By Dave Decoteau, KCIA/Boeing Field Summer Intern
College student interns across the country spend their summer filing papers, delivering mail and picking up the donuts and coffee for the boss everyday, while counting the seconds until their summer is over and they can get back to their real work—school work. Much to a good surprise, when I return to the University of North Dakota this fall, I’ll be able to report that my summer internship with airport operations at King County International Airport/Boeing Field broke the stereotypical internship by far. This was the internship of all internships, if you’re a pilot and aviation enthusiast like me.
On the first day, I showed up and was greeted with an office, a cell phone and keys to the airside operation vehicles. So much for hanging out in the mail room—I knew then that I was really going to have to work this summer and have to live up to the same expectations as regular employees. The part in my job title, “intern,” was quickly erased; what a summer it turned out to be at Boeing Field.
My first project was to coordinate a troop movement aircraft operation. McChord Air Force Base was going to be temporarily closed for a few days and Fort Lewis required an airport to transport troops down to Texas. It was my job to make sure this happened. It was intense—from making sure the troops and busses arrived at the right location to having the chartered aircraft parked and positioned correctly on the ramp to assisting with the processing and boarding of troops and crew.
I was amazed at the extent of coordination it required and how challenging communication was between the parties involved—the airport personnel, BFI air traffic control tower, fixed based operators, Army, Air Force and the airline operator. I knew after this project to keep an extra cell phone battery in my pocket.
Being a pilot and obtaining my flight instructor certificate shortly after the troop movement operation, I was tasked with assisting in the development and implementation of an airfield-driving program for airport employees. More specifically, an airfield driver training manual needed to be created.
What sounded like it was going to be so easy proved to be more difficult than imagined; it was my first experience with writing something that was going to actually be read by others instead of being graded by a teacher and then handed back to me. After many, many drafts, I delivered a polished driver training guide to senior management. Additionally, during the final weeks in the internship, I got to help implement the training program and work one-on-one with fellow employees on airport familiarization and communication protocols in the field.
Another summer project included working with King County Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting, The Boeing Company ARFF and SeaTac ARFF to coordinate the disassembly and transport of a salvaged aircraft from Boeing Field to SeaTac for use in their emergency exercise drill. What was scheduled to take a couple of hours turned out to be a day-long event due to the firefighters wanting to take advantage of the training opportunity to practice on a real aircraft with their rescue tools. It was also an excellent day of team building, as these groups do not have the opportunity to train together as much as they would like.
I learned many new things by being assigned these projects to work on. This summer I learned everything from airport dynamics to teamwork. Working at an airport like Boeing Field opened new doors that I didn’t know existed. These projects gave an insight into what really happens at a major airport. Contrary to my prior belief, there really is a lot more to an airport then just a place to land and takeoff.
My past three years in college have prepared me for many things, but the true importance of this real life experience at Boeing Field this summer has proven to be invaluable. What I experienced and learned this summer cannot be found in any of my textbooks back in North Dakota nor have I heard anything in any classroom lecture (sorry, professors) that would have helped me prepare for real life occupational stress. It’s not easy running an airport!
In less than a year from now, I will be walking across the stage to receive my bachelor of science in aeronautics; I will be thinking of the staff at Boeing Field and especially those in the airport operations department. Not many can brag of working at one of the most complex and dynamic airports in the country and all before a college diploma! Even though time is up here, I think I take away from the airport far more knowledge then I came in with. It’s this level of expertise gained that will hopefully allow me to takeoff into a bright and fulfilling future.