Lysa (Scully) Leiponis is a forward-thinking Board Member and Aviation Industry Leader who provides valued counsel to airport leaders, investors, airlines, and other industry stakeholders. With over 36 years of notable transportation industry experience, her advisory services cover all aspects of airport leadership and airport development. Lysa is an independent Board Director for Sky Harbour Group, an Independent Board Director for JFK New Terminal One LLC, a Board Trustee of Vaughn College of Aeronautics & Technology, and a member of the Critical Infrastructure Strategic Advisory Board of Parsons Corporation.
Before starting her advisory firm, Lysa had a distinguished 33-year career as an influential leader at The Port Authority of NY & NJ (PANYNJ). As the former CEO & General Manager of LaGuardia Airport (LGA), she is a proven industry champion of world-class airport transformation. Her inclusive leadership style galvanized airport staff and stakeholders in delivering a record-setting capital investment program while ensuring safe operations for 1,200 daily flights. Under her leadership, airport passenger volumes grew to record levels, investment reached historic highs, and regulatory compliance remained flawless.
Lysa has been recognized for leading the airport through its transformative $9 billion redevelopment program and as a founding partner in the largest Public Private Partnership in airport infrastructure history.
In addition to her role at LaGuardia Airport, Lysa spent more than ten years as a senior executive in aviation headquarters, leading exceptional teams to imagine and build programs for customer excellence, landside and parking, concessions, and strategy for the Port Authority’s five airport system. She also served as Corporate Secretary for The Port Authority, an elected officer of the Agency. Her years preceding Aviation at The Port Authority were rooted in increasing levels of responsibility within the financial departments.
Lysa holds an MBA in Finance from Pace University – Lubin School of Business, a BS in Accounting from Rutgers University, and is an Airport Certified Employee in Operations and Security through the American Association of Airport Executives.
1 Tell us about yourself and your current involvement within the aviation industry.
Lysa (Scully) Leiponis: After retiring from a rewarding career with PANYNJ, I wanted to continue using my airport transformation expertise to drive customer experience excellence. Taking on independent Board Director and strategic advisory roles has allowed me to act on this vision. As a Board Director for multiple enterprises, I work with outstanding leadership teams passionate about investing in airport infrastructure and creating world-class experiences.
What I am most proud of is what often doesn’t get discussed – that the collective team, public and private partners, brought the vision to life during a period of historic airport passenger volumes. Elsewhere in the country, major airport redevelopment often calls for a reduction in flight activity, but not in New York!
With two complex and challenging construction projects (Terminals B & C) underway at the same time in 2019, the airport broke all records for investment and passenger volumes. Yet, the team persevered through challenging conditions and never gave up. I will forever be proud of their success and thankful for the privilege to be part of it.
2 What is your insight about the future of the airport & airline sector?
Lysa (Scully) Leiponis: Although the pandemic initially halted air travel and slowed its return, we have seen the industry rebound to its former volumes and anticipate significant growth in the years ahead. Talent will be needed in all areas supporting aviation: engineering, flight operations, flight mechanics, aviation management, environmental stewardship, and customer service. Educators are prepared to provide the academic foundation needed for these career pathways but also must encourage inclusion, empathy, flexibility, and adaptability in students. The future will rely on an agile workforce, able to respond to change quickly and inclusive of all those in the community.
3 Since retiring from PANYNJ, what projects have you been working on?
Lysa (Scully) Leiponis: Although not a project, first and foremost, it has been being present for my family. Airport leadership has no set days or hours and often interrupts family time. Fortunately, Board and advisory roles are incredibly supportive of family life, allowing me to contribute to the industry I love.
The areas of focus for my work have been addressing the impact of COVID on airports, addressing airport infrastructure needs during a time of restricted cash flows, strategizing on the future of electrification and sustainability for airports, and of course, investment and development of world-class terminal and hangar facilities.
4 As a Board Member of the New Terminal One at JFK, what is the vision for providing a world-class passenger experience?
Lysa (Scully) Leiponis: The vision for The New Terminal One at JFK is a design that is sustainable and future-focused, includes cutting-edge technology and an array of amenities designed to provide an exceptional customer experience, and competes with the top terminals in the world. The state-of-the-art terminal will serve as a global gateway to the New York metropolitan region while creating significant opportunities for local, minority, and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) and service-disabled-veteran-owned business enterprises (SDVOB). As a Board Director, I am thrilled to be part of this project and restore the New York region’s preeminence in global aviation.
5 What are the most memorable highlights of your career at LaGuardia Airport?
Lysa (Scully) Leiponis: There are many memorable events from my time at LaGuardia airport beyond the obvious associated with its redevelopment; working with my team during massive snowstorms, recovering the airport from Super Storm Sandy, resolving major aircraft incidents, caroling throughout the terminals during the holidays, and chatting with our customers. Still, a few do rise to the top, sitting with the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, while he waited in the gate area for his flight and receiving his blessing on behalf of all the airport staff, and the positive impact that the LGA Women Empowering Women chapter had from its inception.
Finally, and most importantly, working as part of the headquarters team to rebuild the aviation department after September 11th.