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Jose A. Mulet: Aviation Executive Loves His Profession’s Constant Innovation

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Jose A. Mulet
Jose A. Mulet

By Roberto Hugo González

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As originally First published by Texas Border Business newsprint Edition on March 2014

Ever since he was a kid growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Joe A. Mulet was always fascinated by the airplanes that would fly over his house as they were landing on the runway for San Juan International Airport.

He told Texas Border Business that he enjoyed the different airplane types and thinking about all the different places in the world one could travel. “I saw the first Pan Am 747 that landed in San Juan, the first Concorde flight to the Island and always wanted to be part of that excitement,” Mulet said.

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Today, Mulet is the Director of Terminal Facilities at Valley International Airport (VIA) in Harlingen, Texas.

He was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and feels very fortunate his parents were both graduates of the University of Puerto Rico and they motivated Joe, his brother, and sister to go to college. “My sister did her undergraduate in Public Relations, but I was the first one to ‘jump the pond’ and I landed in Texas,” he added enthusiastically.

His brother followed him to St. Mary’s University years later. Mulet added with a smile, “Family life, faith and laughter, were always part of our everyday family life and still are today.”

Mulet has had an interesting professional life marked by constant innovation. He said, “I graduated from Colegio San José in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, then I went to St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX, where I graduated with a B.A. in Earth Sciences. Twenty years later, I went back for my graduate degree, a Masters in Aeronautical Science with a specialization in Aviation Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.”

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Besides teaching high school in San Antonio, he also taught elective undergraduate courses at Embry-Riddle campus at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio.

One interesting fact is what he did after college, he spent four years in a monastery, and his goal was to be a missionary pilot in Kenya at one time. Mulet said that those years brought a lot of internal discipline and growth, “I learned to live one day at a time.” He reflects by adding, “Maybe that is why my aviation career is quite rich. In 36 years, I lived in nine cities, worked with eight airlines, held seventeen different job titles, and I am still living one day at a time, thanking the Lord for yesterday, and placing myself at His will wherever He wants to take me today.”

Mulet pointed out that there are many things that bring satisfaction in his profession. When he was teaching he always loved to hear a question from a student about a part of the lecture that sparked an interest for more knowledge.

Pictured above from L-R: Jose A. Mulet, Director of Terminal Facilities at Valley International Airport, (VIA); Mr. Richard Franke, Chairman of the board for Valley International Airport; and Thomas Michael Browning, Director of Aviation at Valley International Airport.
Pictured above from L-R: Jose A. Mulet, Director of Terminal Facilities at Valley International Airport, (VIA); Mr. Richard Franke, Chairman of the board for Valley International Airport; and Thomas Michael Browning, Director of Aviation at Valley International Airport.

Today it is aviation, and his satisfaction there is sharing his knowledge in the field with others and those in turn start to develop a passion for aviation. “When I am involved in ground handling, there is a sense of satisfaction after pushing the airplane back and the captain waives good-bye.” He said, “We did our job on the ground, turning the airplane around in time, boarding all the passengers and their bags, fuel and maintenance checks, then it is up to our “other team”, the flight crew and ground team at the other end to complete the operation and provide the passenger with an enjoyable flying experience.”

Mulet has taken his career in aviation seriously; he has grown from being a ramp agent, to station manager, to director of training, to VP of sales just to mention a few.  “Currently, in the airport side of the industry, I have been director of marketing, director of business development, and now director of terminal facilities in charge of air service development and ground handling.”

He says that the local airports in the Rio Grande Valley are very competitive adding that each airport has its own advantage in one-way or another. But he is very specific about Valley International Airport (VIA) and says, “VIA has the unique geographical advantage to be located in the center of the Rio Grande Valley thereby attracting customers from a large catchment area. In addition, the airport has no landing obstacle, has the longest runways and the most land to grow with over 2,300 acres.”

Every profession has its fluctuations, some more than others; but according to Mulet, working in the airline industry people must be open to many changes, for example he said, “Working long hours, holidays, overtime, exposed to layoffs, transfers and even bankruptcy, I experienced all of them.”

When he was Vice President of Sales in Asia and Europe for Mexicana airlines, he had to travel quite a bit even when he was sick. He added that at an hour’s notice he had to jump on a plane and fly for 10 hours to solve a crisis. “All of this comes with a ‘few’ sacrifices but the passion for aviation and the satisfaction of reaching a positive outcome was motivation enough,” Mulet stated.

As we were ending this interview, he said that overall this industry is constantly changing and evolving, never boring. “The main challenges that come to mind are dealing with the uncontrollable factors like:  hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.; new regulations, terrorist acts (9-11), accidents, political and economic trends and cost of fuel as examples.”

Mulet was hired originally in 2006 by Valley International Airport to become the Director of Marketing. During all these years he has moved up and at the same time has done community work by serving with local non-profits. He was an ex-officio member of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau Board for the past 7 years and is currently a member of the Port of Brownsville cruise committee.  He was also an advisory board member of the Palo Alto Aviation Department in San Antonio, TX. “I also served in the Star Alliance Marketing committee while at Mexicana Airlines,” he said.

It is important to say that Mulet is a certified Realtor, NAUI certified scuba diver, and student pilot. “I battle stress with my hobbies. I enjoy working out, swimming, scuba diving, racquetball, tennis, classical music, traveling, working on my landscaping, and cooking,” he said.

“I value family life, my faith and how well I perform my job and help others to perform theirs.” If he had the chance to start all over again, he says, “If I had to start life again I can’t say I would do anything differently because then I would leave out the will of God in my life. You might set out some goals for education, etc., but even those get detoured. The thing is to find happiness from one day to the next.”

Our last question took Mulet by surprise; we asked how he would like to be remembered. “Wow, interesting question. I really never thought about how I wanted to be remembered. But if I achieve my goals well enough, then I think people will remember me by how I touched their lives. I guess that is how I remember those that have come and gone in my life,” he said. TBB

Written by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez the 2009 SBA Journalist of the Year Award Winner & The 2009 and 2012 Paul Harris Award recipient.

Highlights of Jose A. Mulet Life/Career

-Earned President’s Inner Circle Award at Mexicana in 1986.

-Did His first solo flight as a student pilot.

-Created the Commuter fare program at Mexicana Airlines.

-Developed the code-share program for Mexicana Star Alliances partners.

-Promoted to Chairman of the Foreign Language department while teaching high school.

-Served in the Star Alliance Marketing committee representing Mexicana Airlines.

-Purchased his first custom built home.

-Became a realtor and helped people get their first home.

-Took his parents on trips around the world.

-Flew onboard a United 747 from Tokyo to Los Angeles on 9-11, an experience that lasted seven days wearing the same clothes. It took him to Seattle, San Francisco, Mexico City, Monterrey, and finally back home to San Antonio, TX.

-Created the new ground handling department at VIA.

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