By Keith Knepp
WARSAW — Sometimes your dream job isn’t exactly the one you were dreaming about. Just ask Nick King, airport manager at Warsaw Municipal Airport.
King, as well as the airport’s four other full-time and two part-time staff members technically are employees of the City of Warsaw. A native of Winona Lake and a 2005 graduate of Lakeland Christian Academy, King has been in the position since July 13, 2013. While he admits it isn’t the exact job he imagined when he left Kosciusko County to attend school in Iowa, the fit and the homecoming have both been perfect.
Following his graduation from LCA, King headed west to attend the University of Dubuque. There, he earned bachelor of science degrees in aviation management and aviation flight science. “It’s a fancy way of saying I was training to become a professional pilot,” he said. “My plan was to become a professional pilot and return to Warsaw to fly for one of the biomedical companies in the area.”
After receiving his pilot’s license however, a downturn in the economy made landing that dream more difficult than King hoped. Instead he took a position in higher education, but he never lost sight of his passion for the sky. When the airport manager position became available in Warsaw, King jumped at the opportunity to apply.
“It was chance to move closer to home,” he said. “I was blessed with the opportunity to become the airport manager and I’ve been happy ever since.”
King has been a part of the Kosciusko County community since 1990. His mother was a teacher at LCA and his father the longtime postmaster in Winona Lake. He actually began his flight training when he was 16 at the same airport he now leads. That experience not only gave him insight into the workings of an airport, but also familiarized him with many people who utilized the facility, both professionally and recreationally.
The airport has 65 hangars, which are home to 67 aircraft and two helicopters. According to King, it is one of the largest general aviation facilities in the state, if not the Midwest. In a 2013 economic impact study by the Indiana Department of Transportation, WMA had an estimated economic impact of $860 million in the community. For comparison, in the same study Fort Wayne International Airport was estimated at $960 million while Goshen Municipal Airport came in at $13 million. A lot of that impact can be attributed to the biomedical industry in Kosciusko County. King is hopeful an updated study will be undertaken in the next couple of years which will allow for new figures. He said he’s particularly interested in how the merger of some of those companies will affect the study’s results.
He noted the airport’s success can also be attributed to the city’s leadership many years ago. He noted they had the foresight to see the importance of aviation in a community like Warsaw and were willing to invest and create the facility. Since then, succeeding administrations have continued to cultivate and fund the airport, which has allowed it to remain an important and successful part of the city.
King keeps his pilot’s license current and still enjoys getting up in the air when he can. He said every day is different at the airport and he can often be found filling in for various roles throughout the facility. He also returns to his college alma mater to guest lecture on the “real world” aspects of airport management — as he described it, “the things you don’t always learn in the classroom.”
In his spare time, he enjoys tinkering with cars, motorcycles and “basically anything with an engine in it.” He and his wife, Rachel, enjoy travelling, both in the U.S. and internationally, and are both self-described “foodies.” They live less than two miles from the airport with their dog, Dottie, which King says gives him a really short commute to work!