You'd have to travel far and wide to find a guy who's more enthusiastic about aviation than Dave Dinneen. And, if you do decide to go on such a quest, Dinneen would love to send you off in style from Mansfield Municipal Airport.
Dinneen, 46, is now in his second year as executive director of the Massachusetts Airport Management Association, a job he got almost by accident. As a longtime MAMA member, he was part of the search committee for the association's first executive director in 2008, when a fellow search committee member advised scrapping the search and elevating Dinneen from president to director.
"I've always been very outspoken on aviation and my love for it," said Dinneen, whose father, Donald, was the longtime manager at Taunton Municipal Airport. "Everything just fit together. I had the ability to bring in new people and new ideas."
MAMA, which started in 1972, has about 180 members, including airport managers and engineers, federal and state aviation officials, aviation businesses and students with an interest in a career in aviation. The creation of the executive director position came when Massachusetts state officials began charging sales tax on aircrafts. Because some states weren't charging taxes, often companies would fly their planes into and out of those states.
In his executive director role, Dinneen is responsible for day-to-day operations of MAMA, as well as increasing membership, increasing the visibility of aviation in Massachusetts, organizing an annual conference and reaching out to aviation associations across the region.
He started by updating the association's bylaws and constitution before focusing on increasing membership, increasing the database from about 150 to 400 today and publishing a quarterly newsletter.
MAMA helped to start an aviation caucus in 2005, the first of its kind in the country, and it now includes about 80 members of the Massachusetts State Senate and House of Representatives.
Dinneen has been appointed to several state commissions, including the Aviation Advisory Council of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. This 28-person panel helps the DOT board manage its divisions more effectively. Another committee of which Dinneen is a member has helped to more effectively integrate different types of transportation. Dinneen, who calls himself a Republican, gives Gov. Deval Patrick credit for the increased visibility of aviation.
"We've always worked so hard to integrate aviation with these other forms of transportation," he said. "The goal has been to bring things together at the head table. We're part of the whole process now. That's so important. It's opened a lot of doors."
Among the doors it's opened are the addition of MAMA kiosks at every airport in the state, several meetings with legislators, and discussions with the state Executive Office of Business Development.
Despite being part of the family business, Dinneen didn't take the easy road to his role as airport manager in Mansfield and the Marshfield Municipal Airport. While working for his father in Taunton, Dinneen cleared runways of snow, fixed the planes and cleaned toilets to help him learn all aspects of running a local airport.
When you consider there are about 15,000 local airports across the country, compared to about 500 regional, national or international airports, learning as much as he could about running local airports was critical if he planned to stay in the business.
"That really helped me get to where I am today," he said.
Dinneen has been running Mansfield airport for about 20 years, the same amount of time he's co-owned King Aviation with his sister. Hundreds of people have learned to fly at King and businesses such as Covidien use Mansfield as their starting point for flights to meetings, Dinneen said. For those who still doubt the power of aviation, Dinneen said, consider that FedEx has what may be considered the largest fleet of planes with about 300.
"We still don't do enough to talk about everything aviation does and can do," he said. "Aviation is a necessary part of everyone's everyday lives. Everyone has some type of aviation tie-in."