The Right Stuff

Stillwater Regional Airport Kellie Reed Director Rounds out First Year

The Right Stuff
Stillwater Regional Airport Director Kellie Reed points to hangar 1 which is the first building to be slated for demolition for building the new facilities.

What kind of person would you want to manage your local airport? Someone with experience who understands the importance of safety and security? Definitely. Someone who knows the landscape, the local people and their values? Absolutely. What about someone who can actually fly a plane? Impressive! How about someone who doesn't just manage and maintain but has a vision of creating a world-class yet hometown regional airport with the skills and team to bring it to fruition? …Does this person even exist?

Meet Kellie Reed, who very much does exist. This July 2024 marks Kellie's first year on the job. Alongside her team, she has been working hard to bring a top-notch airport experience to our regional airport here at Stillwater.

Taking Off

Ever since she was young, Kellie has wanted to fly. As a little kid growing up in Ventura, California, she dreamt she was flying around like Peter Pan and could see her neighborhood. Kellie graduated from OSU with a degree in aviation sciences and secured a pilot's license from Tulsa Riverside Airport.

Originally attracted to OSU for its quality aviation program, Oklahoma grew on her over time. "[I] loved living in Oklahoma, loved the culture and the friendliness of the people," she said. Sadly, Kellie's sister died suddenly during Kellie's junior year, and after graduation, she returned home to California to be with her parents.

It was there that her career in aviation and airports took off. She spent 18 years working in Ventura, Santa Barbara, California, and in Seattle, Washington. While in Seattle, she managed a private collection of historic planes where she got to experience what it was like to fly WWII-era biplanes like Stearmans and Wacos. Kellie described it as "open-cockpit…stick and rudder…just a ton of fun."

An example of a Waco biplane, a kind that Stillwater Airport Director Kellie Reed can fly. Photo by A By RuthAS - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6986062

"A God-shot Moment"

While away from Stillwater, she kept in touch with one of her mentors from OSU, former Airport Director Gary Johnson. She watched the Stillwater airport grow and develop as Gary brought in commercial air service to Stillwater in 2016. 

After a few years working as an aviation planner in Anchorage, Alaska, Kellie and her family sought something different. "We knew we wanted a change; we wanted a different pace of life. It was a good opportunity there, but I was looking for something a little more community-oriented for my family and my kids," said Kellie. Last year, in 2023, the stars aligned for Kellie to return to Stillwater.

"It was kind of a God-shot moment," says Kellie. "I have family in Edmond (my cousin is a doctor), and he did a tonsillectomy on my son, so we came out last year for about two weeks for the surgery and for my son to recover, and that was right when the job opening opened up so I was able to come out and tour the airport and reconnect and, here I am!"

"When You've Seen One Airport…"

With something so regulated as air travel, one might think each airport is essentially the same, following the same standard procedures while leaving the only variety at an aesthetic level. Not so, says Kellie.

"There's a phrase in aviation: when you've seen one airport, you've seen one airport. They all provide a surface for airplanes to take off and land, but they all operate vastly differently."

And many Stillweigans like what they've seen of the airport here: how close it is, the free parking, the short lines – the balance of security with a small-scale terminal. But since upscaling to larger 65-seater aircrafts two years ago, even cozy can sometimes cross into crowded. "In the existing terminal, we don't have space for concessions; we don't have enough space for everybody to sit when we have a full flight," said Kellie. To fix this, Kellie and her team are working on an expansion plan to take our terminal from the current seven thousand square foot space to 31,000 square feet. Talk about more legroom!

World-Class Service in our Backyard

The new terminal, estimated to be completed in the summer of 2026, will have two gates. One is for the existing commercial service, and the other is for the charter lounge, intended primarily for incoming athletic teams. More space could also mean more carriers with non-stop flight options. Conversations are underway with low-cost airlines like Breeze and Avelo to bring direct flights to places like Orlando and Las Vegas.

With this increased space, Kellie and her team are excited about offering new amenities such as a mother's nursing room, a SARA (service animal relief area), a wellness room/prayer room, and in the lobby, part of an old aircraft fuselage as a place for kids to play while waiting.

Sadly, and too often in other cities, bigger isn't always better. Especially when it comes at the cost of things we value like the closeness, local feel, the free parking, etc. But Kellie Reed has got Stillwater covered. "For families, it's so much simpler," Kellie says. "It's easy. You park for free, you walk right across the street. You're here. I'm home in five minutes when I fly out of the airport, and with small children, that's such an ease. And our goal is to make travel simple and accessible for the community."

Will these developments create more opportunities for OSU students? "Oh, absolutely!" says Kellie. "This airport is an incredible opportunity for students at OSU, both for professional pilots and those pursuing aviation management. We have an internship program that we're excited about, and we have an intern from OSU right now…We also have jobs in operations and security that people right out of college can qualify for."

The new terminal is heavily funded by the FAA, supplying 20 out of the 24 million dollars needed in grants. Other money comes from the city and the state of Oklahoma and other grants they hope to secure. "Our FAA funding is solid, we're getting those applications in today… we've also applied for a RAISE grant through DOT. We're very hopeful for that, it's a critical piece of our plan." Some features Kellie would like to have at the new terminal--like a jet bridge for boarding and conveyer-style baggage claim-- depend on grant approvals outside of FAA funding.

But Kellie is optimistic. "With the new terminal, we hope to offer world-class service in our backyard."

A rendering of the new terminal front entry, provided by Stillwater Regional Airport

The Right Stuff

Being the director of an airport requires Swiss Army Knife-like dynamic leadership. "We wear a lot of hats, especially in smaller airports. But that's fun and exciting from my perspective because we never know what's going to come. We don't know what challenges we're going to face or what problems we're going to solve in a day," says Kellie.

Marta Bohn-Meyer, one of Kellie's aviation mentors, once told her, "Right time, right place, right qualifications, and right attitude." That statement just about sums up Kellie Reed, her team, and the new terminal project.


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