Ray Bishop did not receive the Wright Brothers Trophy or any of the major accolades from AAAE or ACI, but this able aviation professional deserves our collective highest respect. It is a sad day when we fly without a man like Ray, but his record serves as a good goal for ascending airport professionals.
This is an airport director who learned his basics from a career in the US Air Force. The parameters of civil and military aviation are not 100% congruent, but the principles of safety and a culture which reinforces the importance of that constant focus. His two tours of duty in Viet Nam as a pilot were a crucible for attention to details.
Ray then moved to the Kern County Airports Department, which owns and operates Meadows Field Airport, which serves Bakersfield, CA, and six GA airports. BFL lives in the aviation shadow of LAX; many passengers, who would ordinarily originate their aviation itinerary at their local facility, drove to the bigger hub instead.
Ray understood that it was difficult to sell his sleepy terminal to carriers to capture the traffic of Kern County and its surrounding communities (700,000 people in or near the Southern San Joaquin Valley). Included in that observation was an important goal—to keep the cost per enplaned passenger within a reasonable limit. Building a Taj Mahal, the proverbial ban of all airlines, was unacceptable. Mr. Bishop led a development plan which improved his basic complex, but did so economically. He maximized the eligibility of the projects for AIP funds. The name of the new terminal, William M. Thomas, evidences the value of your local Congressman being the Chair of an important Committee. It is an attractive, passenger friendly building and is well received by the airlines—witness its current tenants and their schedules.
In an era when routes to secondary airports are dropping, Ray’s vision preserved BFL’s connection to the network. His USAF education in the value of logistics led him to seeking cargo service to move the county’s goods to markets and to ship to BFL needed cargo. Further, the Director maintained sharp oversight of his six GA airports, assuring that the best procedures and facilities were available.
Ray, having laid the foundations of an improved BFL, jumped at the opportunity to return to his native Wyoming. He took the same job at the Jackson Hole Airport.
That airport has unusual demographics for a location in Wyoming; the demand profile needs little selling and its existing terminal is more than adequate. JAC is unusual in that it is surrounded by the Grand Teton National Park. Growth is not needed and environmental stewardship is. The new Director met the needs of his new community assuring the highest levels of safety and emphasizing the need for quiet operations plus being as green as possible inside one of the nation’s most precious green sanctuaries. His performance at JAC is measured by these quotes from an obituary:
“Rick Braun, a good friend, looks back on Bishop as a skilled leader who accomplished an impressive amount during his tenure at the airport.
‘He was very, very proactive on safety measures, particularly after those overruns that they had up there,’ Braun said. ‘He was also an incredible fundraiser.’
‘I have nothing but praise for Ray,’ he said.”
“‘Bishop’s fingerprints are all over the remodel and expansion of the Jackson Hole Airport’s terminal building,’ said Gary Pollock, Grand Teton National Park’s management assistant.
‘I remember Ray as someone who was really, really committed to making the airport as good and as green an airport as you could have,’ Pollock said. ‘And he totally understood the significance of it being in a national park.’
‘He loved being out on Jackson Lake on his boat,’ Pollock said, ‘and he really loved the park.’”
A year ago Ray retired, he stayed in the area. He qualified planning for an international triathlon in 2016.
Mr. Bishop was exceptional airport director who quietly did what was needed in the best interests of his facilities and their communities. He will be missed by all who knew him.