Mark Young is not a pilot. The Oregon native drove logging trucks, operated heavy equipment, worked as a commercial vehicle inspector and eventually became manager of Idaho’s Ports of Entry. But he has never operated an aircraft.
Then again, neither did his immediate predecessor in ITD’s Division of Aeronautics. The position of airport maintenance manager – now simply Idaho Airport Manager – required an array of skills from administrative and personnel management to facilitation, diplomacy, financial oversight and planning. Being a pilot was not listed in the job description.
That never proved to be a detriment, though, as Young has become the leading advocate for protecting and preserving Idaho’s unique system of backcountry airports and for establishing a network to guide future development. He was recognized nationally last month for his 13-year commitment to Idaho aviation when he received the National Association of State Aviation Officials Distinguished Service Award in Portland.
“His extensive experience in surface transportation and now in airfield management, coupled with his superb management and leadership skills, have been invaluable to the state of Idaho and U.S. aviation interests in general,” said Aeronautics Division administrator JV DeThomas in his nomination letter.
“In addition to his management responsibilities, he stands duty as a Division of Aeronautics search and rescue official and provides service as an FAA 5010 inspection official…”
Young’s work in establishing the Idaho Airstrip Network (IAN) as a long-term planning process for backcountry airstrips was central to his nomination and selection for the award.
The IAN was conceived after the transportation department engaged in an extensive visioning process for all modes of transportation in 2003. The report embraces the concept of a 30-year vision and asked members of the Idaho aviation community to project future needs and desires for its backcountry airport system.
Under Young’s leadership, a steering committee of about 15 organizations began working on a comprehensive vision for Idaho’s backcountry airstrips that include 30 state-owned airports and an estimated 70+ other facilities (both public and private) that are accessible to the aviation public.
The transportation board approved the 28-page Idaho Airstrip Network Action Plan in July 2005.
“It is clear that if Idaho’s rich heritage of having an airstrip network accessible to the public is to continue into the future, it is necessary for active and committed partners to create a new way to interact and finance the maintenance and operations of The Idaho Airstrip Network,” according to the action plan.
“This strategic plan lays out a blueprint for an innovative approach as a way to ensure that Idaho’s reputation in this area of transportation moves forward and contributes to the economy of the state.”
Although Young played a fundamental role in guiding the IAN, he also remains active in administering Idaho’s backcountry airstrips – the largest such network in the nation. Among his responsibilities are:
He also is a search and rescue duty officer and has led numerous searches for missing pilots.
Young joined ITD as a Port of Entry inspector in 1978. He became a senior inspector in 1982 and two years later became a training specialist. He managed ITD’s Port of Entry operations from 1986 to 1994 when he transferred to the Division of Aeronautics.
A former Marine, he grew up in eastern Oregon, attended school in Enterprise, and studied at Eastern Oregon College and Boise State University.
Although Young’s influence on aviation in Idaho no doubt will linger for decades, his direct involvement appears to be on a short track. Considering a brief assignment in law enforcement and 28 years with ITD, Young officially reached the retirement benchmark Monday (Oct. 1). He probably will extend his service through the winter and expects to retire in the spring.