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Meet: Elisha Novak

Senior Airport Planner


Who I Am:
I am a senior airport planner and environmental planner for the Airports Division of the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA. I review Airport Master Plans that describe the planned changes airports will make in the next three years. I make sure that the plans comply with the laws passed by the United States Congress. In addition we advise airports on development questions, environmental questions, consultants and funding. We do inspection of airports for various compliance issues. For example we check to see if required documents are current and up to date. The Airports are required to file National Environmental Protection Act documents and airport layout plans. It requires lots of knowledge because both industry and airport consultants ask the FAA for authoritative opinions on a wide range of topics and technical issues.

My Career Path:
I went to architecture school. Toward the end of the program I was trying to decide whether I wanted to specialize in transportation, medical or industrial plants and factories. I decided that transportation would be the most fun and challenging. I viewed that airports were a place of interchange for all different modes of transportation.

I went after a master's degree and a doctorate degree in transportation engineering. I came to the University of California at Berkley because they had a major transportation engineering department and there was a professor who wrote the very first textbook on airport planning. Dr. Horonjeff was the son of the last consulate of Czarist Russia to San Francisco. I had seen his book and spoken to him about pursuing airport planing. He asked about my background and I told him I was an architect. He said that he didn't work with architects. I asked him to give me ten minutes to talk to him and he later became my advisor.

Immediately after graduate school I was recruited to help plan for the impact on air transportation for the upcoming Olympics in Los Angeles. After that I came back to the Bay area. I went to work for Bechtel Corporation. They sent me to Sydney, Australia to plan changes at the airport to help Sydney host the 2000 Olympic games. This airport has been built and is accommodated this year's Olympic athletes and fans. Most of the engineering work Bechtel Corporation did was overseas. I wanted to have a job that did not require so much foreign travel so I could spend time with my two young daughters. ThatŐs when I came to work at the Federal Aviation Administration.

As a Child:
I saw people flying gliders up and fell in love with flight. I built model airplanes and gliders and joined the Civil Air Patrol. I pursued a private pilot's license. I wanted to be an Air Force pilot. My last day in high school I realized my vision would not past the test for Air Force Pilot Training.

Why I Like my Job:
The positive side of my job is that'you are always looking at new developments and your are in a position to make decisions. ItŐs a friendly environment. This career will continue to offer opportunities and air transportation will continue to grow. The only negative side of my job is that I don't get to design. I always review and comment on somebody elseŐs work.

I had a mentor in the Business School at Berkley. He was the author of the original textbook for operations research and the systems approach. You should have an understanding of systems for working on airports.

Future Plans:
In the future I hope to continue working at the FAA and continue to run my small consulting business on the side.

I have two daughters. One teaches at a business school in Chicago and the other just graduated college. I like to travel overseas and I like to hiking and camping especially at Yosemite National Park.


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