Tending to Business at D.C. Area Airports

Jan. 2--Years ago, a professor said to Steven Baker: "Aviation gets into your blood and doesn't let you go."

The saying has proved true for Mr. Baker, the new vice president of business administration at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA).

"At the time, I thought I would travel the world for a bit and then settle back into the life of a corporate lawyer," said Mr. Baker, 44, who has worked at two of the country's major airports since earning master's of business administration and law degrees at the University of Pennsylvania.

"I left Philadelphia in 1986 and never made it back."

The MWAA is the quasi-public entity responsible for running Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington and Washington Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Va.

In his new position, the Alexandria resident will plan and manage the authority's business programs, which cover airline relations, commercial leasing, airport concessions, contracting and procurement, risk management and equal opportunity.

"As an airport, we generate the revenues here; otherwise, we don't have them to spend," said Mr. Baker, who previously was deputy aviation manager at Miami International Airport.

James Bennett, MWAA president and chief executive officer, praised Mr. Baker's decision to join the authority.

"I believe his background and experience will prove valuable to our airports as they expand to meet the needs of our passengers," Mr. Bennett said.

Among Mr. Baker's goals for the MWAA is continuing to make Dulles more passenger-friendly.

"One of the most important things for passengers are connection times," he explained. "That's a function of Dulles' facilities."

The "pier-system" layout of Dulles -- compared with Reagan Airport, which is shaped more like a hand -- is efficient for airplanes and moving luggage, Mr. Baker said.

"The challenge for us now is to improve the time it takes for passengers to get from one part of the airport to another," he said.

The MWAA is planning an underground train system for Dulles and additional concourse facilities, Mr. Baker said.

Security measures can be a challenge when planning new facilities, he added.

"Facilities go through a design period that is anywhere from 18 to 36 months before you even begin construction," Mr. Baker said. "We continue to build the facilities hoping that even as we build them, that they won't lose their operational efficiency due to unanticipated security demands and that they can meet the security demands without losing operational efficiency."

Before working at Miami International Airport, Mr. Baker served as counsel for American Airlines and as deputy general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

"What I like about the industry is the fact that no two days are the same," Mr. Baker said. "What I like about MWAA is the willingness to be on the front line of innovation and creativity in solving these challenges."

<<Washington Times, The (KRT) -- 01/04/06>>

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