The Big Bear Airport welcomed new General Manager Pete Gwaltney this week, after a national search resulted in his hiring on October 16. Gwaltney, who has been working alongside interim GM Dick Lightner since Monday, comes to Big Bear from Colorado Springs, Colorado and boasts 15 years of aviation management experience. As he tells KBHR, he was a station manager for FedEx, and managed the airline control center for FedEx in Memphis, Tennessee until 2003. Gwaltney has since been employed by United Airlines, wherein he was a project manager for the transition from navigational paper charts to electronic flight bags, or tablet PCs. Since that stint, he worked for the Jeppeson Corporation, manufacturers of the flight planning software. “I have been in aviation all my professional life,” he tells KBHR, “though I’ve interacted with various airport managers because, prior to FedEx, I was an air traffic controller for 14 years. Having worked with various airport managers, including those at Dulles, Washington National, Memphis, Denver and, at Jeppeson, airports throughout the world, airport management has always been an attraction for me. This opportunity, in Big Bear, allowed me to be a part of something, an airport, which is what I have always wanted to do.”
Now that he’s landed, so to speak, at the Big Bear Airport, Gwaltney is getting to know the community, as well as key agencies, which use the airport as a staging area in instances of fire and emergency. Just three days on the job, he says it is still too early to think about long-term projects for the Big Bear Airport, but says, “Dick and the team here have a smooth running operation, so I don’t want to upset that. I look forward to becoming more involved in the community and meeting more inhabitants of the Valley. I feel that the manager is the face of the airport, so I feel it is important to get involved.” In the meantime, Gwaltney wants the Big Bear Valley to understand the important advantages of having an airport in our community. In his words, “People need to be aware that the airport supports military activity, both the U.S. military and their allies, as well as the fire agencies that use this airport for fueling. We provide support for that effort, and in protecting the Valley. The airport recently spent quite a bit of money on six helipads, which allow for timely refueling of the firefighting equipment, which helps them to get back to what they’re doing when fighting fires. The airport provides an economic impact to the Valley, as well as the safety aspect.”
And though Gwaltney has only been at the Big Bear Airport for less than a week, he and wife Susan are already pleased with their transition to Big Bear from Colorado Springs. “The thing is about Big Bear,” he says, “everybody has been friendly. Susan and I are so impressed with how friendly everyone is. We’ve lived all over, in metropolitan cities and smaller places, but this is by far the friendliest place we’ve ever been. Coming from Colorado Springs, which is at an elevation of 6,000 feet, this climate is very attractive to us. We enjoy the four seasons, and we especially enjoy all that nature has to offer in this area.” Gwaltney and the family dog are currently residing in Moonridge and look forward to his wife’s permanent move to the Valley, once they sell their existing home in Colorado. Gwaltney’s family also includes two grown sons, Jody and Aaron, as well as Tre and Molly, both of whom are college students.