New Arlington airport manager sees potential for growth

ARLINGTON — David Ryan is still getting settled into his new office, where the roar of planes and the beating of helicopter rotors are part of his daily rhythm.

He became the new manager of the Arlington Municipal Airport Aug. 25, replacing longtime city employee Dale Carman. Carman was promoted to airport manager last year, after the retirement of Rob Putnam, who was airport director for more than 13 years.

As manager, Ryan is tasked with planning for the airport’s future. He sees room for growth, but not so much that the airport loses its sense of community. He’s trying to gather ideas from pilots, leaders and business owners. He’s not looking to create another Paine or Boeing field, and neither is the city, he said.

“We don’t want it to be some generic airport,” he said. “We want to keep that local flavor.”

Ryan’s expertise lies in airport operations and construction, but he’s shifting his focus to marketing and leasing. He hopes to bring more businesses to the airport and the surrounding industrial area.

“The Arlington airport has a lot of potential,” he said. “There’s a lot of open space. It could really become a regional center for all kinds of businesses.”

Originally from Tulsa, Okla., Ryan followed aviation jobs out to the Pacific Northwest. The first airport he managed was on Midway Island, a small atoll in the Pacific Ocean. It’s not the end of the world, he said, but you can see it from there.

Ryan, 55, now lives near Loma Lake. He spent the last six years in Friday Harbor, working as the airport manager there.

“I had a great time. I met a lot of great people and it’s a beautiful area,” he said. “But it’s small and I’m a goal-oriented person. I wanted a bigger challenge.”

Mayor Barbara Tolbert hired Ryan on the recommendation of airport commissioners, city council members and airport staff, said Kristin Banfield, assistant city administrator. The job pays $90,732 a year.

Ryan hasn’t laid out any specific plans for Arlington Municipal Airport yet. It’s too soon for that, he said. There’s a lot left to learn and more people to talk to.

He’ll have a chance to meet many of those people this weekend, during Arlington Airport Appreciation Day.

The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Activities include aircraft displays, airplane painting, flight simulators, a flying gizmo showcase and free airplane rides for kids.

Airport Appreciation Day has been an annual event for at least a decade, Banfield said.

Ryan hopes to see a lot of people at the airport Saturday to celebrate a community that’s known for its love of flight.

“There’s something about aviation that gets in your blood,” Ryan said. “I’ve been watching airplanes take off and land for 30 years, and I never get tired of it.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439;

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