Leaders in Aviation.

Meet OK3 President, Nadim AbuHaidar, and Heber City Airport Manager, Travis Biggs.

Nadim AbuHaidar is the owner of OK3 Air, the sole Fixed Base Operator (FBO), fuel provider, and FAA-certified aircraft maintenance provider at Heber Valley Airport. Nadim’s mother is from New York, and his father is from Lebanon — they met, got married, and raised a family in Beirut, a kaleidoscope city of diverse personalities, politics, cultures, and religions. Nadim’s father was in the aviation cargo transportation business, and his father-in-law ran operations for Pan American Airways — he even organized the first US Presidential airlift flight, flying President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt to Casablanca, Morocco, to meet with UK Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, aboard Clipper I.

Nadim was born in 1966 in Beirut, the primary business center and political-cultural capital of Lebanon. However, Lebanon in the 1970s became increasingly divided along religious, ethnic, and political lines — a spiderweb of intersecting interests and parties, most armed and dangerous. Tensions led to the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990); this civil war and invasion forced Nadim’s family to immigrate to the United States in 1982, where Nadim attended a boarding school in Connecticut. Nadim excelled as a student, athlete, and student pilot. He learned aerobatic flying and worked with the famous husband-wife aerobatic duo, the French Connection. Nadim earned a BA in 1988, then spent a winter skiing and working in Park City, Utah. While in Utah, he applied and was selected for the US Navy Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, FL. Nadim earned his commission as an Ensign in April 1990 and went to US Navy basic flight school and advanced jet training in Texas. With his Wings of Gold, Nadim was selected for F/A-18 Hornet fighter training at El Toro, CA, the US Marine Corp F-18 Replacement Air Group (RAG). His first fleet operational assignment in Hornets was aboard the USS Carl Vincon, where he completed two deployments in the Persian Gulf and South Indian Ocean. Returning to Lemoore Naval Air Station in 1996, he flew Hornets at Miramar, CA, and Fallon Naval Air Station, NV – completing Top Gun Class in April of 1997. His next assignment was training the fleet at the Strike Fighter Weapons School at NAS Lemoore, CA — his job was to fly with and evaluate the best fighter pilots in the US Navy. On a side note, the F-18 Hornet, and F/A-18 Super Hornet, are built by Boeing Defense in St Louis, MO. Boeing had purchased McDonald Douglas, the same manufacturer that built the two USAF aircraft this author flew in the US Air Force, the F-4 Phantom and the F-15 Eagle. One main difference between Naval and USAF fighters is that Nadim flew his aircraft from a moving aircraft carrier’s short deck, often at night in raging seas. No thanks, this writer was happy enough flying from long runways solidly planted on terra firma!

Nadim separated from the Navy in 1999 and moved back to Park City, Utah. An avid skier and pilot, he met and taught flying with Dave McCoy, owner of Wasatch Aero Service at Heber Valley Airport.

In 1989, the runway was lengthened to 6800’, allowing jet aircraft operations. Nadim bought Wasatch Aero Services from Dave McCoy and helped develop not only a first-class FAA-certified flight school but an aircraft fuel and maintenance service business as well. In 2003, Nadim along with Greg Peterson, another ex-USN fighter pilot, organized and put on the first Heber Valley Aerobatic Air Show and Aircraft Fly-In. Nadim renamed Wasatch Aero Service to OK3 Air in 2005. OK3 is a term used by USN fighter pilots — if your jet’s tail hook catches the #3 wire when landing on an aircraft carrier this usually results in an “OK” (both a grade from the air boss and a safe landing). OK3 Air caters to private and charter business aviation, fixed wing, and rotary aircraft, and both jets and turboprops. Additionally, OK3 serves smaller general aviation aircraft. OK3 is also the only Pilatus PC-12 turboprop service center in Utah. Nadim prides himself on treating his employees and customers with “top gun” service and support.

Travis Biggs is the Heber Valley Airport Manager, a demanding, multi-role responsibility he has excelled in full-time since 2021. Travis hails from the historic mountain gold mining area of Nevada County, California. Famous for rich gold strikes in the late 1800s and infamous for the ill-fated Donner pioneer expedition — many of whom perished in the terrible winter of 1846. Travis panned for gold in the Yuba River as a kid, graduated High School in 1995, and worked with his father as a general contractor in the area. He served a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chile and then studied at Utah Valley University. While at UVU, Travis took an introductory flight course and fell in love with flying — switching from pre-med studies to aviation, to become a professional pilot. He earned his Private Pilot’s license at Provo Airport in 2000, before they built the control tower there. After terrorists hijacked airliners and attacked America on 9/11, Travis, unable to get a loan to continue the expensive Pro Pilot program, switched majors to Airport Management at UVU. To earn money, Travis traveled back and forth to Nevada City, where he worked in his Dad’s flooring business and obtained his Instrument pilot’s rating.

In 2008, with his BA in Airport Management, pilot’s ratings, and a background in construction/contracting, Travis met his mentor, Kevin Smith, the Truckee Tahoe Airport Manager. On Kevin’s advice, Travis began volunteering at Heber Valley Airport and entered a Masters of Public Administration program at BYU in 2014. He still commuted on weekends back to Nevada County to earn money in the flooring business. Travis got married back in California and now has four children. In 2016, he moved his family to Heber City and became the assistant airport manager for Dennis Godfrey at Heber Valley Airport. Travis earned his MPA in 2017 and took over as the part-time airport manager when Dennis left; Travis also served as a part-time Heber City manager. At the end of 2020, he accepted the offer to become the full-time airport manager at the fast-growing Heber Valley Airport, where Nadim AbuHaidar was helping run the Wasatch Aero Service and a very busy Part 141 pilot training/aircraft maintenance program and charter flying business, in addition to performing as an aerobatic pilot.

Heber Valley has become the busiest high-elevation airport in Utah. Which begs the question: Exactly what does an Airport Manager do? Travis has a multi-hatted position, ensuring that the airport safely handles everything from private jet charter services to hot air balloon operations. He represents the diverse interests of local and out-of-town pilots, Nadim’s FBO (OK3 Air), the Heber City Council, citizens, and myriad federal, state, and local government and non-government entities. From snow removal, runway and taxiway repair and lighting, airport fence building/maintenance, hangar construction, airport equipment maintenance, facility engineering, and airport emergency response, to name a few of his responsibilities. Travis is a very busy guy. His budget is always tight, so much so that he must recruit and train volunteers and part-time hourly employees to get the job done. Travis continually interacts with government entities, including the Federal Aviation Agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). Travis’ ongoing training involves university courses, American Association of Airport Executives certifications, and seminars/meetings with AAAE and AOPA research programs. He also works with the National Business Association of Airports on overall airport business management awareness. The finance world of running an airport is a nearly full-time job in and of itself — budgeting, grant applications, contracting, following federal and state financial regulations, etc. Legal considerations include working with state, city, county, and private attorneys representing various government and private interests pertaining to the airport and its operations. Wildlife management is one interest — keeping birds, animals, and pilots safe on airport property and the air above is an important responsibility; preparing and updating daily notices to Airmen, a federal requirement, is just one more duty in his “quiver of airport safety arrows.”

Wrapping things together, Travis is also the HVA Public Relations campaign manager. One issue is the Heber Valley public’s concern about future air operations in the valley. While HVA will not see commercial airline activity in the foreseeable future due to airspace and terrain safety limitations, we are experiencing growing private jet and general aviation operations. Another aspect of HVA PR activity is the annual hosting of airshows/fly-ins, winter and summer festivals (think Snow Fest, snow sculptures, smores, skijoring (horses towing skiers) and night balloon glows in winter and Taste of Heber foodie shows, art murals on hangars and hot air balloon rides in summer). One HVA tenant is the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), which fosters aerospace history education by rebuilding and maintaining aircraft from as far back as World War II. The CAF museum at HVA is a fantastic showplace of aviation history and ongoing CAF operations for youth and adults alike. Travis is also in the planning stage for an event he calls Plane Air, with student and adult art and writing competitions along the theme of All Things Aviation.

As for the eclectic and near-impossible job of being an airport manager, I leave you this humorous quote from an essay by Ben West, Airport Manager at Warrensburg, Missouri: “Airport Managers are always wrong…even when they are right! They are usually the last person to be consulted on decisions affecting the airport… but the first to get the blame when those decisions fail!” I also reference a funny Airport Manager Wanted, Job Description by James Smith, Deputy Airport Manager at Huntington Tri- State Airport in West Virginia: “Must have extensive background in aviation — must not be too old or too young but ‘old enough to know better and young enough to enjoy it.’ Must have engineering experience and practical know-how in all phases of building roads, runways, taxiways, hangars, fuel installations, electrical, gas-line, sewer and water systems, and all other utility systems…” The job description goes on to add all the intricate financial, legal, political, psychological, public relations, engineering, zoning and other understanding skills an airport manager must have or quickly learn to do the job satisfactorily.

Luckily for HVA, we have Travis Biggs and Nadim AbuHaidar working together to run a premier, growing airport and FBO that serves the entire Heber Valley and Park City.