Wayne Shank, just the second executive director in the history of Norfolk International (ORF), will retire at the end of this month.
He will be replaced by Robert Bowen, currently the airport’s deputy director. Bowen has been at the airport since 1988.
Shank, who has a degree in English, arrived at ORF in 1971 as airport operations supervisor. He started his career writing technical manuals dealing with new rules being implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration. His responsibilities grew quickly, and soon he was out in the community on the speaker circuit telling the airport’s story. Shank spent time working with the airport’s volunteer fire department, its police department, its parking business and the airfield snow removal operations.
After that, “I basically became involved in everything,” he says. “Looking back, that was a great education.”
He didn’t know initially if the airport industry would be his final stop – his first goal at the time was simply to find his first job out of college. But it didn’t take long before he knew he was in the right business.
“Once you’re exposed to aviation, it’s very difficult to walk away from,” he says. “After five or six years, I began to appreciate how much I was in love with this business. It’s very challenging and often very stressful, but I have always felt with each year that it was consistently a rewarding career.”
Shank eventually was promoted to deputy executive director under long-time predecessor Kenneth Scott. He then succeeded Scott in 2009. He’s been pondering retirement for awhile. But as the airport was recovering from the recession, sequestration hit the airport hard due to its reliance on the military, creating another challenging time at ORF.
Now, however, traffic has been increasing for several months, and he thinks the airport is in good shape after investing $40 million over five years to upgrade its terminal and general aviation facilities. So Shank thinks it’s time to begin traveling with his wife and his friends and to spend time with his grandchildren. Bowen, he says, is a more than capable successor.
“He was my recommendation all along,” Shank says. “He is an outstanding individual. He and I have worked together very closely for the last several years. … He is fully up to speed on what is going on here and the direction we need to go. So I recommended him from the word go.”