Jim Szczesniak confirmed as director of aviation for Houston Airports


Jim Szczesniak confirmed as director of aviation for Houston Airports


Houston City Council on Wednesday unanimously confirmed Jim Szczesniak as director of aviation for Houston Airports, overseeing all daily operations at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, William P. Hobby Airport, Ellington Airport and the growing Houston Spaceport, also at Ellington.

Szczesniak has held the position on an interim basis since early February. He was named to the post by Houston Mayor John Whitmire after the resignation of longtime director Mario Diaz, amid a broader overhaul of city leadership which began shortly after Whitmire was sworn in on Jan. 1.

In a statement, Whitmire commended Szczesniak’s «proven track record and visionary leadership.»

«Our airport system is part of the nerve system of this great city and you cannot take it for granted,» Whitmire said. «I stand ready to join Mr. Szczesniak in a united endeavor and I believe that greater days are in front of us.»

Szczesniak, a licensed commercial aircraft pilot and aircraft mechanic, joined Houston Airports in February 2022 as the system’s chief operating officer. Over the past two years, travel through IAH and Hobby has rebounded from the pandemic, reaching record passenger volumes in 2023, while the airport system continues work on major projects such as the $1.4 billion International Terminal Redevelopment Program at IAH, which broke ground in 2019 and is scheduled for completion this year.

“I am humbled, honored, and excited to lead Houston Airports into a new era that includes the growth and modernization of our airports as we endeavor to connect even more of the world to Houston, a world-class global gateway known for safe and clean facilities and our Houston-friendly hospitality,» Szczesniak said in a statement after the City Council vote.

He previously spent a decade with the Chicago Department of Aviation, becoming deputy commissioner for O’Hare and Midway airports, and served as the director for the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska.

In the latter role, Szczesniak helped coordinate the arrival of a cargo plane carrying 201 U.S. State Department officials leaving Wuhan province after COVID-19 lockdowns began in January 2020, the first flight of COVID evacuees to land in the United States. That feat of coordination was documented in an episode of the Smithsonian Channel’s «Ice Airport Alaska.»