When Matthew Cardillo was in his early teens, his father took him to air shows in Rhode Island.
“After a couple of them I realized, ‘Oh, this might be a career. I could actually do this,’” Cardillo reflects.
That turned out to be true. In July, he was named manager of the Plymouth Municipal Airport, replacing Thomas Maher, who held that position for 27 years.
Cardillo had worked for Maher for seven years and that overlap was highly educational, he says.
“I guess I never really looked at Tom as a boss. He was always my mentor,” says Cardillo. “He taught me a lot about the industry and introduced me to everybody that I would need to know. That was helpful, moving into his position, to be able to talk to the federal, state and local managers.”
Located about 5 miles southwest of downtown Plymouth, Plymouth Municipal Airport opened in 1934 and holds the distinction of being the busiest non-towered airport in Massachusetts. Annual activity level is estimated at approximately 65,000 “aircraft movements,” according to the airport’s website. The airport serves as home base for more than 170 aircraft, primarily one- to 10-seat planes, including Massachusetts State Police helicopters and wing aircraft.
The airport’s coverage area is a niche area between the Cape Cod Canal and Marshfield. Boston MedFlight typically makes four to seven flights per day out of the airport, providing rescue service for Plymouth and beyond.
In addition to hosting 30 businesses employing 230 people, including flight schools, avionics shops and mechanic shops, the airport is home to Cape Cod Community College’s FAA-certified Aviation Maintenance Technology Program, which prepares students to become aviation mechanics. Graduates are quickly hired by Cape Air, JetBlue and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“Tom built this airport up and handed off a very well-maintained and well-developed airport to me,” says Cardillo.
Overseeing an administrative staff of two and an operations staff of six, Cardillo says he likes to lead with a sense of cooperation. “Days can be crazy and days can be really slow,’ he says. “Ultimately, we all respect one another, and we know we’re all working toward a common goal. Tom had a style while he was here, and I’m just kind of taking over where he left. We strive toward making the best airport we can for the public and our tenants.”
Cardillo graduated from Bridgewater State University with a bachelor of science in aviation management and a minor in psychology. After college, he worked at airports in Marshfield, New Bedford and Norwood before coming to Plymouth in 2015 to become airport coordinator (“essentially the assistant airport manager,” he says).
It was while he was working at the Marshfield airport that he made a career choice, deciding to focus on operations and management rather than be a full-time commercial pilot.
“I like the change of pace,” he says. “Every day is different, especially in New England with the changes in weather. We do get all four seasons and any airport manager you talk to, they know it’s the winter that’s always the worst. We have a lot of pavement here and we plow it all on our own, so it’s quite the feat to keep things going.”
PMA’s airport commission is working on revisions to the airport’s master plan. “We have a very well-balanced commission here that definitely has the community in mind while moving the airport into the future,” says Cardillo.
Proposals include the possibility of extending one of the airport’s two runways, which would allow for an increase in the number of small charter jets.
“The master plan is just trying to position the airport in a place to be in a competitive market in the future,” Cardillo says. “They’re looking at adding electric charging stations for electric aircraft, if they become feasible, stuff like that.”
“My old boss was in the aviation industry for 50 years,” Cardillo adds. “He’d say ‘I can’t imagine what it’ll be like in another 50 years.’ We change as the world changes.”
Plymouth Municipal Airport is located at 246 South Meadow Road, Plymouth. For more information, call 508-746-2020 or visit pymairport.com