The many trades of Neil Gantzel
It took Neil Gantzel two years to learn to drive, two years to learn to guide a plane into the gate at Eagle County Regional Airport and two and a half years to save money for his first car.3Those were two of my biggest dreams: To get my drivers license and to work at the airport, says Gantzel, who has developmental disabilities and bi-polar disorder. 3I love airplanes. This is my dream job.For a third season, Gantzel, 27, of Glenwood Springs works at the airport for Worldwide Flight Services, a contracting company that provides ramp services for airliners from American, Northwest, Continental and Delta.3It was hard to get a job at the airport, he says. 3I tried different companies, but I kept receiving letters of rejection … until Worldwide Flight Services hired me.Gantzel started his airport career cleaning the planes. That was a way of 3getting his foot on the door, he says.One day company representatives surprised Gantzel by asking him if he would like to guide a plane, some with as many as 150 passengers, into the gate. It was challenging, but after two years with a 3job coach he was ready to guide a plane by himself, he says.3It1s a big responsibility. You have to make sure you know the hand signals to get the plane to turn and stop where it should, he says, crossing his arms over the chest, the sign to the pilot to stop.Gantzel the driverTo work at the airport, Gantzel, like all employees there, needed a drivers license. Gantzel went to drivers education for two years, ultimately receiving his at just 22 years old.3Not many people with developmental disabilities have a drivers license. It1s also a very challenging skill, he says. 3Colorado Mountain College helped me study the drivers manual.3Getting my drivers license was my dream so I could become more independent, he adds.Gantzel, wearing sound-deadening earphones on his head and a bright orange safety vest, stood ready Thursday morning for the arrival of an American Airlines flight from Chicago, which was running an hour late.3I wear this so that the plane doesn1t run me over, he jokes.Steven Clark, Gantzel1s boss, say Gantzel1s very much on top of his game.3Rain or shine he1s always out there<a long while before the plane lands, says Clark, ramp supervisor for Worldwide Flight Services. 3Even in the winter early mornings when it1s really cold.Gantzel the skaterGantzel says he doesn1t mind the cold weather. That1s probably the reason why he loves skating, he says.In February, Gantzel walked away with a medals at the Special Olympics Colorado 2002 Winter Games in figure- and speed-skating competitions. The Special Olympics hosted 530 athletes from across the state, 140 coaches, 700 volunteers and 300 family members from across Colorado, Louisiana and Texas.And just like in any major figure-skating competition, the judges were from the United States Figure Skating Association.3I1m very proud of Neil. He has many aspirations and a room wallpapered in ribbons and medals, says Lisa Warner, a figure-skating coach from Aspen who has been coaching Gantzel for seven years.In 1993, Gantzel won three medals, including a gold, at the World Games, an event similar to Winter Olympics in Salzburg, Austria.Gantzel the Zamboni driver?Gantzel likes challenges. His latest is to learn to drive a Zamboni, a machine that resurfaces ice rinks, at the Aspen Ice Garden, where he works in the summer.3It1s a challenging machine to drive, he says with a smile. 3Very different than driving the baggage cart.Veronica Whitney can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 454 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.