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Dave Edwards- City People Profile

Dave Edwards understands the frustration fliers feel at having to remove their shoes and go through a gauntlet of security procedures at every airport.

Whenever Edwards flies, he takes the same route as everyone else through metal detectors and security. But Edwards, president and CEO of Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, knows the reasons behind all those seemingly inconvenient procedures.

“When I see people getting frustrated in line at times when I’m traveling,” Edwards says, “I try to convey that message of, ‘Just remember, people aren’t doing this just for the sake of doing it. They’re doing it because it’s an important thing to be doing in order to make sure that we’re all safe when we’re flying commercially around the country.’”

Edwards, who came to GSP in July 2009 after spending six years as director of the Asheville Regional Airport, still has the same love of aviation as he did when he got his pilot’s license at the age of 17.

And he has been pleased to see the improvements going on at GSP over the past few years.

That includes renovations to update the terminal, expansions of baggage claim areas, cosmetic changes and more.

The process began a decade ago, after a planning study revealed “key deficiencies,” some of the them related to security changes recommended in the wake of the 9-11 terror attacks, Edwards says.

Changes began in earnest in late 2009, with a terminal study to determine what kinds of changes were needed to the airport, which was built in 1962 and expanded in the 1980s.

Ground was broken last spring for a new rental car facility, moving the car rental area out of the terminal itself.

The recent changes at GSP have been more than structural. When Edwards began his tenure in Greenville, “The big emphasis was trying to secure Southwest Airlines service for the airport,” he says.

When the airline announced that it would begin serving GSP last year, “It was a big win for us.”

The increased airport traffic that came about as a result of Southwest’s arrival has helped the airport recover from the hits taken after 9-11 and the economic downturn, he says.

The last several years have brought about radical changes in the way airports operate, which can pose a challenge, but Edwards says airport officials are accustomed to challenges.

“Most people that you talk to who are in aviation or in airports, the one thing they love is that two days are never the same,” he says.

“There are always challenges coming up, whether it’s security-related challenges, whether there are other regulatory challenges that are going on. Just daily, day in and day out. It could be weather challenges, thunderstorms that affect us operationally that we have to deal with.”

Flying has always been in Edwards’ blood.

His father owned a couple of small airplanes and flew for pleasure, and “I grew up around aviation,” says Edwards, a native of Long Island, N.Y.

Edwards has flown both single-engine and twin-engine planes, but not as much in recent years, he says.

“I enjoy flying immensely … (but) when you talk about being safe, you have to be proficient, which means you have to do it routinely. Trying to fly on a routine basis to be proficient is not easy to do unless you have ready access to aircraft. And frankly, it’s gotten to be a pretty expensive hobby.”

But even when he isn’t in the pilot’s seat, Edwards enjoys spending his days in a place where people are always coming and going, traveling to places both exotic and familiar.

“I’m passionate about what I do,” he says. “For me this isn’t a job, which is good and bad as my wife will say, because I tend to live it 24-7 because I just love what I do.”

GSP - A brief history