Faculty Profile: Janet Bednarek

Many people get excited when they talk about a recent vacation or trip that required air travel. University of Dayton professor Janet Bednarek's eyes light up when she talks about the history of the airport where you caught your flight.

Her latest book, Airports, Cities, and the Jet Age: U.S. Airports Since 1945, paints a picture of the history of commercial airports, their management and their relationship to local government. It focuses on a wide range of airports and explores several that are close to home, including in Dayton, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

“I look at things about the airport like who owns it, who manages it, how it’s financed and the economic impact that it’s had,” Bednarek said.

The small, intriguing details about these airports shape her studies, along with bigger issues that greatly affect the flying experience, but aren’t always acknowledged. For instance, Cincinnati’s airport is located in Northern Kentucky in Boone County and owned by Kenton County. Such facts affect how airports are operated and managed and therefore impact our travel experiences.

Bednarek greatly emphasizes the transformation of the travel experience since 1945. One particular interest is the development of airport security, especially since the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. She notes how different and much more intense security regimens have become since the attacks. “This would have been considered unreasonable search and seizure not all that long ago… Now, this is just what we do,” she said.

Bednarek was drawn into this field by a lack of scholarship on the history of airports, becoming something of a research pioneer in her work.

Trained as an urban historian, she began her work in the aviation history field as a United States Air Force historian at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington D.C., covering the history of enlisted personnel. She subsequently worked at the Pentagon before coming to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton with her husband, an Air Force officer.

Her previous book on airport history was America's Airports: Airfield Development, 1918-1945.

Juan Santamarina, associate professor and department of history chair, said Bednarek brings quite a bit to the department as an urban and aviation history professor. He spoke highly about her scholarship and experiential knowledge in the department, which she chaired for six years.

“She is the advisor extraordinaire to all the history undergrads,” Santamarina said.

Bednarek has been a Flyer in the history department for the past 24 years. She earned her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.

- Nikki Kamp '17

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