Mark Backes

Spotlight on the Candidates: IWV Airport Board of Directors

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Mark Backes “I understand the business at the airport,” said Mark Backes. “I’ve been on the board for a while, I’m a commercial pilot, I’ve served as a military pilot, I’ve worked as an FAA designated examiner and I’ve flown for an airline.”

He said he wants to use that experience to continue ushering in calculated growth at Inyokern Airport. Backes is a key member of the effort to have IYK designated as one of the six FAA test sites that could help determine the protocol for integrating unmanned systems into federal airspace and in the process bring jobs and industry into the Indian Wells Valley.

“A lot of people don’t realize that these rules – good or bad – are coming. We want to be involved in the process of establishing what they are. I think this is one way that my experience as a pilot could be useful.”

Backes noted that the applications that grow out of UAV research will have direct uses for the surrounding areas. “UAVs will probably, in the near future, be used to more precisely measure snowpack, fight fires, conduct search and rescue missions — we probably don’t even know all of the ways this will be used.”

But even without that designation, he said, the local installation is a valuable asset to the community with a lot of potential for expanded operations and service.

“We have really seen a lot of improvements in the airport over the last several years, and we have plans for even more,” said Backes. The last decade has seen a new multimillion-dollar terminal, improved runways, new development “and a lot of wiring and other invisible things that make life better for folks who use the airport. And we even have money in our reserve at the end of the year.”

He credited those positive changes to the good relationship between the current board and Manager Scott Seymour.

“And there are more things we’d like to do. Even if the UAS designation does not happen, I think we need to position ourselves as a location for unmanned operations,” he said.

He said some of those plans include additional runway improvements, upgrading the airport entrance and main offices and recruiting commercial development.

“This is not only important to our viability as an airport, but it will also bring new industry. It’s good for the customer, good for the airport, good for the community.”

Backes said that if he is reelected, he would like to see the airport put together a comprehensive plan on how to accomplish that growth. “We want this to be affordable and sustainable —something that takes into account how things might look down the road.

“I think that it probably does not dawn on people what a great resource this is. We want to market it to visitors, but we also need to market it to our own community,” he said.

“This is the sort of thing I do because I enjoy it. It is a way of giving back to the valley a little bit. And I would love to keep doing it.”

Story First Published: 2012-10-03