Exploring All Rhoads to Success at LGA

By Alana Calmi, Media Relations Staff

It was just after 5 p.m. on a recent Thursday evening and Chris Rhoads, the manager of airport operations at LaGuardia Airport, was engaging in one of his favorite pursuits – talking with high school kids about a future in aviation.

This evening, however, would turn out to be a little different. Rhoads was awarded the William H. Spurgeon Award, the highest recognition for individuals who contribute significant leadership to the Exploring Program, an affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America. The award was presented by LaGuardia’s General Manager Lysa Scully, and Claretta Mills, chief executive of the Explorer Program.

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Claretta Mills, Chris Rhoads, Lysa Scully

“I was very surprised,” said Rhoads, who has been head of the Port Authority’s Explorer Program for 10 years. “It’s a very good organization and an honor enough to work with these kids – and in some cases have a real influence on their future.”

The program enables high school students to learn about a variety of potential careers first-hand. The Spurgeon award was created in 1971 to honor the driving force behind the program. At LaGuardia, explorers usually meet every third Thursday of the month during the school year. Typically, the majority of participating students come from Aviation High School in Queens, Rhoads’ alma mater.

“Chris’ program tends to always draw the largest crowd, average well over 100 students for the first session in October,” said Scully said. “His commitment to these kids, and sharing his knowledge on aviation, is a treat for both him and the students.”

Rhoads has spent the last 40 years in aviation — first in the airline industry with TWA, and then at the Port Authority for the past 20 years, “I was always close to the parts that fly,” he jokes.

“This program is unique in that it joins the student with the workplace. It’s a visceral experience as opposed to just a learning experience,” he said. “And they are placed with people who are actually in the career and that’s what it’s all about. It’s about getting the students’ horizons expanded to see what’s available to them.”

Rhoads’ favorite part of the experience is when the students visit the American Airlines hangar, giving students the opportunity to meet, watch and talk to aircraft mechanics while they work. “It’s my favorite part because the students really enjoy it,” he said. “But I think the mechanics enjoy it more than the students.”

On the first day of program, Rhoads delivered an airport orientation, with details as to how LaGuardia operates on a daily basis, followed by a tour of the LGA airfield. Students also learn about LGA’s airport snow operations, and were given the opportunity to sit in and explore the snow equipment first-hand.

0086During the last meeting of 2018, the Explorers visited Building 137 — also known as the police emergency garage — to meet with personnel from ARFF (Aircraft Rescue Firefighting), who explained how the unit works and their importance to maintaining safe operations at the airport. The students also had the chance to sit inside and inspect trucks and support vehicles.

For 2019, the Explorers Program will include visits to the control tower, spending time at Vaughn College (where undergrads learn about aviation), an educational session with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) team at LaGuardia and a tour of the LaGuardia fuel farm.

Rhoads is optimistic about the future of his Explorers. “My goal is that everyone goes to college. Not everybody can, but that doesn’t mean a good future is not open to them,” he said. “There are many choices that can be made in the aviation industry.”

Posted in air travel, airports, aviation, aviation geeks, FAA, LaGuardia Airport, LGA, New York, NYC, Port Authority, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Port Authority of NY/NJ, Uncategorized, volunteers | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Connie’s Return Flight to JFK

By Rudy King, Media Relations Staff

While most of the John F. Kennedy International Airport landscape today is dotted with new age aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, tucked inside the airport’s Hanger 20 is a cool piece of Aviation history from a bygone era that paved the way for these modern aircraft.

The shell of a 1958-era Lockheed Constellation plane, nicknamed “Connie,” was recently delivered to the airport and — while it’s no longer airworthy – the aircraft soon will serve in an entirely new capacity: as a cocktail lounge for the new TWA Hotel, which is scheduled to open next year.

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Known as the secret weapons of TWA, the Lockhead Constellation planes were things of beauty. First produced in 1939 and commissioned by TWA’s owner Howard Hughes, the aircraft, with a 50-foot wingspan and able to cruise at 300 miles per hour, broke the transcontinental speed record on a flight from Burbank, CA to New York in 1946. It also served as Air Force One for President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s.

Though these aircrafts were wildly popular in their heyday – even used by South American drug traffickers to drop drugs while in flight — only 44 L-1649s were produced. Only four remain today.
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In early 2018, MCR Development purchased “Connie” and partnered with Atlantic Models / Gigo Aviation to restore the historic aircraft to the original 1958 condition.

The fully restored plane was disassembled and transported by trailers from Maine’s Auburn-Lewiston Airport to JFK Airport, where its new career as Connie N8083H will transform into a one-of-a-kind cocktail lounge on the tarmac outside the TWA hotel scheduled to open in 2019.

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Posted in air travel, airport history, airports, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Kennedy Airport, TWA Flight Center, Uncategorized

For Port Authority Veterans, A Special Category of VIP

By Media Relations Staff

At the Port Authority’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) headquarters in Jersey City, a new internship program is helping smooth the transition for veterans making the often challenging move from military to civilian life.

Israel Estrada and Jannia Manigault, Marine Corps veterans, and former Navy corpsman Kadeem Short are the inaugural class of OEM’s Veterans Internship Program (VIP), under the direction of OEM Director Gerard McCarty and Special Assistant Chuck Aaron. Launched in August, the pilot program not only recognizes the special skills veterans possess, but applies their professional strengths and experience to helping build emergency response strategies for the benefit of PA customers, employees and assets.

“This environment really supports our interns, which is key,” said McCarty, who also served in the Marines. “The transition to civilian life is something we feel very strongly about helping them achieve.”

Internship requirements are that participants must commit at least 16 hours a week on average to the program, while continuing their studies fulltime at a college or university. The OEM curriculum includes intensive training in active shooter and other responsive drills hosted by the Port Authority, as well as emergency management operations, strategic preparedness and hazard mitigation.

Estrada worked for a non-profit organization in Pasadena, CA. before heading east to pursue a master’s degree in in Emergency Management at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. Short is studying Homeland Security and Emergency Management at Post University in Connecticut and will start his master’s program next summer. He most recently was based at the  Naval Station in Portsmouth, Va.

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Israel Estrada, Chuck Aaron and Kadeem Short (l-r) at OEM


Manigault, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 for a tour of duty, is close to earning a bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security from St. John’s University and intends to pursue a master’s in Business Analytics. Like her VIP colleagues, she is receiving an extensive education in the ways OEM plans and conducts its operations.

“I may have not known what I was getting into when I started this internship, but if I continue on this path I know that it will indeed be a rewarding experience for me on a professional and personal level,” she said. “I get to continue helping people in some way, while learning to become more knowledgeable in my field.”

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Jannia Manigault, part of the first OEM Veterans internship program


Said Estrada: “There’s so much to learn here. We have access to a level of training that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to get. The great benefit of working at the Port Authority is the level of training, discipline and planning we receive.”

“It means a lot, that they’re taking the initiative for veterans,” added Short. “Working here is a great opportunity for all of us, to get the kind of experience we need.”

Aaron is a Marine veteran who conducted tours of Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught infantry officers at the military training facility in Quantico, Va., before joining the OEM. Overseeing the internship program, he said, is a source of daily inspiration.

“We work for them. They don’t work for us,” Aaron said. “We’re here to get them what they need.”

Posted in OEM, Port Authority Veterans Association, Uncategorized, Veteran's Day, veterans, Veterans Day