Getting to Know Airport Director Karl Von Hagel

Karl Von Hagel stands on the tarmac at Ohio State Airport
Von Hagel

This installment of the College of Engineering’s “Getting to Know” leadership series features Karl Von Hagel, director of The Ohio State University Airport.

An accredited airport executive and commercial-rated instrument pilot, Von Hagel joined Ohio State from the Cobb County Department of Transportation in Atlanta, Georgia, where he served as deputy director.

As Ohio State’s airport director, he will oversee both strategic development and day-to-day business operations. His responsibilities include ensuring that the airport is positioned to provide quality service to customers, tenants and other users. Organizationally, his charge extends from airfield operations to fixed-based operations, including the implementation of associated capital projects.

College of Engineering: What excites you most about your role as director of Ohio State’s Airport?

Karl Von Hagel: Ohio State University Airport is a special airport. It not only has the activity that you would find at any other major general aviation airport in the country—to include personal and corporate general aviation activity that supports the local and national economy—but it’s also associated with a major tier one university. This provides a unique situation where students, alumni, staff and faculty are engaged in the training, research, and education of our future aviation professionals. There’s a pride and energy that reverberates around the airport that you will not find at just any local airport.

CoE: What do you see as the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity?

Von Hagel: There is so much opportunity to serve more customers. Not only more flight students, but also more general public. The demand for aviation services has outpaced the supply. Finding ways to assemble the puzzle pieces to address the needs of our customers will be a great challenge in this post-Covid environment. There’s a need for more training aircraft, more skilled personnel, more hangar space and for improved, upgraded infrastructure.

CoE: What’s the most impactful job you’ve had?

Von Hagel: I was the airport manager of a general aviation airport in Atlanta for 28 years. I was involved in developing the airport from a small suburban, uncontrolled recreational airport, into a major international, corporate aviation controlled facility. It grew from a $12 million annual economic impact to a $130 million annual economic impact supporting over 1,000 jobs in the community. This growth allowed me to recognize opportunities and deal with a large variety of stakeholders to complete substantial projects. Learning to deal with people and understand motivations impacted who I am today and how I manage.

CoE: Is there an accomplishment or accolade you’re most proud of?

Von Hagel: Becoming airport director of Ohio State University Airport. My aviation career began as a student at Ohio State. My first eight years of aviation employment were here. When I left for my next aviation job to advance my career, I expressed that I would return one day as airport director, half kiddingly. Who knew a flippant comment 35 years ago would come true? I hope that my most proud accomplishment is still to come and will be accomplished here at Ohio State Airport before I leave one day.

CoE: What is your favorite part of being a Buckeye?

Von Hagel: Community. No matter where you go in the U.S., you find the opportunity to OH-IO someone.

CoE: Do you have a favorite mentor?

Von Hagel: If you’re lucky, throughout your career you will have many mentors. Each for a different stage in your career. Each providing lessons to share with you to reach your next career goal. I don’t have a favorite, but I will say, some of the most valuable lessons I learned were from folks I didn’t really favor.

CoE: What are your favorite hobbies or interests outside of work?

Von Hagel: I have five grown daughters, a wonderful wife and six grandchildren. Family, sports and aviation are enough to keep me very busy.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications |

Category: College