Headlines > News > Airport leader Sabovich dies at 79

Airport leader Sabovich dies at 79

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Sat Feb 19, 2005 8:50 pm
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By ALLISON GATLIN Valley Press Staff Writer: BAKERSFIELD – Dan Sabovich, the founding father of the Mojave Airport and the East Kern Airport District that governs it, died Thursday at a hospital in Bakersfield. He was 79.
A resident of Bear Valley Springs, Sabovich is survived by his wife, Jerri, and daughter and son-in-law Debbie and Randy Gaston.

Originally a farmer in his native Bakersfield, Sabovich became involved in aviation in the mid-1950s after visiting a local air show. A pilot himself, his fascination with aviation grew.
He abandoned farming and arrived in Mojave in 1969, taking over the Kern County facility, a former Marine Corps base that was to become the Mojave Airport.

Together with then-Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr., Sabovich devised the plan that created the East Kern Airport District to govern the airport.
With the district voted into existence in 1972, Sabovich became the airport’s first manager and set out to create the Civilian Flight Test Center.

“What I really wanted to do is, I knew pilots from Edwards and the flying community from Los Angeles and knew we needed a civilian flight test center,” Sabovich told the Valley Press in a 1996 interview.
Under his care, the airport grew to support the National Test Pilot School, numerous flight test entities, aircraft storage and manufacturing facilities and innovative aviation companies such as Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites.

Sabovich continued to manage the Mojave Airport until 2002, when Stu Witt took over the helm and Sabovich took the title of district manager.

“He was one of those legendary people,” said airport district Director Cathy Hansen, who first met Sabovich at the Mojave Air Races in 1969. “If it wasn’t for Dan Sabovich, Mojave Airport wouldn’t be where it is today.

“Everywhere you turn around at Mojave Airport, you see Dan.”

In 2000, Sabovich was honored with a lifetime achievement award, co-sponsored by the Antelope Valley Board of Trade and the Lancaster and Palmdale chambers of commerce, for his work with the airport.

Two years later, the Kern Council of Governments recognized him with a Lifetime Achievement award for public officials.

Sabovich was also honored by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots in 2002 with its Friend of the Society award.

He was voted outstanding airport manager for Western states in the early 1990s, airport manager of the year for 1983 and 1984, received the distinguished service award from the Kern County Board of Trade and was named the Antelope Valley’s outstanding citizen by the Antelope Valley Board of Trade in the 1980s.

A chapel service will be conducted at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Hillcrest Memorial Park and Mortuary, 9101 Kern Canyon Road, Bakersfield.

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