Twenty years ago, Rob Ratkowski graduated from the Metropolitan State College of Denver with a degree in aviation management and the dream of managing a thriving airport.
Call it a dream come true.
The 42-year-old is taking over as director of Glacier Park International Airport near Kalispell. The Flathead Municipal Airport Authority Board appointed Ratkowski as the permanent chief on Dec. 13, elevating him from his previous position as deputy director, a position he has held for the last 10 years.
“It was just the perfect fit for me. It was the right position and the right place,” he said. “I’m excited.”
Ratkowski is replacing Cindi Martin, who retired this summer after 10 years as GPIA director. Ratkowski served as interim director before receiving the permanent position.
Ratkowksi is taking over one of the busiest and fastest growing airports in the state. Entering December, GPIA was poised to break its annual passenger record for the fifth year in a row. The total number of passengers was up 5.1 percent through October, and the final figures, currently being tallied, should be released in the coming weeks. For the month of September, passenger numbers spiked 20 percent over the previous year.
“We’re anticipating announcing another record year,” Ratkowski said.
Ratkowski said the airport’s priority will be “staying out ahead of growth.”
“That’s very important for us, facility wise,” he said.
The last major terminal remodel and expansion occurred in 1999, Ratkowski said, and the airport is launching an update of its master plan to study ways to grow. The targeted date for expansion is 2021, he said.
“We’re going to take a look at what needs to happen here,” he said.
Ratkowski said he would also continue working with air carriers and the local AERO group to seek ways to expand service in and out of the Flathead Valley.
“We understand our role in the community, and we appreciate that and take it seriously,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to be responsive to the community’s needs.”