During a snowstorm, Springfield-Branson National Airport Aviation Director Brian Weiler can be found shoveling snow or delivering pizza to employees. It’s just one way he lives out his conviction that executives should lead by example.
“I have learned and continue to learn from many good leaders in my career,” he says. “Those who were most successful were servant leaders and got in the trenches with their people.”
Weiler hosts regular meetings with each airport department, which in total have 100 employees. Getting input from workers, he says, is important to facilitate a happy and healthy operation. He hears some good ideas in the process, too.
“My management style, in short, is to not take myself too seriously and empower employees after framing the goal.
Today, Springfield-Branson National Airport is growing, but the journey has not been without hurdles.
Although publicly owned, the airport does not receive local tax support. Revenue is generated through rent and charges incurred from shop tenants and passengers. After being named director in 2011, Weiler says he began strategizing how to attain grants.
In the five years following, the airport increased revenue by 40 percent, reduced terminal bond debt by 30 percent, reduced per-passenger cost by 27 percent, added five new routes and grew airline passengers by 36 percent.
The airport also remodeled the general aviation terminal, built a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection office, expanded terminal parking and opened a 14-spot corporate hangar development.
One challenge he began tackling is pilot shortages.
“There are not enough young people choosing aviation as a career and, if they do, until recently they had to move away to attend pilot training, often never coming back,” he says.
His solution was a partnership with Ozarks Technical Community College and Premier Flight Center LLC to begin a pilot program, which started in fall 2017.
Serving the broader community, the airport provides free school tours and participates in Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Professional Studies with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. In addition, more than 25 Honor Flights – transporting veterans to see the memorials of the respective wars they’ve fought in – have departed from the airport, with three scheduled in 2018.
Outside of the terminal, Weiler has participated in Leadership Springfield, led the Missouri Airport Managers Association and served on the boards for The Kitchen Inc. and Ozarks Transportation Organization.
He is currently service committee chairman for the Downtown Rotary Club.
Weiler served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an air traffic controller for three years, before earning his master’s degree in aviation science from the University of Central Missouri, where he later served as adjunct instructor.
“My parents instilled in me the importance of service and a responsibility to give back to your community,” he says.
Plans for the Finley Ridge apartment complex in the growing community of Ozark call for four buildings, four stories apiece, with 48 units each for a total of 192, as well as a 1,500-square-foot shared community and fitness room.