Aviation Services: A Q&A with Mark Haberer
As a principal and director of Aviation Services for PSC, Mark Haberer, PE, leads PSC’s Aviation Sector to “build community” with airport clients through enhancement of the nation’s airport infrastructure and overall experience of the airport user. He is thoroughly knowledgeable about requirements pertaining to agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration and state Departments of Transportation. He is proficient in airfield design, construction management and project management and is licensed in Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Above all, Mark’s passion centers around excellence in client service.
Q: What is one thing you wish more people knew about PSC?
We are far more than just a small West Texas-based consulting firm. We have a lot of great people and a lot of great expertise. Our firm is involved in a wide range of projects all across Texas, and to some degree all over the world – Japan and Germany included. We’re doing projects for universities. We’re doing projects like the award-winning Texas School for the Deaf in Austin. Some clients only see limited parts of our business and don’t realize the full range of what we do and on what scale we do it.
Q: What value do you see in our firm having so many facets?
I come across clients all the time that have needs beyond civil engineering. Airports, for example, are almost like a community within a community. Airports have needs for many different services whether it be landscaping, irrigation, mechanical or electrical. Being able to offer them solutions from our multidiscipline in-house services is a benefit in terms of being responsive to their needs.
Q: As leader of the new Aviation Sector at PSC, what direction will you be taking?
From a project perspective, historically, our bread and butter has been and will likely continue to be design and construction management of airfield paving projects. That’s where our skill sets best align, so that will continue to be a big focus. We’re also trying to be more strategic in terms of how we leverage our in-house expertise beyond the Aviation Sector for pursuing different types of projects – for instance, architecture, landscaping, MEP or even something as specific as hydrogeology. PSC is a significant firm and we need to put forth the full scale of what our firm is able to do. There are substantial projects beyond taxiway and runway pavements at airports and that’s one thing we’re considering. An example is Dallas-Fort Worth. Is there a way we can service them through something like the strength of our infrastructure group and our treatment group as opposed to solely serving them on the pavement side? Whether it’s with PSC as the lead, or by joining our expertise as support to another firm, these are real difference-making opportunities.
Q: What would be your dream project?
I would probably say my dream project would be to do an airport from the ground up, having a greenfield space and being able to encompass all aspects of an air carrier airport from the airside facilities to the land side facilities. To be able to manage that type of project would be ideal to me. The opportunity to do a project in a cool vacation destination is also appealing. I had the opportunity to have dinner this past winter with a CEO from Turks and Caicos. I’m still waiting for the phone to ring on that one!
Q: What projects are you most proud of?
The highlight project in my career up to this point has been Lubbock Runway 8\26 Reconstruction. It was a $40M+ project that encompassed a wide number of different elements. One unique element was the need to extend the runway out over the top of a 72-inch water supply line that is Lubbock’s primary source of water and to the subsequent impact to that line. As a result, we had to install a new segment of 72-inch line at a deeper depth and under a very condensed schedule to align with the City of Lubbock’s low-water usage time period. We were able to successfully get that line designed, constructed and back in operation before Lubbock needed the source of water operational. Another challenge was that the project dealt with a wide range of FAA navigational aids to be modified. We collaborated with the FAA to get their systems moved and to get the new approach procedures in place. There was also a very sizable drainage component, (this included significant drainage analysis and design) to accommodate the stormwater. Lastly, we did something somewhat unique using an unbonded concrete overlay that allowed us to salvage and reuse part of the existing runway. That effort was recently considered in a Federal Highway Administration repor, and we were one of the only airport projects reviewed.
Q. What do you think is the most overlooked aspect of airport design?
To the layperson, our projects are often viewed as “just” concrete or asphalt, and maybe the tendency is to undervalue the amount of effort that actually has to go into an airport project. You realize that when you consider all of the safety-related elements that are driven by the FAA, the airspace elements that are in place to protect the integrity of the airport, and the interrelation of the pavements with other facilities on the airport. There is a lot of planning and design that goes into a typical project including funding, phasing, safety, pavement design and more. Our role during construction is just as critical. We’re there as a partner to the owner, helping to observe that construction conforms to the plans and specifications, and that a quality project is delivered. The amount of time and effort devoted can be substantial.
Q: How would you describe your approach to project design?
First of all, I like to create a collaborative environment for our design team where we have good communication, good interaction, and are well-coordinated with each other as we involve or get into project teams involving multiple people. I like to really apply engineering concepts and principles to my design approach or design basis and seek out sound information and justification for the recommended improvements. I also like to engage clients in the process – coordinate with them and communicate with them early and often, and really get their buy-in and engagement right up front. That seems to be a big driver in making the whole design process go more smoothly.
Q: What advice do you have for young engineers?
To begin with, find what you are passionate about and pursue it. I never realized airports would be an option until I was on the job, and now I love it. There are too many possibilities out there to simply settle.
Next, look for ways to broaden your horizons. You are going to find yourself in a situation of needing to “talk shop” in an area outside of your expertise at some point. Seizing the opportunity to work on different project types will benefit you throughout your career.
Also, an MBA pairs nicely with your engineering degree and that skill combination will come in handy down the road. Consider doing it at some point if you have any interest at all!
Finally, strive to be a self-starter, a self-motivated individual. The growth process takes time; it does for everybody. So be patient with it, but really strive to grow and learn with every opportunity presented.