Kevin Otten, Aviation Program Manager

March 14, 2023

  • Kevin Otten supervises a team of 19 providing maintenance and logistics support for three Boeing 737s for the Department of Energy/Office of Secure Transportation. The 737s, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, transport nuclear materials and personnel. The team has won top DOE aviation honors for three consecutive years.
  • Raised in Illinois, he worked for a newspaper before catching the flying bug. With encouragement from his wife, Wendy, he became a commercial pilot and earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation management from Lewis University. He’s inspected pipelines, flown for Zantop International Airlines, Kalitta Airways and USA Jet Airlines, and led training for USA Jet, among other aviation roles. He and Wendy have four children and seven grandchildren.
  • Before joining the King Aerospace team in 2019, he led a similar program for USA Jet Airlines and then worked as an analyst supporting the DOE nuclear weapons program. Otten’s name came up repeatedly as the right person to lead the team when King was seeking the DOE contract.
  • Drafty and cold in Illinois winters, Otten designed, patented and sold wing intake vent covers for Cessna aircraft.

Why’d you choose to join King Aerospace and why do you stick with it?

It was unusual for the owner of a company to come out and interview me versus me having to go to them, which Jerry King did with the DOE program. And then in that whole interview process, talking to Jerry and learning about his Cornerstone Principles, it was a no-brainer. The way I managed just dovetailed with the values that King Aerospace has. He wants to make sure you take care of your team members, and I don’t think of myself as a manager, but more like a bandleader, with everybody playing in tune so it sounds good.

Kevin Otten, right, with members of the Albuquerque team, from left, Director of Maintenance Jim Burton, Art Torres and Symone Sanchez. They’re holding an anti-icing valve.

What makes King Aerospace and its culture special?

I’ve never worked for a place where the owner and founder takes the time to write a handwritten birthday or thank-you card if we’ve had a success, like one for the awards. Or if one of our people or their wife or spouse is in the hospital, he’ll write and say, “Hey, is there anything we can do?” or “We’re thinking about you.” That’s incredible to me. Jerry instills adherence to the Cornerstone Principles in the company mission. He’s demanding but upfront about what he expects and that’s a plus. There are no gray areas. He wants excellence. He wants 100% from everybody. He wants 100% customer satisfaction.

What does it mean to earn and wear the wings?

It means that we represent the best of the best. We’re all proud here to represent a company that expects the best from everybody and recognizes everyone for their successes.

What does servant leadership mean to you?

You have respect for everybody and work to meet their needs as best you can. You can’t please everybody, but my door’s always open. And everybody knows they can come over, have a cup of coffee, have a doughnut, just shoot the breeze or discuss something they would like to see changed. You don’t just blow them off. You let them know that you brought it up to the company or to the government, and even if it can’t be changed, they know they were taken seriously.

Tell me about your favorite King moment?

Deciding to join the company was the best decision I’ve probably made career-wise in 50-plus years of working. Leaving something that was cozy and comfortable – working a desk job for the Department of Energy – was no small decision. In addition to learning about King’s mission and approach, another thing that made it worthwhile is that almost everybody to a person that I hired back in 2007 is still here. That made my decision much easier. When King Aerospace came to Albuquerque to give an open house and said we’re looking for a general manager, those people spoke up and said, “Well, Kevin is just a mile away on the base, call him.” And, you know, the rest is history.

Kevin Otten has sold the Cessna he flew for many years but plans to keep piloting gliders.