You can hear a smile in Maurice Songy’s voice, happy that he’s back in Louisiana now working as the new executive director of Acadiana Regional Airport, after the year-and-a-half- long search to fill the position ended with his hiring in late May. For him, it’s right up there with having sat in President Obama’s chair in Air Force One. (We’ll get to that later.)
An industry executive with nearly 20 years’ experience, “Moe,” as he prefers to be called, has overseen several aspects of aviation in his career, including management, security, airports and aerospace. Just before the Plaquemine native returned to Acadiana he was vice president of operations at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority. There, he was involved in key projects such as the construction of two corporate hangars, along with a facility for the aviation service company West Star. During his earlier years in Louisiana, he was aviation program manager at Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, where, among other responsibilities, he helped design computer programs used in prioritizing aviation projects. Later, he was Manager of Safety and Operations at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport.
His duties at Acadiana Regional will be managing the staff and day-to-day operations along with the commercial leases, as well as dealing with the FAA, marketing the airport and taking it to the next level. Another lesser-known role of an airport director is acting as an incident commander, setting up a protocol for emergency response and distress.
Moe arrives at one of the most economically challenging times in the history of the state’s oil and gas industry, yet with a glass half-full attitude says, “I’ve worked in the oil industry before and the pendulum will swing back.”
While he has a deep understanding of aviation, Moe has an even greater awareness of the airport’s role as an important driver for economic development.
Acadiana Regional provides general aviation and non-scheduled commercial service, with the largest contributor to passengers, Bristow, flying workers to and from offshore rigs. Light jets also utilize the airport for on-demand business travel.
Located just north of U.S. Highway 90, in Iberia Parish, Acadiana Regional is a fully instrumented airfield standing out among others in the state with its 8,002-foot long, 200-foot wide runway. Made of concrete, the runway can support aircrafts the likes of the Antonov An-124, once the world’s heaviest cargo plane. The airport also features direct rail access, a rail-to-truck offloading facility, and a 5,000-foot lighted water runway for amphibious aircrafts – “The only one west of the Mississippi,” adds Moe pridefully.
According to Air Traffic Control, just over 30,000 landings were recorded at the airport from 2017-2018. The airport director says some 1,500 of those were military landings, either practicing flights or stopping to fill up at the military fuel facility on the airport’s campus.
There are over 100 hangars on the airport campus rented to individuals and corporations that include major tenants such as Avex, a leader in aviation exterior painting; Bristow, a helicopter charter service; Aggreko, providing equipment rentals; and Carbo Ceramics, a manufacturer of innovative products.
While many airports eventually become landlocked, Acadiana Regional is at the unique advantage of having 2,300 acres of property, which Moe says allows much room for development, an opportunity he’d like to pursue for a possible industry park.
The airport offers a venue for socials and after-hours meetings. Thinking creatively, Moe says, “I could see the potential in holding fundraisers at the hangars or putting air crafts on display, as have been done at other airports.”
In other plans for development, Moe is now involved in looking at several sites being considered for the new air rescue and fire-fighting station to be constructed sometime between late 2021 and early 2022.
Airport Authority Chairman, Pat Norris, welcomes Moe saying, “If there’s anything positive that could come during the time of COVID, it was the hiring of Moe Songy. He is an asset to our airport and in the short time he’s been here he has worked well with our employees. We’re excited to have him.”
Describing his staff as “hard working and very dedicated,” Moe says the employees have made the transition very smooth. “I can’t say enough about them,” he says.
As is the case for most in the aviation industry, Moe’s love for airplanes began as a boy. “I’ve always wanted to be a pilot,” he recalls. “After getting laid off from work in my early twenties, I remember the day I made up my mind: I saw a TV commercial about becoming an airline pilot. I eventually got my private pilot’s license and then went on to Northeast Louisiana University for my aviation degree. Working as a ticket agent while attending college gave me the opportunity to talk to many pilots, which, in the end, made me realize that an aviator’s lifestyle wasn’t for me. So, I decided to pursue the aviation management side of the airport industry.”
In his career, he says he’s flown into Acadiana Regional many times and loved it, never imagining he’d work there. “This airport is a valuable asset to the community. Besides returning to Louisiana, it’s the potential for growth that excited me about taking this job,” says Moe.
His first impressions of New Iberia are of - you guessed it - the food and the people. “They are so friendly and took me and my wife under their wings. I’ve never had people help me get established into a community to this extent. It’s been seven and a half years since we’ve had that, and it made me realize how much I missed it!”