September 12, 2023
Aviation passions came natural for Pieter Miller, growing up where flight is a big deal.
“My dad (Douglas Miller) was an aviation enthusiast. I spent a lot of time at the Salina airport,” he said.
The influence was so intense that as a young lad, Pieter developed a strategy to satisfy his own soaring curiosities.
“I grew up trying to bum rides from local pilots,” he said. “I was willing to wash their airplanes if they would give me a ride.”
Miller’s plan worked on a number of occasions.
But while the interest never waned, life took him in a slightly different direction — for awhile.
Miller is soon returning to where it all began, this time as the deputy executive director of the Salina Airport Authority, working under longtime executive director, Tim Rogers.
A private pilot, Miller has served 14 years as the Hutchinson Regional Airport manager, 15 total for the City of Hutchinson.
“Hutchinson is where my house is, and Salina is where my home is,” he said. “I’m happy to be coming back.”
Miller is scheduled to start Oct. 2, and Rogers said his talents will be used immediately during a busy time.
“Pieter’s skill set is unique and necessary for the amount of new construction and development that is scheduled to occur at the Salina Regional Airport and Industrial Center,” he said. “It’s a busy place and there is a lot going on at one time.”
- The Hollywood-based Pure Imagination Labs is joining forces with Kansas State University’s Salina Campus, Salina Airport Authority, and the State of Kansas, to build a 58,000 square-feet, $41 million Studio and Learning Center, dubbed K-AIRES Center. The acronym stands for Kansas Advanced Immersive Research for Emerging Systems. The Salina Airport Authority will build the K-AIRES Center and lease the facility to the State of Kansas.
- Construction of multiple 98,000 square-feet maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) hangars on the Salina Airport’s north ramp development site.
- With a $3.325 million state grant, announced in late June, the SAA, in partnership with the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, Salina Community Economic Development Organization, K-State Salina, and Salina Area Technical College, will establish the Aviation Innovation and Maintenance Center, to recruit and train aviation maintenance workers.
- The $7.5 million rehabilitation of the Salina Airport’s crosswind Runway.
- The $12 million expansion of the M.J. Kennedy Air Terminal to support scheduled air service growth.
- Guiding the remedial action phase of the $70 million Former Schilling Air Force Base cleanup project.
“Pieter will assume a major role in these projects,” Rogers said. “He will also lead new Airport and Airport Industrial growth initiatives."
As he prepares, researches and studies for the transition to Salina, Miller said he is receiving a steady stream of emails and keeps a notebook of questions concerning projects such as scheduled air service development. Miller said he is also aware of the community efforts to complete the Former Schilling Air Force base environmental cleanup work.
“I have been involved in Hutch with landfill and environmental cleanup projects and I’m becoming familiar with issues at the Schilling Project,” Miller said. “I really haven’t had to deal with scheduled air service here. There’s certainly a learning curve, but I’ll be working with Salina’s air service consultant Gary Foss to help me get up to speed.”
He is familiar with the Federal Aviation Administration’s airport certification regulations that apply to the Salina Airport.
Looking back, Miller wasn’t necessarily looking for a career in the aviation industry, but fate kept guiding him back to the tarmac.
The 1993 Salina Central graduate completed a parks and recreation degree in 1999 from Kansas State University. He worked for a couple of engineering firms, and while helping build a new taxiway at the Hutchinson airport, city leaders offered him a job.
“They asked if I would be interested in managing the airport for them, and after about a year, I figured out this would be my career path. I’ve enjoyed almost everything about it,” Miller said.
His wife, Tammy, works as a radiation therapist at Chalmers Cancer Center in Hutchinson. They have two children, Natalie, 14, a high school freshman, and Owen, 11, in the sixth grade.
Working in Salina, Miller said he is looking forward to being closer to family. His mother, Rebecca Miller-Pyle and stepfather Carl Pyle are retired and live in Salina. His father died 11 years ago. Miller’s sister, Elizabeth Duggins, teaches at Cottonwood Elementary School in Salina.
Pieter Miller loves the outdoors, including hiking, camping, backpacking, canoeing, and boating, with a “serious interest in Jeeps and four-wheel adventures.”
“I have a desire to learn golf,” he said. “It seems to be a pretty popular thing to do around here.”