As executive director of Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF), Rochester, New York, native Michael A. Giardino and wife Janice are rediscovering life in Hampton Roads.
“In 1966, I was sitting at the airport in the lap of my dad, who was taking flying lessons,” he says of his early love of aviation.
Giardino earned his Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology, planning to work for the National Weather Service. Instead, he entered the U. S. Navy and flew an H46 helicopter with night vision goggles out of Fort Eustis’ Felker Army Airfield and other Virginia Peninsula civilian fields.
During his 26-year career, Giardino earned a Master of Arts degree in national security and strategic studies at the U.S. Naval War College and completed U.S. Naval Post Graduate School. He held leadership positions in Ramstein, Germany; Kabul and Kandahar, Afghanistan; and at the Pentagon.
Giardino holds the distinction of being a Mishap-free Naval Aviator, was an instrument check pilot and Night Vision Device (NVC) Instructor Pilot with more than 2,540 flight hours. He was a squadron maintenance officer, responsible for 14 aircraft and 250 personnel leading seagoing units, flying dangerous missions in harsh environments. He was also a nuclear weapons safety officer. And he was awarded two defense Meritorious Service Medals for service in Afghanistan, the Air Medal and the Humanitarian Medal as well as earning the Secretary of the Navy’s Safety Award.
Giardino met his wife at their 10-year high school reunion. She embraced Navy life, was president of the spouse’s club and ran many charitable events. When their family moved back to Rochester after separating from the Navy, Janice was able to spend a lot of time with her mom before she died.
Son Kyle, 28, was in the U.S. Marine Corps Infantry for four years and lives in Key West.
“We both have been to Afghanistan, but Kyle was infantry and I was a staff officer,” Giardino says.
Son Dominic, 23, is in the Netherlands at The Royal Conservatory of The Hague on a Fulbright scholarship. He plays late 1700s-style clarinet.
In 1999’s hurricane Floyd, Giardino made 110 helicopter rescues in the Tar River Valley in North Carolina.
“It was the best flying I ever did,” he says.
While in Hampton Roads with the Navy, Giardino was assigned to Norfolk Naval Air Station. He served on the USS Eisenhower, USS Saipan, USS Nassau, USS Savannah and worked as Military Sealift Command with the JFK Battle Group.
Giardino‘s last assignment in the Navy was as executive officer for Naval Air Station Key West.
Before assuming the position of executive director of Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in early November, Giardino was director of aviation with the Monroe County Airport Authority for the Greater Rochester International Airport.
“Working for the Peninsula Airport Commission allows me to continue my career and passion for working around airplanes,” Giardino says of his current position. “One of the things I bring to
this job is that I’ve visited a lot of places.”
In his travels he takes photos with his phone of restrooms, shelving, exits, advertising and parking lots to name a few, for the purpose of bringing positive things to his own airport.
“Whenever you travel, you always bring something back,” says Jessica Wharton, director of air service, marketing and public relations who does the same thing.
Patrick Henry Field (PHF) employs 90 workers, offering service on American Airlines to Charlotte and Philadelphia, and Delta Air Lines to Atlanta, both providing connections worldwide. The airport offers onsite shuttle service, free baggage carts and Wi-Fi. The airport recently expanded to consolidate two security checkpoints into one, improving TSA efficiency. It also added the new Take PHFlight restaurant and bar, a video wall and ample seating with charging stations.
Giardino enjoys playing and watching all sports. His favorite football team is the Buffalo Bills, and the Buffalo Sabres is his hockey team. He and Janice take walks and garden. After three years in Ramstein, the Giardinos enjoy traveling Europe. They’ve cruised the Baltic, the Mediterranean, the Nile and Scandinavia.
“The airport commission is excited to have Mr. Giardino lead, manage and develop our airport for future success,” says George Wallace, Peninsula Airport Commission chairman. “We are confident [he] will assist the commission to exceed expectations of the State Aviation Board and our regional communities.”
“Challenges and solving problems give me the greatest satisfaction in my work life,” Giardino says. “No matter how big or small a challenge is, from flight diversions to small facility issues, finding solutions is my passion.”
TO THE POINT
Michael A. Giardino, C.M., executive director, Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport
Address: 900 Bland Blvd., Ste. G,
Newport News, VA 23602-4319
Phone: 757-877-0221 ext. 224