by Keith Beebe
AURORA/Sugar Grove—Bob Rieser began working for the city of Aurora in May 1971 as a summer college intern while working toward a degree in civil engineering.
Forty years later, he will be the first professional airport manager to be inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.
The Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame is a part of the annual Illinois Aviation Conference, which will be held this year on May 24 and 25 at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield. The conference features programs, guest speakers and other tools to help show what is currently going on in the world of aviation.
Rieser, who serves as manager and director of aviation at the Aurora Municipal Airport in Sugar Grove, is one of four people who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011. He said he was both pleased and surprised when he found out in late January that he would be inducted this year.
“It’s an honor to be inducted, and it’s very nice to be acknowledged by your peers in the industry,” Rieser said. “There’s no better form of flattery, especially if you look at the guys who are in there ahead of me. It’s an honor to be in that group of distinguished people in aviation.”
This was also Rieser’s first time being nominated for the Hall of Fame. According to Rieser, nominees do not typically make it through the screening process the first few times they are nominated.
“I guess I met the criteria,” he said. “The biggest thing they look for is what you do for aviation in Illinois outside of your job, and I guess I’ve done that.”
According to an Illinois Aviation Conference press release, Rieser’s skills, love and devotion to general aviation have opened many doors of opportunity to the aviation community for those who want to be part of it. The release states that Rieser has supported EAA Chapter 79 in flying over 14,000 children as part of the Young Eagles program, and has hosted the Chapter One Aerobatic Competition, the North American Trainer Association formation seminars, the Moleaires line control model airplane competition, and the USAF Reservists.
The press release also states Rieser’s devotion to aviation and dedication to Illinois airports qualifies him to join the ranks of notable inductees in the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.
One of the first projects Rieser was assigned to work on 40 years ago was the construction of a runway extension. After that, he finished his college training, earned his degree at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and went to work for Aurora, building projects as a civil engineer. Then, everything came together for Rieser one day in 1978.
“The then-airport manager apparently went to the mayor, who was Jack Hill, and said he wanted to take a three-month leave of absence. The mayor walked up into the engineering part and said, ‘OK, he’s going to be gone for three months; who wants to look after it while he’s gone?’ And I stuck my hand up,” Rieser said. “That was it. He just said, ‘Take care of it while you do your other stuff.’”
Rieser then officially began splitting his time between civil engineering and managing the airport in 1981, and then moved into the full-time airport manager position three years later. Rieser is currently the longest-standing airport manager for a public airport in the state of Illinois.
He also believes he still has plenty of important work still ahead of him.
“I want to keep working, and I see some good surprises coming up around here this next year,” he said.