In 2009, Susan Baer became the first female Director of Aviation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, running the area’s three biggest airports: LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark Liberty, as well as the smaller Stewart International and Teterboro Airports. Baer was the first person, regardless of gender, to manage all three of New York’s major airports, and was the first woman to manage the Lincoln Tunnel, a tunnel that runs under the Hudson River from New York to New Jersey. She also served on the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA) with our CEO René Banglesdorf.

After working her way up from Management Analyst for the Port Authority, Baer became the General Manager of LaGuardia, a position she held from 1994 to 1998. She went on to hold the same title for Newark Liberty (and Teterboro) from 1998 to 2007, and JFK from 2007 to 2008, before moving on to the position of Director of Aviation for the Port Authority, a position she held for four years, Baer stepped down in 2013 to move on to an aviation consulting position with Arup, an engineering consulting firm. In February of 2016, she took over as Global Aviation Business Leader for Arup.

Baer was well-known for the role she played in modernizing the airports she oversaw. One of the things that Baer was passionate about during her time with the Port Authority was the possibility of a next-generation air traffic control system in the U.S., pushing for a more modern and efficient satellite-based system. Unsurprisingly, progress has been slow, if not completely halted, due to funding issues and political turmoil.

Baer played an important role in managing air traffic during the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, as well. She was the General Manager of Newark Liberty at the time, where she shut down all departing traffic before the FAA made the decision to do the same nationwide.

Susan Baer was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1950 to Kurt Baer, a construction supervisor, and Elizabeth Bader. Baer earned her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in 1972 in urban studies and anthropology, and went on to get her master’s in business from NYU.

On August 9th, 2016, Baer passed away in her home with her husband, Joseph Martella, due to complications from cancer. Her passing came just a few months after she was promoted to the position of Global Aviation Business Leader for Arup.

Ms. Baer was truly a pioneer for women in aviation, serving in a variety of roles previously not considered by or for women. In 2013, after retiring from the Port Authority, Baer told USA Today, “What I’ve tried to do with it is give other women opportunities, and that’s something all women should be doing. It was hard for us to get here, but we ought to be making it easier for the people who are coming behind us.”