Pilots: Johnny Parker

January 1, 2008

When Johnny Parker was a kid, he didn’t go to the airport. The airport came to him.

In the late 1950s, Murray, Kentucky, civic leaders selected a site for a new airport adjacent to the farm where Parker lived. That was the genesis of more than three decades of exemplary general aviation airport management that continues today.

“I lived across the field, so naturally I was drawn to it,” says Parker.

Soon after the Murray-Calloway County Airport (Kyle-Oakley Field) was dedicated in October 1961, Parker started to work at the airport, taking his pay in flight time. “My first official flight instruction was on November 22, 1962, in a Cessna 172.” On his sixteenth birthday in 1964, Parker soloed a Cessna 150 and 182 under the watchful eyes of both his instructor and his girlfriend and future wife.

By late 1973, Parker had obtained advanced pilot certificates while working in St. Louis when he heard the airport board back home was looking for a manager. Parker sent his résumé and in February 1974, he became airport manager.

Working with a progressive airport board, Parker made the airport an attractive and functional facility. He added mechanic certificates to his repertoire of aviation skills and later became an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner.

Parker has helped the airport board grow the airport into one of the state’s largest general aviation airports. It features a 6,200-foot runway and parallel taxiway with localizer and GPS instrument approaches, T-hangars, and a large ramp. The terminal building is currently under expansion. “It is an economic development tool second to none and a model for the entire GA community,” Parker says of the airport.

Parker keeps the facility as neat as a pin, right down to the fresh yellow paint on the chocks hung tidily next to the fueling facility where pilots can buy 100LL, Jet-A, and auto fuel. The airport services all of general aviation—from trainers practicing touch-and-goes to corporate jets serving local industries.

To see the benefits of steady airport management, one only has to look at a nearby county’s airport. It started out much like the Murray airport, but languished through a series of managers and failed fixed-base operations.

Parker has resisted the pilot’s siren song of bigger, faster, higher, and instead stayed close to home and nurtured an airport to near perfection. Airport board chairman Jimmy Fain says of Parker, “We’re proud to have him. He’s our first impression. Johnny knows where every wire goes to every light on the airport. I don’t know how we’ll ever replace him.”