Kristi Nelson, NBC 5 News
David Campbell worked his way from the ramps to the top ranks of management at American Airlines.
Whether it's keeping planes moving at DFW International Airport, responding to a safety concern or working flights around the Northeast blizzard, David Campbell is at the heart of Fort Worth based American Airlines.
In January, he became the carrier's Vice President of Safety and Operations Performance.
"It was always my dream," Campbell said. "It was not so much about me but how could I make things better and improve processes for the people that I work with."
NBC DFW visited with Campbell as he talked with controllers inside the American Airlines' tower at DFW International Airport.
Campbell was born in Mississippi. He attended Jackson State University, then served in the United States Air Force. He joined American Airlines in 1988.
"[I] first started at American as a maintenance mechanic in Tulsa, working on our 767s and DC10 airplanes," Campbell said. "So that was a lot of fun for me."
After working at maintenance bases in Tulsa and Fort Worth's Alliance Airport, Campbell transferred to American Eagle airlines.
Later he returned to American Airlines and eventually earned the role of Vice President – Safety, Security and Environmental (SS&E). In October 2012, NBC DFW talked with Campbell after passenger seats came loose on three flights. No one was injured but dozens of planes were taken out of service for inspections.
In January, he started his new position.
"It moves me back to the day to day operations and that's really where my passion is... getting our flights on-time, safely and securely," Campbell said.
Compassion and community involvement are important to Campbell.
"American Airlines and American Eagle were the first on the ground in Haiti post [January 2010] earthquake to provide supplies and relief support," Campbell said. "I got the chance to join one of those trips and I was really taken by the great culture and the great people there."
Campbell lead American Airlines' involvement to help orphanages, schools and build the second floor of a hospital in Haiti.
"It was incredible to watch the growth of the children there," said Campbell.
As one of the top black executives in the airline industry, he tries to introduce children of all backgrounds to the field he loves.
"I think there is a challenge nationwide in terms of science and mathematics and getting all students involved, and particularly i think for African-Americans in the aviation industry," Campbell said.
He said his father instilled an early thirst for education in Campbell, his brother and five sisters.
"[He said] At 18 when you graduate you can hit that intersection at any direction you want to go," Campbell said. "You can go into the military and go to school. You can go to school and that's great. You can go to work and go to school. All of them was a requirement for me to get my education whether it was through the military, working or going to school directly. And that was very clear."