|Growing up, Bill McKown, Archuleta County Airport manager, had an eye on the sky.
Aviation always attracted McKown, motivating him to do well in school, determining his reading material of choice (aviation books and magazines) and even directing the decorating theme of his childhood room. In his late elementary school and junior high years, over 200 model airplanes hung from his ceiling, a constant reminder of his sky-high goals.
“It was one of those childhood dreams. I always wanted to do that,” McKown says. Though McKown was heavily involved in other activities, such as Boy Scouts (where he earned his Eagle Scout honors), his future plans didn’t waiver. “I strived to get up in the clouds and do some flying,” McKown says.
To make his dreams come true, McKown joined the Air Force out of high school, earning his bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from Southern Illinois University while serving.
At the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military faced a lot of transitioning and downsizing, putting McKown’s chances of being involved in military aviation in jeopardy. So, in order to hit the skies, McKown ended his nine-year tenure with the Air Force and completed an interservice transfer to the Navy, where he served the rest of his 35 years in the military before retiring.
In his time with the Navy and Air Force, McKown served as a Navy Captain, Naval aviator and an Air Force navigator who dealt with aircraft carrier aviation and electronic warfare.
Following his retirement in 2007, McKown didn’t want to leave the clouds. “I still wanted to remain in aviation careers and wanted to continue to work in government,” he says. Job hunting on a Web site for aviation professionals led him to apply, among other places, with the Archuleta County Airport, Stevens Field, in 2008.
McKown was in the Pueblo area, where he owned property, when he got the call to interview for the job at Stevens Field, so he hit the road. What he saw on the drive captured his interest in Pagosa Springs and the airport. “Driving over Wolf Creek, I was completely astonished. The entire area was so pristine and beautiful.”
McKown also saw “another opportunity of putting in a little flavor of Bill McKown” in the airport and a chance to help it grow into a viable economic asset.
“I think the visibility that the airport gets from FAA is very good. Millions of dollars are being put into the airport with an end goal,” he says. “Between the funding that’s afforded by the FAA and the high potential of growth in the area, there’s a very, very bright future here.”
In addition to helping the airport reach its potential, McKown is still involved with another activity from his youth — Boy Scouts. Indeed, at the time of this interview in March, McKown was en route to Roswell, N.M., on Boy Scout business.
While in a job and place he enjoys, he admits he doesn’t fly much anymore after logging 25 years and almost 7,000 hours of it, save flying on occasion with other local pilots.
“Maybe one of these days I’ll own an airplane.”