approval to spend update $500,000 on this project. Where other airports are under threat or scrutiny, we’re thriving and investing. That makes me proud. This new building will be here for at least another 100 years. Who knows how many lives it will affect?
What’s next for you then? You’re Airport Manager for how many years now?
6.5 years. It’s going to take at least 2 or 3 years to get this project. Once you see us digging holes, the backend work is done. We’re in that backend work heavily. All the planning, engineering, the environmental stuff, all that red tape stuff, the permitting, going to counseling, planning, commission approvals and their Portland Youth Commission. It goes on and on. Now we’re in the fun part, that’s built. I can’t wait to see that happen and I can’t wait to see what becomes of that. For me personally, I’m watching my girls grow up fast. I took them flying when they were little and they didn’t show a lot of interest. I said, “I’m not going to keep doing this and spending the money and the time if they’re not even into.” I want to get back to flying. I want to get my instrument and maybe even my commercial rating definitely. I always dreamed of owning my own plane. I’m putting it off for now knowing that I can always come back to it.
Do you have a plane in mind that you would like, “The plane that I want to own?”
Just like anything, you’ve got to have one for traveling. If I could only own one, it would be vintage airplanes, the old taildraggers. I like it simple. I like Piper Cubs, low and slow. I like opening the window and circling grandma’s house and waving at her. That’s always fun. I’ve got a lot of time in the Bonanza, which is speedy, great for travel, but when you’re at 10,000 feet, it’s not as much fun again. If I buy something, it’s not going to be the most utilitarian, it’s going to be a fun plane to take people up and share aviation with them. A simple, not scare them, “Do you want to see your house from above?” thing. “Sure, I never thought about it.” That’s pretty cool.
I fly out to Chino. We went to Bracket. I live right up there in Phillips Ranch, right up in the Hills by Cal Poly Pomona. Going up to Bracket, you fly past those Hills. That’s a cool experience being like, “I live right down there.” From the house, I see planes up all the time. It’s a cool experience. I flew into El Monte. My parents live there or they live close by in Arcadia. Every time I need to go down to the 10 Freeway, I drive right past that airport for years and years. Every time I’ve driven past it, I was like, “It would be cool to start learning how to fly and it would be cool to take off and land on the runway.” We did that, came in, did some pattern work. I remember telling my instructor, “It’s surreal. It’s cool. For years and years, I was on the other side of the fence wishing, wondering what it was like to be on the other side. Now, I’m sitting on the tactical way, holding short of the runway and that’s a cool experience.”
It’s quite a privilege that we have and we need to protect that to fly. You can’t do that without smaller airports. Every day I think about how I can ensure the longevity of this place. Part of that is running it like a business and making money.
You have to make money in order to further the cause or further the goals and what you want the airport to accomplish. As an A&P mechanic, you’ve worked on all sorts of aircraft, big and small. What’s your most favorite aircraft to work on?
The airliners are made to serve as quickly. We could pull an APU out of one of those in a couple of hours. I’ve done engine changes on DC-9s. I’ll tell you a funny story. On an old turbojet DC-9s, JT58 was the engine. Whenever you change out an engine, you have to do what’s called a trim because of the fuel control unit isn’t made it to that engine. It’s a series of runs, high power, low power. You’ve got one guy in the cockpit and you’ve got at least 2 or 3 out at the engine. We’re talking and little more fuel, a little less whatever. On those engines, you spool them up to about 10% to 15%, and then you add fuel and you add spark. If you do it right, it’s a smooth ignition. I tried to play a joke on one of my crews down there one day. I spooled that engine up and then dumped the fuel on. I waited and waited. It’s not good to do, but I did it. I was young then I hit the ignition. You’ve got about 25-foot flame and a kaboom out the back. I’m pretty sure all three of my buddies out there working on it had to change their shorts.
I had a lot of fun with those. I didn’t enjoy working on smaller planes that much. I’ll be honest with you, they’re tight and you’ve got to be somewhat of a contortionist many times to get in there and you don’t always find work done properly. That’s unfortunate. A tip if I can do so is you get what you pay for in many areas of life and I wouldn’t cheap out on aircraft maintenance. It’s not an area to cheap out because you can run across a lot of maintenance technicians that I wouldn’t let work on my lawnmower. It’s scary because they’re out there working. A lot of them aren’t insured. From the business end of that, I’ve seen that thing go wrong. This guy says he’s going to do my annual for $500 or the shop wants to $1,000. If things go wrong, that guy’s screwed. He’s going to tell you, “I’m not insured. Sorry, but it’s your problem.” He’s gone. There’s not much you can do. The shop’s going to make it right because they have insurance and they have a reputation. You’ve got to be wary. There are a lot of characters, unfortunately, in aviation.
It’s like a car either. Your engine quits when you’re in the air because of something that the mechanic did or didn’t do or did wrong or whatever. You can’t pull over to the side of the road.
It’s one thing if you endanger yourself, but unfortunately anywhere in SoCal, you’re flying over densely-populated areas and you’re not risking yourself. Now, you’re putting people at risk that you assume in a certain amount of risk as a pilot. People on the ground, they don’t often want any part of that and now you’re subjecting those people to danger too. That’s not fair in my opinion. It bothers me that people don’t think about that always. You’ve got to get outside of your own little box and think about every time you fly. It can be a dangerous business. It’s a wonderful thing and there’s no greater freedom. With it comes a lot of responsibility. It makes me a little upset to see people that are complacent and somewhat lackadaisical on these things. I do see it from time to time and I tend to go after those people quite hard. If I see something that’s not being done right or say a mechanic that’s working out of his truck.
That’s not something to exactly play around with or screw around with.
They’re not always thinking it all the way through like what if. It is important to do that.
To end this episode, you mentioned that you have multiple stories of being an airport manager and people doing stupid stuff. What do you think is the one either worst or funniest stories or most ridiculous stories that you have?
When I was up at another airport, we have a series of wash rack and there were three guys. It was a nice day that had got finished washing their airplanes and cleaning them, detailing them out well. They’re all sparkly and the pilots were proud they are going to go fly for the day. Some guy came along in a used 500 helicopter. Small airports, we have designated places for helicopters to land. Some helicopter pilots are rebellious and they think, “I can land wherever in between hangar rows. What’s wrong?” It’s like, “No, you can’t do that.” This guy comes right along and he was going to wash his helicopter. He taxied right up, hover taxied and blew the bejesus out of these three freshmen and sat down. The three fixed-wing pilots are huddling up, ready to pounce this guy. I saw this all happening. I’d tell you right as the rotors stopped and he cracked the door open, I went running and said, “Guys.” They were going to beat that guy and say, “What are you thinking?”
He clearly wasn’t thinking and didn’t think anything wrong. When I said, “Do you know you destroyed the several hours of work these guys did by taxiing up here? By the way, there’s a designated slot and you don’t destroy the place.” He was apologetic and said, “I won’t ever do that again. I didn’t think about it.” It was a new helicopter. He said, “Have you ever flown one of these?” I said, “No, but I’ve always wanted to.” He took me up for a ride and he let me fly that helicopter from the full cruise. He talked me through a full transition to land. It was one of the scariest and most fun experiences I’ve ever had. I have huge respect for helicopter pilots because the guys make it look easy and it is not easy. It’s quite a challenge in it. That’s something I might if I could ever justify the cost, it’s a lot of fun to fly those things. That was a bad situation that turned into a good one.
You saved his life right there.
At least some bruises. Those guys, I said, “I don’t know what to tell you. It won’t happen again.” They scurried off. It was funny and it turned out to be an okay situation.
Brendan O’Reilly, thank you for joining me on the show. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your passion for General Aviation in general and for the airport. It’s awesome to hear about all the exciting and cool things that you are doing with the airport. Thank you for coming on.
Thank you for having me. It’s great to see people that are energized like I am about airport and aviation. You can come back in a couple of years when we get that building dedicated and see what all transpired and changed. It will be a lot of fun. Good things are coming. Thanks for having me.
No problem. Thanks for being on.
- Brendan O’Reilly
- Bruce – previous episode
- https://www.LinkedIn.com/in/brendan-o-reilly-c-a-e-c-m-0980ab44/ https://www.CityOfFullerton.com/gov/departments/public_works/airport/default.asp
About Brendan O’Reilly
Brendan O’Reilly was born and raised in Southern California, and has earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Aviation Studies from California State University Los Angeles. He is a licensed Private Pilot, Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic, and lifelong supporter of General Aviation. Brendan shares a common goal with airport tenants and business owners in keeping small airports open and operating safely.
Brendan served as the Airport Operations Manager for Hayward Executive Airport in the Bay Area, and Airport Project Manager for the County of Los Angeles Airports. He is a Certified Airport Executive and has served as President of the Association of California Airports, and Board member of the Southwest Chapter – American Association of Airport Executives. He has been the Airport Manager of Fullerton Municipal Airport in Orange County since May 2013.