“I love aviation.”
There might not be a better trait for Conway Regional Airport Director Jake Briley to possess. It’s a passion that developed early in life for Briley. He was introduced to aviation during his childhood through family members who served in the military, including an uncle — Donovan Briley — who served as a Black Hawk pilot and was killed in action in Somalia.
Briley would serve 13 years in the military as a production controller for the Arkansas National Guard. He flew in missions in the Middle East, including Iraq, Syria, and Kuwait, and managed the state National Guard’s aviation assets, which totaled in the range of $200 million worth of equipment.
Briley, a Greenbrier native, served in the military until he was appointed city airport director in June 2022. It’s a position that combines his love for Conway and his passion for helping businesses grow.
“There is a lot more community involvement than I think a lot of people see,” Briley said. “This is a gateway to our city with different businesses flying here every day, so it’s important to make that good first impression.”
The Conway Regional Airport at Cantrell Field is located on 431 acres in the Lollie Bottoms in the southwest part of town, about 10 miles from Conway’s downtown. It opened in 2014. The airport houses nearly 70 hangars for small-engine plans and six corporate hangars.
“It happens every day that corporate leaders will fly into Conway to check on their stores here or those located nearby,” Briley said. “We’re also well located to attract a lot of private jets going cross country to stop and refuel, so we stay competitive on our pricing to attract that business here.”
Since Briley took over in 2022, two corporate hangars have been added, fuel sales have doubled, and work continues toward establishing Conway as a national airport.
“Our federal funding as a regional airport is $250,000 annually, and that would increase to about $800,000 as a national airport,” Briley said.
This would help fund a number of projects, including a runway extension to begin in 2024. The airport is also scheduled to begin work on about 24 new tee hangars to alleviate a waitlist for airport space that exists currently.
Another important development around the airport was the 2023 announcement of a commercial pilot license certificate program at the University of Central Arkansas, which will be completed at the Conway airport. Graduates will leave the program with an instrument rating.
“The country, as a whole, is short on pilots, and there are tons of jobs available,” Briley said. “The growth in central Arkansas for private pilots is huge.”
Looking a decade into the future, Briley wants to see a small, regional hub located at Conway.
“We have so many acres out here, we’re in a great position to build that way,” he said.
Read more in the 2024 CONWAY+ Community Profile & Resource Guide