"We're Among The Leaders"
by ANN Correspondent Aleta Vinas
Oklahoma-born Kenneth Wofford served in the Air Force, retiring
as Colonel. After the USAF, Wofford began to work for the Minnesota
Department of Transportation Aeronautics Office around 1977-78,
where his official title was Aeronautics Operations Director.
He held this position through 1987. Wofford also started working
with youth encouraging them to remain in school and encouraging
their aviation pursuits. Wofford has also been an Air Guard Museum
docent, Civil Air Patrol educator, Boy Scout mentor and program
advisor for Junior College ROTC program. His Oshkosh memory was
made in the line of duty, through work.
Wofford (below) has a strong relationship with aviation and
helps to spread the aviation gospel wherever he can. While working
for the Minnesota DOT Aeronautics Office he had the opportunity to
share what Minnesota knew about aviation with one of the largest
audiences in aviation.
The Minnesota State Aeronautics Commissioner encouraged the
staff to be on the look out for ways "to improve or become more
efficient in operations," says Wofford. The Commissioner saw
Oshkosh as an opportunity for a booth and the ability to share the
"vigorous" world of Minnesota aviation.
"We’re among the leaders," claims Wofford, whose first
Oshkosh for the Aeronautics Office was during his first year on the
job. He calls Oshkosh "the great aviation gathering. We had people
coming from all over the United States, there was the corporate
business world, manufacturers of aircraft and aviation type things,
there was government; federal and state."
The many seminars about safety on the ground and in the air,
procedures, aviation education in schools intrigued Wofford.
"That’s why I viewed it as one of those big Get-togethers,"
Wofford adds. "You also had airplane and air show performances,
they came from throughout the nation, Canada and occasionally some
of the foreign countries were there showing off their
"From my perspective Minnesota had a strong aviation posture in
General Aviation, in Business Aviation and the state of Minnesota
had 140 (plus or minus) active public airports, excluding
Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport," he adds.
Oshkosh afforded Wofford the opportunity to "boast" about "being
a leader in the aviation system."
The Minnesota DOT Aeronautics Office provided financial aid in
the form of loans and other aid to the small public airports.
"Oshkosh gave us on site interaction with other states... We got
a chance to talk to some of the people who were out there doing the
Wofford and his operations staff concentrated on two areas; one
was safety seminars. "What could we pick up to enhance the programs
that we were presenting? Getting the pilots, the airport
managers, aircraft owners, stimulating them to come to our safety
seminars and workshops."
Wofford took a few ideas home and incorporated them into what
they presently were doing. The staff also took the opportunity to
invite out of state speakers to the Minnesota seminars -- since "we
may have somebody from Boeing or somebody from Republic somebody
who manufactured small airplanes," he said.
Second was the area of airport safety inspections. "Since we had
an investment in them it gave us an opportunity to go and learn how
can we better do our job of inspections for airports, safety and
services purposes," Wofford said.
Some concerns were lighting, runways and clearways to be certain
no barriers were erected into the airspace and to make sure safety
rules and regs were being carried out. "It kept us current and
Attending Oshkosh required a small team. The Aeronautics Office
would have a booth and about four others plus Wofford. "If we had
something of a special interest we’d take along extra staff
members." "It was mainly to help us in having a better aviation
posture in Minnesota. We felt we were first and we wanted to
continue to be a first class operation."
Wofford knew Oshkosh presented the perfect atmosphere to help
maintain Minnesota’s status. At subsequent AirVentures,
Wofford found people asking "Well hey, what are you doing in
Minnesota now?" Wofford and his team had the answers, but
wouldn’t rest on their laurels.
Wofford continued to ask "What can we do to make aviation better
for us here in Minnesota?" Some of the answers are at Oshkosh, and
Wofford and staff made the continuing 'sacrifice' to attend the
great aviation gathering for more ideas.
(Photos courtesy of Minnesota Dept. of Transportation