Employee Spotlight: Bill Viste

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Employee Spotlight Bill Viste, Project Coordinator, Division of Aeronautics

Bill Viste grew up watching planes fly in and out of Chicago’s Midway Airport from his Burbank home. Today, his pursuit of all things aviation has taken off at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Viste earned his degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before landing at IDOT in 2002 as an airport planning engineer and environmental specialist. In this position, he learned about airports, the Airport Improvement Program and the important role aviation plays in the overall transportation network.

While Viste’s current role as project coordinator for the Bureau of Airport Engineering in IDOT’s Division of Aeronautics has him overseeing projects such as the South Suburban Airport and Bult Field, he is well-known for using drones to help the agency gain a higher-level perspective for its many construction projects and initiatives.

“When it comes to drones, I really enjoy being exposed to all the different things IDOT does,” Viste said. “I’ve had the opportunity to assist many areas of the department all across the state. I’ve been able to work with maintenance yards, design, construction documentation, environmental, operations, legal and more.”

In addition, Viste serves as one of IDOT’s liaisons to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency State Emergency Operations Center. In this role, he helps coordinate aviation-related assets during disaster or emergency situations.

Viste also holds licenses as a private pilot (manned aircraft) and remote pilot (unmanned aircraft) from the Federal Aviation Administration. Here are some of his thoughts about his job at IDOT.

Q. What’s your favorite part of the job?

A. I like being able to work with airports and seeing the diversity within the aviation system – each landing facility is unique and there is quite a variety of aircraft, pilots and airport staff out there.

Q. How did you get started working with drones?

A. I’ve always been interested in aircraft and all things aviation. I had been keeping a close eye on industry trends and projections, particularly as electronics and battery technology were making significant improvements during the early 2010s. I pushed my management to purchase a couple test units to explore firsthand how drones could potentially benefit IDOT.

Q. Is there anything about your department that people might not know?

A. The Division of Aeronautics may not be the largest or most visible part of IDOT, but aviation is a critical component of the overall transportation network and the economy. Airports are owned and operated by local airport sponsors. IDOT partners with these airports and the FAA to ensure the needs of the flying public are being met.

Road construction is obvious to the average citizen, but airports are critical infrastructure, too, and similarly require maintenance and improvements to enhance safety and improve efficiency. Because a lot of airport work takes place in a secured area, it’s often unnoticed. With aviation, the stakes can be high, and we do our best to help make sure construction and safety standards are met or exceeded.

Millions of people fly to – and through – Illinois airports each year. Illinois has around 80 or so publicly owned airports that receive Airport Improvement Program funding, but somewhere around 800 landing facilities in total when private facilities are included! And airports are not just for airlines. Aviation in Illinois includes air cargo, corporate and general aviation, agricultural spraying, hospital heliports, ultralight and other recreational flying, and more.

Q. How have your previous experiences prepared you to take on your role at IDOT?

A. I’ve always had a passion for aviation, so being able to work on the airport side of that industry has been a great experience. My degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering helps me understand the reasoning behind airport design, and being a pilot – and a user – of the airport system definitely makes me appreciate just how much effort goes into keeping airports and the aviation system safe and operational.