SCSU Aviation Advisory Board


The Aviation Advisory Board consists of industry representatives who have graciously volunteered their time to provide professional and technical guidance to the SCSU Aviation Department. Board members have a wide variety of aviation related experiences ranging from professional flight, management, airport operations, corporate, and military service.


Mitch Kilian

Mitchell Kilian, Chair


Mitchell Kilian is Director of Governmental Affairs for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which owns and operates one of the nation’s largest airport systems. His responsibilities today include coordination of all state and federal legislative issues affecting MAC and its system of seven metro-area airports, including Minneapolis-St. Paul International. As a senior staff member of the MAC, Mr. Kilian assists the Executive Director in the development of policies, procedures and strategies to accomplish MAC’s organizational goals and objectives. Prior to becoming the Director of Governmental Affairs, Mr. Kilian held a variety

of positions with the MAC, including Manager of the Flying Cloud and Crystal Airports. Past practice includes Federal Aviation Administration Part 139 Regulations, Airside Operations at a Major International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration Part 150 Noise Programs, Airport Improvement Program Grant Eligibility, and General Aviation Airport Management. Since 1996, he has worked as an Adjunct Faculty Instructor for the aviation programs at St. Cloud State University and Minnesota State University Mankato. Current Boards and Committee memberships include: Greater Metropolitan Foreign Trade Zone Commission, Airports Council International Governmental Affairs Steering Group, Minnesota Council of Airports Governmental Affairs Committee, Chairman St. Cloud State University Aviation Program Advisory Board, and, Vice Chairman of the Ridgeview Medical Center Board of Directors. Mr. Kilian is a graduate of St. Cloud State University with a B.S. in Aviation and a Minor in Management.

Michaell Higgins

Michael Higgins, Member


Mike Higgins is the Director of Aircraft Sales for Exclusive Aviation, a division of Fargo Jet Center, Inc.  Based at the St. Paul Downtown airport, Exclusive Aviation offers a full line of piston and turbine aircraft brokerage services, is Cessna Aircraft Company’s authorized single-engine aircraft dealer for Minnesota, North Dakota and portions of western Wisconsin, and is also the Twin Cities newest Cessna Pilot Center for flight training.

Mike graduated from the University of North Dakota in December, 1996 with a B.S. in Aeronautical Studies and minor in Economics. In 1998 Mike accepted a position as

Owner Services Representative with Bombardier Aerospace’s Flexjet fractional ownership division.  Mike’s leadership qualities were quickly recognized as he received multiple promotions within the organization.  In his final role as Sales Associate, Southwest Region, Mike played a key role in selling shares of Bombardier’s Learjet and Challenger 604 aircraft. Mike joined Fargo Jet Center, Inc. in April, 2004 and began development of a new Cessna dealership under the Exclusive Aviation brand.  Since then, Exclusive Aviation has been recognized four times as a Cessna All-Star award dealer.  Mike has successfully developed a “community” of satisfied aircraft owners in the region, many of which have moved on to purchase multiple new Cessna aircraft. Exclusive Aviation is an active member of the aviation community.  Mike is in his fifth year as Treasurer on the board of the Minnesota Aviation Trades Association and is an active member of the Minnesota Business Aircraft Association and the North Dakota Business Aviation Association. Mike is a 2000+ hour Commercial pilot, with multi-engine, seaplane and CFII ratings.

William KingWilliam (Bill) King, Member


William King (Bill) grew up in Richfield, Minnesota, a suburb of the Minneapolis area, where he graduated from Richfield High School in 1975.  He attended Saint Cloud State University graduating with a double major in Political Science and Public Administration.  Upon graduation he spent twelve years working in the public sector as a City Manager and Business Development Analyst for various Cities throughout Minnesota before leaving the public sector for a career in the private business world. Bill was initially hired by the founders of Cirrus Design, Alan and Dale Klapmeier, in 1992 to assist in the relocation of the

young aviation Company’s business as well as develop a financial plan to allow for the future growth of the Company. Bill accepted the position with Cirrus anticipating a two-year commitment…  now over seventeen years later… the demands of the Company have taken him into many new arenas. Bill’s role at Cirrus now includes oversight of Administrative functions including the Departments of Air Safety, Facilities, and Intergovernmental Relations.  Cirrus is now the second largest aircraft manufacturer in the world by volume and continues to be an industry leader in both the design and manufacture of General Aviation products and services. While Bill is proud of the accomplishments achieved by Cirrus, he and Mary, his wife of twenty-eight years, are most proud of having raised two daughters, and now enjoys his newest role as a Grandfather.  He is an active instrument rated pilot and has a passion for education, aviation, aviation safety, business growth and development. 

Bill KovacBill Kovac, Member


Bill Kovac is an experienced aviation professional who has worked both in general and corporate aviation. Bill most recently spent 21 years working for Cessna Aircraft Company in marketing and direct aircraft sales. He has built his career and life around aviation. After earning his pilot's license at 17, Bill attended the Florida Institute of Technology (now Florida Tech) in Melbourne, FL. He graduated with a Bachelors degree in Air Commerce/Flight Technology and is an accomplished commercial and multi-

engine pilot with over 5000 hours logged. Following college Bill worked for multiple fixed base operators throughout the U.S. selling avionics and aircraft domestically and internationally--including the full Beech aircraft product line along with a variety of used aircraft. As an owner/operator, Bill has purchased, operated, improved, and sold more than ten single and multi-engine airplanes--from a Cessna 170 through a 400 series Cessna--as well as, Mooney and Beech aircraft. Bill is pleased to share that three of his five children are pilots who are also pursuing professional careers in aviation.

Janese ThatcherJanese Thatcher, Member


Janese Thatcher is Manager of the Aviation Education, Safety, and Training Section of MN Department of Transportation Aeronautics.  Her responsibilities are to direct, develop and implement programs and training to increase general aviation safety in Minnesota; create, implement, manage, and administer innovative programs to promote aviation in MN;  design and develop curriculum for implementation in grades K – 12; and create successful partnerships and networks with MN aviation education institutions, businesses, organizations, the FAA, and industry. She also manages aircraft inspection and maintenance records according to Federal Aviation

Administration standards and regulations and verifies the airworthiness of the Mn/DOT Air Transportation fleet. Before coming to Mn/DOT Aeronautics, Janese was an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic instructor for 15 years at both Minneapolis and Northland Community and Technical Colleges.  Janese has had her FAA Airframe and Powerplant certificate since 1985, maintained general aviation aircraft including private, business, and corporate, and worked as a major maintenance and line mechanic at a major airline. Janese grew up on Long Island, NY before moving to Savannah, GA, and then to St. Paul, MN in 1978.  Aviation is a family tradition as her father was manufacturing manager for Grumman/Gulfstream, her husband is Director of Maintenance at a large FBO, and both her sons are aviation maintenance technicians maintaining jets. Janese is currently finishing her dissertation and expects to graduate with a doctorate in Leadership in October 2010.

Bill TowleWilliam (Bill) Towle, Member


Bill Towle has been employed as the St. Cloud Regional Airport Director since August 2002. He is a 1994 graduate of the University of North Dakota and was a Transportation Specialists in the Air National Guard from 1990-1996 in Minneapolis. He managed The Dickinson Municipal Airport and the Rusk County Airport prior to St. Cloud. Bill is the past chair of the Minnesota Council of Airports (MCOA) and also served as Vice Chair and Secretary Treasurer. He is a Member of the Board of the Airport Technical Assistance Program and the Central Minnesota Transportation Alliance and actively speaks on the topic of transportation to various area organizations.

Robert Varani, Member


As the Director of ARTS Aeronautical Services, Mr. Varani is responsible for overseeing several business lines including Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance Systems Engineering, Air Traffic Management, Airport and Airspace Planning, and Obstacle Evaluation and Airport Airspace Assessment. Mr. Varani has over 20 years of aviation project experience at major airports throughout the United States and Central America.  He is experienced in all phases of airport/airspace  planning and aeronautical systems engineering including: preparation of master plans, airspace redesign, capacity analysis, terminal instrument procedures development, modeling, environmental assessments, environmental impact statements, site selection studies, aviation forecasts, airport design, airport layout plans, airport land use planning, construction planning, public relations and the implementation of GIS systems at airports. Mr Varani specializes in Air Traffic Management (ATM) projects, Obstacle Evaluation and Airport Airspace Analysis (OEAAA), and instrument procedures development at airports that are terrain challenged and/or located in complex high density airspace.  He has extensive knowledge of FAA Advisory Circulars and FAA Orders pertaining to airports and airspace (TERPS) and the FAA OEAAA and procedure implementation process. Mr. Varani is currently a Researcher for the Transportation Research Board as part of the Understanding Airspace, Objects, and Their Effects on Airports project.  Over the past several years, he has worked closely with FAA officials at the Mike Monroney Technical Center in Oklahoma City, OK on new criteria for LAAS, RNAV, and RNP procedure development. Mr. Varani has been a participating member of the FAA Terminal Area Operations Rulemaking Committee (TAORC) and is a member of newly formed Precision based Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC).  These committees are comprised of executives from industry and FAA and are tasked to review and develop operating rules and procedure criteria for the implementation of category I/II&III next generation navigational technologies. Mr. Varani was formally an Airport Design instructor at St. Cloud University and is a currently a participating member of the St. Cloud University Aviation Advisory Council.   

Charlie WiplingerCharlie Wiplinger, Member


Charlie Wiplinger’s background is heavily rooted in aviation, being the third generation Wiplinger to be involved in Wipaire which was started by his grandfather, Ben Wiplinger. Charlie now works closely under his father, Robert “Wip” Wiplinger, who owns and runs the company. He has been working with Wipaire in some capacity since 1996 and full time since 2003, after graduating from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Charlie’s areas of knowledge within aviation include engineering, certification and manufacturing. Currently, he is in charge of operations for

engineering, manufacturing, and aviation services at Wipaire. He is an active pilot and has been flying since 1996, accumulating over 1600 hours and has his commercial single & multiengine land & sea, instrument airplane and private glider licenses.