Taking Flight

Last year, RDU celebrated a record number of passengers, nearly 11 million, but it requires the work of a large and committed team to guarantee that the airport continues to accommodate the growing Triangle community. Leading the charge is CEO Michael Landguth. With a master’s degree in aeronautical sciences and more than 20 years experience in the aviation industry, he is poised to ensure RDU keeps up with demand, and that includes an ambitious master plan called Vision2040. Here, we talk with Landguth about the future and what it takes to run an airport.

Tell us a little bit about your background before coming to RDU.

Prior to joining RDU, I served as President and CEO of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority. There, I secured more than $70 million in grant funding, added three new airlines and eight new nonstop destinations. I have also been active in our industry associations, having served on the board of the American Association of Airport Executives and as chairman of Airports Council International-North American’s Medium Hub committee.

What are some of the biggest challenges of running an airport?

Funding our Vision2040 master plan when historical federal funding streams are drying up is our biggest challenge. Not to mention political events around the globe and at home can dramatically impact airline passenger demand. These are challenges to be sure, but I have great confidence in the team we have assembled to do the “big” things at RDU.

Tell us about Vision2040 and why it’s so important to the Triangle area.

Vision2040 is an ambitious infrastructure investment plan. Frankly, it is what is required for RDU to keep pace with the growth in the Triangle in decades to come. The plan focuses on critical aviation assets—runways/ taxiways, terminal expansion, upgraded ground transportation and general aviation enhancements. As this region grows, so will RDU. But aviation infrastructure is very expensive and requires long-term planning. That’s where Vision2040 comes in. It is our flight plan for the future.

What kind of support do you need from the public to ensure it gets done?

We need the community to continue to support new airlines and new flights, including our new flight to Paris aboard Delta Air Lines. We will also need to develop new revenue streams to support our mission of providing world-class aviation infrastructure. We have a long way to go but, again, I have confidence in the team we’ve built to get the job done. Our community deserves no less.

What flight would you love to see that we don’t currently have?

The brass ring, if you will, is a nonstop flight to China. That won’t happen, however, until we rebuild our primary runway 5L/23R. In the meantime, we are actively recruiting flights to San Diego, Kansas City, San Juan and some Caribbean destinations.

What does your typical day look like?

There really is no such thing as a typical day, which is why I love my career at RDU. Generally, though, I am in daily communication with our Board of Directors, our senior leadership team and community leaders, and that means lots of meetings. Some of the moments I value most, however, are those occasions when I get to congratulate a team member or get to know someone better. I also really enjoy walking the halls of our terminals, watching customers begin and end their journeys. RDU makes a difference in this community, and that makes every day more meaningful.

What are the biggest rewards?

I am lucky to have a wife that loves me and two great kids. I couldn’t ask for anything more in life.

What are some of the perks of the job?

Leaving home every morning for a job I love. Every day is an adventure: different and challenging. It is also gratifying that RDU has such an enormous positive impact within our community. Oh, and the cookies. Occasionally, my officemates will bring cookies to work and, well, that is just awesome.

What book would we find on your nightstand right now?

You wouldn’t find a book there. After reading all day long, I am ready for a good night’s sleep.

Are there any apps you can’t live without?

HeadSpace—I meditate every night before bed. It helps me sleep better. Then in the morning, my routine includes four apps: 1) Storm, a weather app to see what’s in store for the day; 2) Hootsuite to see what our customers are saying about RDU; 3) Fitbit to see how many steps I got walking the dog that morning; and finally 4) Broncos 365 to see if we signed a new defensive linemen yet. Go Broncos!

What does your dream vacation look like?

Spending time at our Lake house in Northern Michigan with my wife, kids and of course our black lab Thunder.

Alexandra Drosu
Alexandra Drosu

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