Wing Man

Greg Donovan has been working in overdrive to get more flights and more respect for his airport.

Wing Man Greg Donovan, Gulf Breeze, Okaloosa County Airports Director By Zandra Wolfgram

Greg Donovan always knew he wanted to fly. At 42, this pilot-turned-executive serves as the director of three Okaloosa County airports: Northwest Florida Regional Airport, Destin Airport and the Bob Sikes/Crestview Airport.

After bringing Vision Airlines to nest at the Valparaiso-based Northwest Florida Regional Airport (situated on Eglin Air Force Base) and while overseeing $19 million in airport enhancements, Donovan is flying high with hope that the Emerald Coast is finally more firmly placed on “the map.” Now, he says, it’s up to local businesses to get the word out to their networks about the new service.

A native of Tulsa, Okla., Donovan and his wife traversed the country from Wisconsin to Texas while he racked up 22 years of airport management experience. Once his family began to grow (he has two boys — Ryan, 9, and Kyle, 7), he and his wife, Jennifer, were happy to land in Gulf Breeze.

Donovan spoke to us from his office on the jetway not only about Vision, but about his passion for flying and a new love — fishing with his kids.

1. Career aspirations: My great uncle took me up in a Lockheed once. I dreamed of flying it one day myself. There’s something so beautiful about an airplane.

2. Airport smart: Look for online specials. Pack lightly, figure out what you’re going to do and don’t second-guess it.

3. Gratification: Service members being reunited with their family and children every single day. The human element of what aviation accomplishes is one of the purest things in business.

4. Thoughts on Vision Airlines: They are planting their flag here. They’re going to package flights in a creative way that is not seen in the industry today.

5. Self description: I am dedicated to a bigger cause than just individual gain. I take on leadership as a major responsibility. Leadership is what you do when people aren’t looking. I take it seriously.

6. On piloting: It’s always on my “to do” list. I want to get back to flying. Year’s resolutions. It’s therapeutic. The Blackberry doesn’t work at 8,000 feet.

7. Green Bay Packers and San Diego Padres? I’m the only guy not wrapped around an SEC team. I guess I love rooting for the underdog.

8. Downtime: My kids have gotten me into fishing. We fish from bridges, inlets and sometimes on a boat. Whether you’re 7 or 42, that thrill when you get a fish on is good stuff.

9. Lives by: I really do believe things are meant to be, but you have to work for them. I put myself through school and I work hard. It’s a work ethic I hope I can pass to my kids.