Thomas A. Zlaket assumed the chairmanship of the Tucson Airport Authority (TAA) at its annual meeting today. In addition, the membership elected three new board members and six new TAA members.
A member of TAA since 2003, Zlaket was elected to the board of directors in 2007. He began practicing law in Tucson in 1965 and served in the Arizona Supreme Court from 1992 to 2002, moving from associate justice, to vice chief justice, to chief justice in 1997.
An attorney in private practice for the past 10 years, Zlaket is also an adjunct associate professor at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and is chief judge of the Tonto Apache Nation Tribal Court of Appeals.
Active in community affairs, Zlaket is a member of several professional organizations, including the DM50, an advocacy group for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and the Arizona chapter of The Nature Conservancy, for which he is a trustee.
Over the years he has received many honors and awards, including the Chief Justice Richard W. Holmes Award of Merit from the American Judges Association, the James A. Walsh Outstanding Jurist Award from the State Bar of Arizona, the Paul C. Reardon Award from the National Center for State Courts, and the University of Arizona's Distinguished Citizen Award.
The Authority's newly elected members are Michael Duran of Tucson Medical Center, Michael Hammond of PICOR Commercial Real Estate Services, Rosemary Koberlein of The Long Companies, Tim Overton of Wells Fargo, Judith Patrick of SCF Arizona and Richard Underwood of AAA Landscape.
Continuing on the board this year are Lisa Israel, chairman-elect; Steven Fell, secretary; Steven Cole, treasurer; Chanda S. Budhabhatti, assistant secretary; Gregory A. Pivirotto, assistant treasurer; and Rubin Salter, immediate past chairman. Edwin Biggers, Michael Hannley and Tony Finley were newly elected to the board.
Outgoing TAA Chairman Rubin Salter recognized the passing of Authority members Robert Brooks, Larry Brown, Charles Crary, Mike Harris, Jon Ruby and Ben Wallis. He reviewed some of the highlights of the past year.
"Securing air service gains is a constant challenge, and this year we were successful," said Salter.
"Our most recent and biggest service news this year was Southwest's announcement for a seasonal non-stop service to BWI [Baltimore Washington]. Other service announcements included Southwest adding a new non-stop to Chicago Midway on the schedule.
"American Airlines began its first service to Los Angeles with three daily flights, and a fourth will launch in February. Frontier added seasonal service to Milwaukee, and US Airways added capacity to its routes to Phoenix."
Salter also reported on airfield maintenance projects completed in 2011, including reconstruction of Runway 3/21 at Tucson International Airport (TIA) and Ryan Airfield's Runway 6L/24R and Taxiway A.
"While grants provided the majority of the funds for the airfield projects, TAA invested its capital to launch roadway improvements to public roads surrounding TIA, which will continue this year," he said.
In TAA President/CEO Bonnie Allin's member address, she said, "We view additional service as a vote of confidence on the part of the airlines in that they see Tucson as a viable market for additional growth as the economy recovers.
"The Air Service Incentive Program our board of directors approved will assist TAA as we compete with other airports for new service. The program puts us in a stronger position for attracting service to the destinations our community is demanding."
Turning to the industry environment, Allin said, "Looking ahead to the coming year, uncertainty surrounding FAA funding remains a major concern, as the federal government remains unable to agree on a long-term funding solution."
She observed additional industry trends that are likely to impact aviation and Tucson: airlines' "new normal" strategy of reducing capacity to increase profits; the volatility of fuel prices, which account for 30 percent to 35 percent of airlines' expenses; and emerging improvements in the air traffic control system and fuel efficiency of aircraft.
"We remain cautiously optimistic as we work to put the worst of the economic turmoil behind us and move toward growth," Allin said.
Allin also noted the importance of working with all of its community and business partners to achieve shared goals.