5 questions w Nick Brown

Nick Brown, CM serves as an Aviation Planning Practice Lead at CMT. He has 15 years of airport planning experience in airfield, airspace, terminal, air cargo, and facilities planning and has been involved in a variety of projects worldwide at airports including Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG); Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito, Ecuador; Kansas City International Airport (MCI); Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM) in Mumbai, India; Purdue University Aerospace District; Mexico City International (New Airport); John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK); and El Dorado International Airport (BOG) in Bogotá, Colombia. Nick holds a Bachelor of Science in aviation management from Purdue University, as well as an FAA Commercial Pilot’s license with Instrument and Seaplane Ratings and an FAA Remote Pilot’s License (sUAS). He serves as a member of the Purdue University School of Aviation and Transportation Technology Industry Advisory Board and is a member of the Airport Commission for Middletown Regional Airport – Hook Field in Middletown, Ohio. Nick joined CMT in 2019 and is based in our Cincinnati, OH, office.


What kind of work do you find most fulfilling?  

I get the most fulfillment from those opportunities I have to build strong relationships with clients – relationships in which there is complete trust, in which I’ve demonstrated to the client that they can depend on me, and in which I’m the first one they call when they have a question. Those deep relationships take time, often over the course of many projects, and require the establishment of rapport that goes beyond the surface level and extends to getting to know clients as people.

What industry groups do you participate in?

My greatest involvement has been with the Airports Consultants Council (ACC). For the past three years, I was heavily involved in the committee for the Airport Planning, Design, and Construction Symposium, which is one of the largest technical conferences of the year in our industry.

First, I was responsible for leading the programming for the conference’s planning track: coming up with sessions, securing moderators, and approving all the speakers. I was then asked to serve as Vice Chair of the conference, followed by taking on the Chair role for the most recent symposium. As Chair, I was responsible for all five tracks of the conference programming, plenary sessions, and more. These were all great opportunities to get to know a lot of people in the industry and to be more engaged in the work of ACC.

In addition, I’m involved with the Purdue University School of Aviation and Transportation Technology Industry Advisory Board. The advisory board’s group of industry professionals meets with faculty one to two times a year and hold roundtable discussions and breakout sessions that help inform the school’s curricular content. We talk about the curriculum as it exists today, identify what needs to be updated, and discuss the types of skills students will need before they graduate, which is really rewarding to be a part of. Some of the changes stemming from our involvement have included requiring at least one internship for graduation, as well as the adoption of advanced Excel courses that enable students to work with and manipulate data. I appreciate the opportunity to be involved with the work of the board, and it’s also just a really nice way to keep in touch with colleagues in other parts of the aviation industry.

What is your approach to building relationships with clients?

First, read the room with the goal of understanding what may help the client feel most comfortable. The way of exhibiting your personable side will take different shapes – whether it’s not taking yourself too seriously or being more formal – depending on the clients themselves and the setting, but the ultimate goal is putting client comfort first.

In addition, work to understand what drives the client and what their motivations are. Understand where their priorities are related to the work, and over time, make an effort to understand what they are interested in outside of work, as well. Connecting and bonding over professional as well as personal interests can help with communication and alignment.

What roles do flexibility and resiliency play in aviation planning?

Over the past three or so years, we’ve really proven the importance of flexibility: We were just going along, everything was great, and then things came to a screeching halt. This happened to varying degrees based on the type of airport, the location, and so forth. And on the other side of the coin, some airports actually had gains during COVID and had to accelerate their plans.

As aviation planning professionals, it’s vital that we “future-proof” our recommendations by providing off-ramps, options, and space that allow for clients to pivot and change direction. We want to keep as many doors open as we can for clients, for as long as possible. This resiliency is critical to providing value to the client.

How can strong aviation planning contribute to a community’s quality of place?

One of the greatest opportunities to improve a community’s quality of place via aviation planning is through those projects that include the passenger terminal or the general aviation terminal. The terminal is what the public passes through and sees, feels, and experiences; it’s the part of aviation that most people can most relate to.

When we’re involved with terminal projects, it’s our opportunity and responsibility to help the client shape a welcoming, authentic “front door” to a particular community. The terminal is the first experience people have when they get off a plane, and the more the terminal speaks to the local culture and what the passengers are going to see and experience once they leave the airport, the more we’re helping contribute to that strong sense of place.