Many professionals strive for years in the workplace before their efforts are fully recognized. That’s why EKU aviation alumnus Matthew Singer was surprised to learn that after just two years managing the London-Corbin Airport in London, Kentucky, the Kentucky Aviation Association named him Kentucky Airport Manager of the Year for 2019.
“I wasn't expecting it,” said Singer humbly. “Getting airport manager of the year felt kind of out-of-the-blue.”
Though Singer didn’t begin his career at the airport, aviation has been part of his life for a long time. He joined the army in 1991, shortly after finishing high school, and served as a helicopter crew chief. He began maintaining small scout helicopters and eventually graduated to Black Hawks. After more than eight years of active duty, Singer joined the Kentucky National Guard. It was around this time that EKU Aviation began calling his name.
“I figured if I didn't go to college then, I wasn't ever going to go,” Singer said.
Originally, Singer intended to complete the professional flight program but found that the demanding curriculum wouldn’t allow him to graduate on time. Instead, he enrolled in the aviation administration program (now aerospace management), graduating in 2002.
This year Singer is giving back to his alma mater through a grant-funded partnership. Through the Appalachian Regional Commission Grant, the airport will partner with EKU to renovate one of their hangars into a classroom for an on-site airframe and powerplant course. London-Corbin airport will be the fourth such site, along with locations in Hazard, Prestonsburg and Richmond.
Singer wants to grow the airport that’s been a part of his professional life for more than two decades.
His first exposure to the London-Corbin Airport came during his time at Eastern, when he spent the summer of 1999 there on detail. “My whole life revolved around that place from that point on,” he said. “I’ve been tied to it ever since.”
That summer job turned into a full-time position with the Kentucky National Guard, working from the airport. In 2017, Singer became a lineman, and manager in early 2018.
Many Kentuckians would be surprised at the size and busyness of the London-Corbin Airport, which no one knows better than Singer. The airport boasts the Instrument Landing System (ILS), 75 hangars and a 150-foot-wide runway, one of the largest for a non-passenger airport in Kentucky. Since August, the airport has landed Air Force Two with Vice President Pence twice, as well as his C-17 cargo plane, which weighed around 425,000 pounds.
As manager, Singer oversees the airport’s budgets, coordinates flight schedules, monitors maintenance and more. His days swing wildly from nitty-gritty, hands-on tasks to high-level administrative duties. “One day, I went from being elbow deep and getting greasy working on one of the rental planes to talking to an insurance company and calling lawyers,” he said.
One of Singer’s long-term goals for the airport is to re-establish passenger flights. “It will take time and money,” he said, “but I would like to get us started on the path to it.”