Susan M. Baer, 65, an aviation-sector pioneer who was the first person to manage all three major New York City-area airports and the first woman aviation director at the Port
Authority of New York & New Jersey, died on Aug. 9 in Upper Montclair, N.J. The cause was cancer, says an online funeral-home obituary.

Baer joined design firm Arup in 2013 and was named global aviation leader earlier this year, after 37 years at the port authority.  When she first sought a management analyst job there, the agency asked about her typing skills, says a 2006 book in which she was quoted. But Baer left the PA managing 930 staffers and a $500-million construction budget. Aviation made up 16% of the port authority’s $4.7 billion in 2015 gross operating revenue. 

Baer led the Newark, N.J., airport on 9/11 and ran PA facilities from Newburgh, N.Y., to Atlantic City, N.J. “Her colleagues responded to her service with fierce loyalty,” says PA Executive Director Patrick Foye. 

Baer also pushed for NextGen, the overhaul of the U.S. air-traffic navigation system to boost aviation safety and efficiency, both in New York and nationally. “Though she followed in the footsteps of several powerful men, Sue charted her own course with a collaborative style that generated innovation,” Ginger Evans, Chicago aviation department commissioner, told ENR. 

Baer also was a 23-year board member and 13-year vice chairman of the Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, a Flushing, N.Y.-based institution that specializes in engineering and technology, management and aviation fields. “She had a special affinity for encouraging women in aviation,” says President Sharon B. DeVivo.

The school says it has launched a scholarship in her memory. To make a donation, click here.