career achievement award

By Philip S. Moore, Inside Tucson Business

Recognizing 25 years of service in aviation, Tucson Airport Authority's Executive Director, Bonnie Allin, was selected to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Airport Executives.

Chosen at their annual meeting in Seattle, the award will be presented this summer at a special ceremony, attended by local and state officials, as well as representatives from the nation's commercial airports.

"I was very honored and very surprised to be chosen," Allin said. "Because this recognizes what you've done over 25 years or more, it truly is recognition of distinguished service."

Because the award is limited to executives who've served a minimum of 25 years in the aviation industry, and 12 as an AAAE accredited airport executive, Allin wasn't previously eligible for nomination. "You're nominated by your peers and chosen by a secret selection council, which is why I had no idea I was being considered until they announced the winner."

The award recognizes an aviation career that began when Allin was hired as Tucson Airport Authority receptionist in 1976. After serving in a variety of positions in Tucson, she went to Corpus Christi International Airport in 1988, where she rose to director of aviation before returning to Tucson Airport Authority in 2000 as vice president of aviation services. The following year, she was chosen as president and chief executive officer.

Along the way, she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, cum laude, from Corpus Christi State University, married and is raising three children.

Since becoming president, Allin has endured the steep decline in business, caused first by the recession and then disruption of air travel following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She's also seen business recover to the point where the airport is now experiencing record commercial traffic, handling more than 400,000 passengers per month and on track to exceed four million inbound and outbound travelers by the end of 2005.

"There are more flights and more passengers," she said. "We're up 8 percent over last year and with Southwest Airline's new direct flight to Chicago, we now have access to East Coast locations."

Although more passengers going more places from Tucson International Airport is a positive turn of events, it is putting extra pressure on Allin and the rest of the airport staff to complete an extensive construction program that has already replaced the lobby, ticket counter and baggage claim areas of the main terminal, built a separate auto rental building, and expanded general aviation facilities and taxiways.

Soon, the airport authority will be replacing the terminal concourse and removing the general aviation runway, replacing it with a full-size commercial runway that will double the airport's capacity.

"We're operating at 80 percent of capacity, now, so we need to expand," she said. "We need to accommodate new passengers and more ability to handle them as they pass through the airport."

Beyond passenger terminal issues, there is increasing demand for general aviation and air cargo facilities, both at Tucson International Airport and the TAA-managed Ryan Air Field. Tucson Airport Authority's Director of Properties, Jim Garcia, said the airport is responding to the recovery in air freight traffic by planning to construct another 30,000-square-foot cargo facility, adjacent to the airport's existing air cargo terminal.

"We were pretty stagnant in the 1990s, then things improved, thanks to the Internet and the demand for more package shipping. Then things went downhill in 2000-2002, but now the economy is back up and people are buying goods and services, so air freight is recovering."

Garcia said, "It's on our radar screen to build a new terminal," he said. "If we're lucky, we could have it on line by the end of the year and begin construction in 2006."

For the future, Allin said, "there are always new challenges. As we expand capacity and move Runway 11R-28L, we're going to need a new control tower in a better location for visibility and taller."

She said a large part of her job will always be promoting Tucson. "Things are very positive but everything always ties back to marketing our air services."

The Southwest Airlines web site has been a success, but more is needed, Allin said. "We need more people better informed about Tucson as an option, to let them know they don't have to drive to Phoenix to get a flight or a good air fare."

Philip S. Moore may be contacted at or (520) 295-4238.