Flight check

Flight check

Jim Zsebe, Eng ’90, knows flying the  friendly skies begins before buckling up.

Travelers park their cars, navigate terminals, delegate baggage, find food and entertainment, plug in at business suites, locate gates, and listen for boarding calls long before returning their tray tables to the upright position. And with each step they touch aspects of Zsebe’s work as airport engineer at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport.

Zsebe leads a team of engineers, construction coordinators and other personnel in maintaining the airport infrastructure according to FAA standards. He oversees systems from HVAC to water quality to lighting, and he manages critical upkeep from paving to remodeling. For projects that are too big to handle inside, Zsebe works with outside consultants.

Runways and taxiways are built to withstand air carriers that can weigh up to 750,000 pounds. “Field coordinators inspect each runway three times in a 24-hour period, looking at lighting, pavement conditions and markings,” Zsebe says.

It’s up to the engineering team to design, construct and modify the heavily used pavement and keep a vigilant eye on modernizing terminal architecture, such as the baggage claim building that was completed last July and was an update on a terminal built in 1984. “It all comes down to customer service,” he says. “Traveling is stressful enough; we do everything we can to make it easier on travelers.”

The diversity the airport offers, Zsebe says, makes for an intense and interesting job. “Every time I turn around it’s something new.” — Joni Moths Mueller


  1. Congratulations and good luck .I worked there as an engineer from 1958 to 1962 and then left for Phoenix Sky Harbor Intl. airport as the airport engineer at a growing airport for 28 years and retirement. Art Grochowski Engr ’49. Some day this summer when passing through I would like to meet you

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