The man who keeps Kitchener/Waterloo airborne

Kitchener Airport
Chris Wood, Manager Kitchener-Waterloo Int’l Airport

A Day in the Life of Chris Wood, manager of the Region of Waterloo International Airport, Canada’s 20th busiest air terminal.

Established in 1948 and located 100 kilometers southwest of Toronto, the airport is served by American Airlines, WestJet and Sunwing Airlines. In 2013, it handled roughly 138,800 passengers, while logging almost 107,000 aircraft movements. In his current job, Chris supervises a staff of 24.

Chris traces his career choice to the visits he made as a kid to Toronto’s Pearson Intl. Airport, Canada’s biggest and busiest air terminal. Indeed, he says, he was “mesmerized” by Pearson’s hustle and bustle.

“I really love working at the airport,” says Chris of his job at Waterloo Regional. “It’s really dynamic. One minute, I’m doing an interview and the next minute, I’m meeting with a prospective tenant.”

Indeed, a typical day might see Chris handling personnel matters, drumming up new business, as well as talking to local politicians — no small matter, given that the mayors of the seven municipalities served by the airport sit on its board of directors. But he’s never had any political interference, he hastens to add. Dealing with tenants also looms large on Chris’ schedule — especially if a tenant isn’t paying his bills.

From nine a.m. to four p.m. most days, Chris is in meetings — either at the airport, or at the offices of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo in nearby Kitchener. From four to six or even seven p.m., he’s often back at his office, catching up on his e-mail. His day, needless to say, is jam-packed.

In fact, during his first two years as airport manager, Chris seldom, if ever, took a day off — a schedule he attributes to his initial desire to make the changes he believed were necessary and to do what had to be done.

Now, though, he’s slowed down a bit, managing to make it home for dinner with his wife and two children (a son, seven and a daughter, five) most nights, although he’s also often on the computer or on his BlackBerry.

His wife, who handles meetings and professional development for the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association, works from home four days a week.

You say the hurly-burly at Pearson sparked your interest in a career in airport management. But how did you convert that enthusiasm into a career?

By completing a course in aviation management at Georgian College in Barrie, Ont., a city an hour or so north of Toronto. After that, I spent 12 years at Pearson Intl., starting in operations at the dispatch center and then moving to other departments. While at Pearson, I also did strategic planning.

Kitchener Airport 021
Service Excellence Award

What’s your idea of a great airport?

One that caters to all parts of the aviation industry, but one that’s still able to break even, or do even better. By all parts of the aviation industry, I mean regularly scheduled flights, private jets, recreational planes, cargo shipments, as well as a flying school.

So, which airport would you like to emulate?

Abbotsford Intl. in Abbotsford, B.C., an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver.  Kelowna Intl. Airport in the British Columbia interior is another good airport, as is London Intl. Airport in London, Ont., 105 kilometers west of us. That airport is very well run. Moreover, it has not only crossed the break even point, but is now making money for its owner, the Greater London Intl. Airport Authority.

“Figure out what you love doing and try to get paid for it,” was the advice Chris got from his school guidance counselor. And, today, it’s apparent that Chris is doing just that.