20:30 PM

Employee spotlight: Michael Mitchell, General Aviation

For Michael Mitchell, describing his general aviation maintenance job duties is fairly straightforward.

“Anything and everything,” he laughs.

He’s not really joking.

While a big part of the job is maintaining the airfield with routine mowing and painting, there is also the interior work that must be done to care for the facilities operated by the airport staff and the multitude of small independent tenants. He recently learned to work on cabinetry for a tenant at Peter O. Knight Airport.

There is also the need to be prepared to respond in the event of an aircraft incident. With no firefighters stationed at the GA airports, Michael is often the first person on the scene.

“You have to be ready to do anything that needs to be done, and you also have to be ready to learn something new,” says Michael. “That’s one of the things I love most about the job.”

For Michael, some of the new skills he’s developed have been somewhat unexpected, like networking.

For a small team like the General Aviation department, it’s all hands on deck when one of the three airports is hosting an event or participating in other events locally to woo new clients. Sadly, while most general aviation operations have been minimally impacted by the pandemic, meeting and greeting at events is one that has had to temporarily go to the wayside.

“I really enjoyed being out at Sun 'n Fun a couple of years ago, greeting guests in the hospitality tent and answering their questions about our general aviation airports,” said Michael. “It made me feel like I was really helping the business and I’ll be glad when we’re able to do that again.”

Reflecting back over his 12 years with the Aviation Authority, Michael could only think back to one task he would have happily avoided.

This past December, a cow from a nearby property wandered onto Tampa Executive Airport. As the local sheriff’s department helicopter circled overhead, Michael was one of two employees on the ground attempting to wrangle the errant bovine. The mission lasted for several hours and video from the chase ended up on news stations across the country.

“I hated that cow,” said Michael, joking. “I mean, I REALLY hated that cow.”