From Roadrunner to runway

As head of CDOT’s Division of Aeronautics, alumnus David Ulane is flying high.

By Amy Phare

Publish Date: October 23, 2015

Dave Ulane is a Roadrunner that can really fly.
Photo: Darrell Taylor

At a very tender age, David Ulane (B.S. aviation management ’90) knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.
“I am so lucky, because I’ve wanted to be involved in aviation since I was 6 years old. Getting up every day to do something I love … I’m the luckiest guy.”
It wasn’t luck that landed him the position of aeronautics director with the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics, however. It took hard work and 25 years in the field, all beginning with his time at MSU Denver.
A native of Littleton, Colorado, Ulane – an active and passionate general aviation pilot – said that MSU Denver was a natural choice and its aerospace program was a major attraction.
“One thing that separates MSU Denver is that it offers a broad range of things, from a commercial space track to air traffic control, aircraft maintenance and airport management. With all these disciplines together, you get perspective,” he said. “You get an understanding of how an airport works.”
That understanding has served Ulane well, enabling him to hold a variety of positions within the aerospace industry. He also credits a college internship at Centennial Airport with helping to kick-start his career path.
“Internships are by far the most valuable way to get experience,” he said. “Without my internship, I’m not sure how I would have gotten started. Metro has done a fantastic job of providing a wonderful assortment of internships that give aerospace students a leg up.”
His internship led to a full-time position at Centennial Airport in operations management. He went on to serve as an airport manager in both Wyoming and Utah, and eventually as the assistant aviation director at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. He also managed government and legislative affairs in the northwest mountain region for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association before accepting the position at CDOT earlier this year. 
“When the position here came up, it was a fantastic opportunity to come back and be a bigger part of the state I love so much,” he said.
With a staff of eight, Ulane’s team in CDOT’s Division of Aeronautics is part of a multi-modal system that has a key economic footprint across the state. 
“We work to ensure that airport systems across the state of Colorado are safe and in good condition,” he said. “You can’t have airports be safe and reliable if you don’t have managers and technicians and pilots – along with a pipeline of ones being developed. The ecosystem is so interdependent. If you don’t have a pipeline of new folks coming, the whole system suffers.
“MSU Denver’s initiatives are wonderfully innovative in bringing disciplines together to make aerospace sustainable here and everywhere else.”