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Airport Director Glen Barentine Enjoys Life on the HOT Seat

3 min read
A Texarkana native, Glen Barentine has an associate of science degree from Park University and an associate degree in avionics maintenance technology from the Community College of the Air Force. He spent 10 years in avionics with the U.S. Air Force, specializing in infrared, night-vision and laser targeting. Later, he worked in Texas, Kentucky and Shreveport for TAC Air, a national aircraft services company. He joined Hot Springs Memorial Field as operations manager in 2002 and became airport director in 2016.
Though he’s been running Hot Springs’ airport for five years, Barentine still does jobs like towing and fueling planes: “I still enjoy it,” he says.

You have a military and avionics background. How has that helped you in running the airport?

As a supervisor in the Air Force, you’re held responsible for your actions and the actions of those you supervise. I learned that it was better to have people that wanted to do the right thing not out of fear of punishment but out of respect. I made it a point that I would always be willing to do any job or task that I asked them to do.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect airport operations?

All aircraft traffic decreased; as the year went on we did see general aviation pick back up. Our commercial passenger counts did rebound, but to only 50% from 2019 levels. We saw an increase in Part 135 charters [on-demand charter flights]. It seemed more people decided to use this service instead of commercial airlines. I can see a small percentage of travelers continuing to use charters over the airlines in the future.

Could any airport employees work from home during the pandemic? Did you have to do any layoffs?

We were very fortunate in that we didn’t have any layoffs. We mainly used the airport to social distance from each other. It gave us the opportunity to get projects completed all around the airport. We restricted access to the airport offices, but still provided all required services for the local and transit pilots.

How bad a hit did aircraft fuel sales take last year, and what are the prospects for a rebound?

In 2020, we saw a 13% drop in gallons sold as compared to 2019. By the second half of 2020 we saw a slight increase from comparable numbers in the second half of 2019. 2021 has been challenging due to the weather we had in February. Hopefully, this summer we will see fuel sales back to what they were before the pandemic.

Hot Springs lives by tourism. How is the airport serving a mix of both public flights and private planes?

Memorial Field has 18 flights a week through the Essential Air Service program funded by the Department of Transportation. Southern Airways makes regular flights to Dallas and has scheduled additional flights to Memphis, El Dorado and Harrison starting in June.

Along with those commercial flights, Hot Springs has a large and growing based-aircraft list [operational planes based at a particular site], and the airport provides all the fixed-base-operator services at HOT. Over the years, we’ve worked hard at improving services and amenities.

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