Aryn and Dave Rasmussen began their first day as operations managers of the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport May 1 of this year following the retirement of previous manager Chuck Covert.
“I do most of the day-to-day stuff because my husband is a pilot for Compass Airlines,” said Aryn. “He helps me out when he’s not flying. It was very exciting to come back to the area—we’ve been trying to get back for a while.”
The pair met while serving in the Army—Aryn in human resources and Dave as a pilot—on a deployment to Germany. Dave had a clear passion for aviation, and Aryn had experience in creating and operating systems and processes, as well as handling business relations. Together, their desire to work the business side of aviation saw them looking at small airports for openings in management.
“About two years ago we were talking to a family friend about the Goldendale airport,” said Aryn. “That same friend gave us a call last fall and said if we’re still interested in working a small airport to check out the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport. We visited in December and started talking to Chuck, seeing if things would work out and if we would be the right fit—and it all worked out.”
The airport is considered an Oregon airport, but is located in Dallesport, Wash., and is co-owned by the City of The Dalles and Klickitat County. The two entities contract out the management services of the airport; it was through this process that the Rasmussens, with their company Aviation Management Services, landed the contract.
“I love how at the airport there’s always something different,” said Aryn. “One day you’re sitting down with Boeing about a training facility with the local college, and the next day you’re setting up for a drag race. There’s such a wide variety of things to do; I enjoy that.”
A public entity, the airport produces its own revenue servicing private and publicly-owned aircraft. Summer sees increased traffic as public services like firefighters utilize the airport during efforts to combat wildfires in the region.
Aryn, who grew up in Klickitat County, says the region in general has changed and as a result, the airport has seen an influx of new traffic.
“It’s definitely growing,” said Aryn. “We get a lot of military traffic from Pendleton, Salem and Fort Lewis. We get jet traffic from companies, and private citizens who fly in or stop by. As the area grows and other businesses are coming in, and people learn that we’re out here, it becomes more popular.”
The Rasmussens’ contract has four years left, with an additional five-year option. The plan for now, and for a while, is to stay in the area, be a part of the community and continue to serve the Gorge with an efficient, popular airport, they said.
“Our plan is to be here as long as possible,” said Aryn. “This is where we want to be. Being back in the area is important to us, and being at the airport is something we’re both passionate about.”
As airport managers, the Rasmussens are looking to make strong connections with the community; the airport is working with Columbia Gorge Community College to establish an aviation training facility as part of the latter’s maintenance program.
The general aviation industry, which small airports are a part of, is not seeing the same demand as larger, better-known aspects of the industry, but the demand for aviation mechanics, pilots and air traffic controllers continues to rise.
“We encourage anyone if they’re curious and want to learn more to stop by and say hi,” said Aryn. “You can take an introductory flight or a scenic tour and see what we have going on over here. Chuck shared a great quote with me: ‘A mile of road will take you nowhere, but a mile of runway will take you anywhere.’ It’s true—the whole world opens up to you at an airport.”
The Columbia Gorge Airport is located just over The Dalles Bridge, on Dallesport Road. It is open every day except for major holidays, and if interested, you can visit columbiagorgeairport.com to learn more.