Melton will take the helm at Chennault
Randy Robb stepped down this week after 10 years as head of Chennault International Airport, saying it was “a good time to go” and citing high hopes for his successor, W. Kevin Melton of American Airlines.
The search for his replacement began in October after he gave notice of plans to retire.
“Things are pretty much on autopilot right now, so I felt like it was a good time to go,” Robb said during a phone interview Thursday, calling his replacement a “very good” fit for the job.
Since joining the airport’s staff in 2008, Robb hammered away at his vision of expanding operations at Chennault.
His most recent success was inking a deal with the city of Lake Charles that allows the airport to finance the relocation of Mallard Cove Golf Course so that it can expand onto the land, a plan several years in the making.
Robb also brought back the Chennault International Airshow after a 15-year hiatus and oversaw the construction of the towering $21.5 million Hanger H building.
“I really enjoyed my time at Chennault,” said Robb, who’s moving to Jacksonville, Fla., to be with family. “I’ll miss the people here a lot.”
Chennault board president Charles Dalgleish said Robb’s leadership “really set the foundation for what we hope will be continued growth.”
“He took what I considered was a stagnant airport and brought in new business and a vision of what the airport could be,” Dalgleish said. “I don’t think the public had the vision before Randy.”
Dalgleish said the board was “very impressed” with the new hire’s background in managing airfields with the U.S. Air Force and overseeing major construction projects at American Airlines. He said the “icing on the cake” was his background directing airshows.
Melton, who’s moving to Lake Charles from Dallas this month, said he’s excited for the chance to lead an airport like Chennault after an extensive career in various aspects of airfield management.
Once he starts at the end of April, he said, he plans to spend time getting a lay of the land before enacting any changes.
“My goal is to come in and study and observe and get an assessment of where does the community want to take Chennault, and then start effecting those changes and striving toward those desires,” Melton said.
Among his first steps, he said, will be ensuring the airport is in full compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration. He said he’ll also evaluate the needs of employees and existing tenants, “because the last thing I want is for them to leave us.”
But the “bull’s-eye on the dart board,” he said, is to create more jobs.
A husband of 26 years and father of three, Melton plans to be an active member of the community as well, from church and school to recreational sports.
“I want to be able to come in and make a positive impact to not only Chennault Airport but the community of Lake Charles as well,” Melton said.
He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Middle Tennessee State University as well as a master’s degree in national resource strategy from the National Defense University.
Chennault is a former air base revived as an industrial airpark in the 1980s. It’s now a site for aircraft maintenance and manufacturing, as well as a landing space for aircraft ranging from private jets to Air Force One.
The airport and its tenants employ about 1,500 people and account for $300 million in annual economic impact. Tenants include Northrop Grumman, Habitat for Humanity, Landlocked Aviation Services, Million Air, Bechtel, and Louisiana Millwork/Masonite.
The airport was recently honored as Louisiana Airport of the Year by the FAA.
‘I really enjoyed my time at Chennault. I’ll miss the people here a lot.’
Former head of Chennault International Airport