Rantoul Aviation Center has new manager

Rantoul Aviation Center has new manager

RANTOUL — It's fitting that the new Rantoul National Aviation Center manager is former military. So is the facility he'll oversee.

While not ex-Air Force, like the personnel who served at Chanute Air Force Base, Rune Duke believes his Army background will come in handy in his new job.

"I feel comfortable around a lot of my co-workers," Duke said. "A lot of them still speak military lingo."

The successor to Bill Clayton, who begins retirement at the end of the week, is a 25-year-old Ann Arbor, Mich., native who received most of his aeronautical training during his six years in the Army. Duke held the title of controller and served stints in South Korea, Alabama and Georgia.

"I've always been interested in aviation," Duke said. "It's my passion. I love aviation. I started to fly, and that kind of evolved into air traffic control, and that evolved into airport management."

Duke came to this area because his wife, Cynthia, is working toward a doctorate in developmental psychology at the University of Illinois. They reside in Urbana.

He said he inquired about the airport several months ago and was told about Clayton's retirement plans.

"I went out and talked to them, and it was just a matter of waiting for the village to make an announcement," said Duke, who is working toward his online master's degree through Florida's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Duke says his initial focus is on the continuing events that occur at the airport. The site hosts a number of events besides aviation — from the Half Century of Progress farm show to the Boy Scouts Space Jam, truck shows to the occasional car show.

The village is negotiating with Rusty's Flying Service of D'Hanis, Texas, to serve as the airport's new fixed-base operator. Duke says the new FBO will likely offer additional services, including aircraft rental and instruction. The company will continue to sell fuel (the fuel trucks are owned by the village), as well as serve as landlord to the hangar tenants and make repairs.

"They're kind of like the front door to the airport," Duke said of the FBO. "They greet customers. They have a pilot lounge. They assist pilots with flight planning. They have a big role in the appearance of the airport."

Rantoul's is a general aviation airport, tailored to light twin-engine and single-engine piston-driven aircraft. Duke says the airport is primarily used for pleasure craft, although some commercial aviation is conducted there, such as small air taxis.

Duke says his new role will be "to ensure the safety of the airport, first and foremost. And additionally, it's mostly going to be related to handling and coordination of the construction projects on the airport with tenants and essentially ensuring a safe, smooth operation of the airport."

By the numbers

Facts and figures about the Rantoul National Aviation Center:

12: Aircraft based at the airport.

5,000: Feet — the length of each of the two runways. One runs north-south, the other east-west.

20,000: Annual takeoffs and landings.

2015: Rune Duke's target year for rehabbing the facility's runways and parking apron.

Dave Hinton is editor of the Rantoul Press, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For visit rantoulpress.com.