New airport manager takes helm | SierraSun.com
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New airport manager takes helm

Darin Olde, Sierra Sun

The grizzly mustache of David V. Gotschall, the new Truckee Tahoe Airport District general manager, hung like an umbrella over his Super Big Gulp.

It’s diet now, he says of the soft drink, because the regular went “straight to his hips.” But he needs the caffeine.

After all, running North Lake Tahoe’s only airport is a big job, especially with all the attention and controversy surrounding airport operations in recent months.

But Gotschall, known as “Griz” to those who know him from the Army, is no stranger to pressure.

When he returned to Fort Rucker, Ala., from his tour in Germany in the 1980s, he became a flight instructor, a job that he recalls as fun, but stressful.

“You have to be able to handle stress if you are going to be a pilot,” Gotschall said. “Some of the instructor pilots were good and some were bad. One of them carried a ball-peen hammer and he would hit you on the head.”

Gotschall’s strategy was more encouraging than punitive.

Using a line from the movie “Trading Places” with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd to describe his teaching strategy, Gotschall would radio “looking good” to his students when they were doing well, and they would often respond, “feeling good.”

Amiable and light-hearted, Gotschall buckled down to business at the airport on April 9. In his first week of work he met with airport staff and members of the Civil Air Patrol, Truckee Tahoe Airmen’s Association and the Experimental Aircraft Association.

His initial impression: an impressive amount of community involvement and concern.

“I have not met anybody out there that is not community-oriented. It’s refreshing,” said Gotschall.

Gotschall said he plans to improve on what already exists at the airport. Specifically, he plans to establish a higher standard of community outreach.

As part of his pledge he decided to open his door every Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. Anyone interested in expressing their thoughts on airport operations will have an opportunity to reach the general manager directly.

“I’ve never heard of anybody doing this before but if you are going to talk the talk, let’s walk the walk,” said Gotschall.

Gotschall will also be involved with the new Airport Noise Abatement Committee.

“I will be a member of that to provide input to the committee. One of the board members will also be on that committee,” he said.

Gotschall is familiar with noise problems. San Jose International Airport, where he served as the operations superintendent for several years, was a downtown airport. “The approach path to land on went right over downtown – I mean right over downtown,” he said.

Gotschall said the Truckee Tahoe Airport is much more community friendly.

“You don’t have near the activity here because you don’t have commercial traffic.”

Gotschall said he has been watching the airport from afar for the last 13 years, primarily for the purpose of moving back to the area. He also noticed that the position for airport manager opened frequently during that time.

But Gotschall said he isn’t concerned about the frequency of the vacancy, because it was a different board then, a different situation with different circumstances.

“I am a firm believer that you can learn from other people’s mistakes,” he said. “I’m looking at this as a long-term thing. When you’ve found paradise, what reason is there to leave?”


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