‘Reclaiming the Sky’ Resiliency Project Winners Announced on Sept. 11 Anniversary

Even 22 years later, the stories of esteemed aviation leaders and their response to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks continue to provide learning opportunities for the benefit of future airport industry professionals.

As we hold space today to remember those we lost and honor those who helped in the aftermath on September 11, we are proud to honor the legacy of so many aviation leaders through the “Reclaiming the Sky Resiliency Project,” an essay contest organized by the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University and ACI-NA to engage up-and-coming airport industry leaders.

Through this year’s essay contest, young professionals from across the airport industry were invited to read the stories of aviation heroes profiled in the book, “Reclaiming the Sky,” by Tom Murphy, and participate in a workshop with aviation mentors to explore lessons about resiliency.

Twenty-five openings were allotted for the program. Participants had the chance to learn about the stories of airport and airline employees who went to work in New York, Boston, and Washington, DC, on the morning of 9/11 expecting a normal day, only to find that “just doing my job” was to become the creed of heroes. The stories, including the powerful teachings from Susan M. Baer, the General Manager of Newark Liberty International Airport on 9/11, tell how the front-line aviation employees responded with courage, selflessness, and resiliency that day and in the weeks and months that followed to rebuild their lives and reclaim hope – while helping to get the country moving again.

This year’s winners were Michael Gyan, Project Manager, John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport; Salvatore Mendola, Director, Brands and Concept Development, Areas USA; and Deborah Blass, Arup, Associates, Security and Risk. Their award-winning essays can be read at ReclaimingTheSky.com.

In addition to cash prizes, these three winners will also be recognized for their achievements during the 2023 ACI-NA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Long Beach, CA, on October 3.

The young professionals who participated in the 2023 include Deborah Blass, Arup; Carey Metcalfe, Lee County PA; LaTarryl Hall, City of Charlotte; Ryan Thomas, Parsons Group; Adam Ussher, Dane County Airport; Anna Phillips, Columbus Airport; Michael Hamilton, Savannah Airport Commission; Michael Gyan, John C. Munro Hamilton Airport; Juan Martinez, Chicago Dept of Aviation; Antonette Chambers, Clarksville Airport; Kendall Griswold, GSP Airport; Arjun Nair, Syracuse Airport; Jimmy Vazques, San Diego Airport; Aireyanna Kennedy, Syracuse Airport; Benjamin Torres, San Diego Airport; James Gerrald, Jacobs; Ana Zivanovic, San Francisco Airport; Esther Chitsinde, HDR; Christopher Liese, Munich Airport USA Holding; Anandhi Mahalingam, Transsolutions; Kristin Jewell, Baton Rouge Airport; Julie Seglem, Areas USA; Madison Strong, Tulsa Airport; Roeland Visser, InterVISTAS; Jeff Taylor, Jacksonville Airport, Salvatore Mendola, Areas USA; Brooke Bowman, Areas USA.

Judges for the essay competition were aviation industry leaders Cedric Fulton, Virginia Buckingham, Lysa Leiponis, Eileen Ammiano, John Duval, Kathy Denker, Debbie Roland and Jennifer Juul.

For more information, visit ReclaimingTheSky.com. For aviation companies looking to participate in the expansion in 2024, contact Tom Murphy at Tom@edge4vets.org.

’60 Minutes’ Correspondent Scott Pelley: Aviation is a Miracle

During the 2022 ACI-NA Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Alessio Olivetti caught up with Scott Pelley, the 60 Minutes correspondent and 2022 annual conference keynote, who shared his experience as tireless traveler and long-time journalist.

 

AO: You travel all around the world. It’s safe to say you’re a frequent traveler. What’s the most memorable airport experience have you ever had?

SP: My most memorable experience would have been at the very beginning of COVID, when thousands of people in the United States were dying every day.

I was covering COVID, and I was flying through Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. I got off the plane and I was the only person in the terminal. Everything was closed. There were Texas State troopers clearing every plane and taking down the contact information for every passenger who came off.

I could hear the soles of my shoes clacketing on the floor. I was literally by myself walking through Houston Intercontinental, which I came through many times surrounded by tens of thousands of people in the terminal.

It was just such a shocking, remarkable experience to understand better in an airport than anywhere else the effects the COVID was having and would continue to have on the national economy. If Houston Intercontinental is empty of people, the economy has stopped, you can tell.

 

AO: You wanted to become an astronaut when you were a child. The U.S. has been the cradle of the aerospace industry for a century. Why are people fascinated in stories about aviation and lately about space tourism?

SP: People are still fascinated about the courage required to leave the Earth and fly beyond the atmosphere. Even though we have been watching that happen in the United States since 1957, the year I was born by the way, people are still fascinated about the images coming back from space, our astronauts on the International Space Station for example. And now in this all-new world of private companies launching people in space we are beginning to imagine, ‘Hey, it could be me, I could go too!’

In terms of aviation, there is just something about flying. I should be the most jaded airline passenger at all times. I’m a multi-million miler on many different airlines, but I’m still thrilled when I get on a plane and it leaves the ground. It never gets old.

I was on the A380 the other day, which is the size of an apartment building. The engineering involved in building something like an A380 or a 747-8 is a miracle, getting that thing off the ground almost effortlessly. Engineering is far beyond me, but I have so much respect for it.

There is another thing about aviation. People complain insensitively about their flight being delayed, canceled, or their luggage being lost. I get all of that, it’s very frustrating.

But I would argue that aviation today is a miracle. You can literally be anywhere on this Earth in 24 hours. Imagine such a thing.

I’m amazed at the way the airline industry runs all around the world with thousands of operations every day, and virtually accident-free. It’s one of the greatest achievements of man.

 

AO: What’s your favorite interview if you have one?

SP: Now I have a new favorite interview and that’s the one I did in April with Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

I’ve never met a leader of a country who has impressed me more. The courage that he took to stay in Kyiv when the Russians were coming at him in three different directions. And when he walked outside into the courtyard and filmed a video message on his phone.

That moment galvanized the country to resist. It was on the knife’s edge of collapsing until he walked out and said, ‘We’re not going anywhere, we’re all staying here.’

Just an incredibly courageous and impressive man who forced the Russians to retreat from Kyiv and from Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv. He has punched way above his weight leading his people so courageously.

At the end of the interview, I said ‘Mr. President, we wish you all the luck in the world.’ He broke into English saying, ‘Half of it, I think we need half of it.’

A man with 44 million people on his shoulders and he is still having a sense of humor.

Airports Invest in Efforts to Strengthen Airport Industry Workforce

Like so many other industries in our economy, airports have not been immune to the workforce challenges as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and the booming summer travel season we find ourselves in today.

For airports, it’s a two-fold challenge. Directly, airports are working to ensure they have the right teams in place to manage airport operations and strategic planning.  Indirectly, airports are also seeing labor challenges among their business partners.

Labor challenges, particularly among highly skilled trades and technical roles, remain for airports.  As airports continue their capital improvement programs and deploy innovative technologies to improve the passenger experience, they are continuing to feel the crunch.  Airports have also experienced widespread retirements and people exiting the industry after two very difficult years.

“Our industry is constantly changing — especially in light of the pandemic — and it’s important that we continue to look to the future to identify both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke. “One of the most critical areas that will help shape and grow the airport industry is its workforce — the individuals who keep passengers safe, maintain facilities, and improve the airport experience for everyone who passes through them.

Earlier this year, ACI-NA released a report on factors that will shape the future of the airport workforce. The report identifies key skills that will be required of employees and most industry occupations in the future and provides high-level strategies to address and collectively plan for future workforce challenges.

By outlining key areas in which airports and managers should focus their attention and resources, as well as strategies to meet evolving needs, we can ensure that we are doing everything we can to continue improving the future of our industry and its workforce.

Labor is not just an airport challenge.  Everyone from the airlines to concessionaires and rental car companies to government agencies like TSA find themselves needing talent to keep pace with demand. Airports remain committed to working with their tenants and business partners that operate at the airport to address their own workforce challenges in a collaborative effort to provide a top-notch guest experience for everyone passing through their terminals.

Airports are taking a holistic approach and working closely with their partners to develop new pipelines for talent.  Whether partnering with local trade schools, collaborating with governments and community organizations, or hosting career fairs, airports are bringing together stakeholders to solve the labor challenge together.

In recent years, many airports like Los Angeles International Airport, JFK International Airport, and the Houston Airport System have looked to Edge4Vets, an organization that helps military veterans translate their military skills into civilian roles at airports, to facilitate connections among veterans’ organizations in local communities.  Charlotte Douglas International Airport will join the growing number of airports involved with Edge4Vets later this year. Edge4Vets continues to be a leading organization in providing talent solutions for airports and their partners by leveraging the strengths and skills of military veterans.

“Edge4Vets helps train military service personnel – including veterans, National Guard, transitioning active duty and spouses – for jobs that can lead to aviation careers and give airport HR recruiters access to talent-rich employees who can bring strong values and unique skills to their workforce that have been depleted by the COVID pandemic,” said Edge4Vets founder and Director of the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University, Tom Murphy.

For more information about Edge4Vets, visit edge4vets.org. To join the network of ACI-NA airports participating in the national expansion, contact Nancy Zimini or Tom Murphy.

Airports Council Associate Member Involvement Drives Collaboration and Learning

ACI-NA’s mission is to serve as the Voice of Airports® in Washington and Ottawa and be a fierce advocate for airport industry priorities.  We owe our success to the many members across the industry who have contributed their time, talent, and expertise to helping us navigate the challenges we have confronted for nearly three years.

To help airports coalesce around these challenges and exchange best practices, we have resumed our full slate of in-person meetings and conferences.  We are proud of our reputation as an industry resource for valuable learning and exchange.  Bringing our conferences back post-pandemic has been a full team effort. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted air travel, it has also impacted the way we present conferences and other professional development opportunities.  As such, we are excited about the launch of our U.S. Airport Professional program as an online learning resource for those seeking to expand their knowledge about strategic leadership within the industry.

 

 

Additionally, the participation of our World Business Partner (WBP) and Associate Members has never been more important.  Our WBP and Associate members bring best-in-class knowledge and expertise to complex challenges. We are grateful for an active WBP and Associates Board of Directors and for the associate members who are active within our committees.

ACI‐NA WBP and Associate members represent the wide variety of private industry businesses that provide products, equipment and services to airports and the aviation industry. Through this program, ACI‐NA World Business Partners and Associate members work with ACI‐NA Airport members to address industry issues and discuss new technologies and innovative ideas.

We are currently accepting nominations for our WBP/Associates Board of Directors.  If you are interested in applying, please contact vgerson@airportscouncil.org for more information.

We appreciate the time, energy, and dedication which our airport and associate members brought to the table.  It has helped ensure that the association will continue to strengthen the ability of airports in North America to serve their passengers, customers, and communities in the years ahead.

Celebrating April as U.S. Airport Professional Appreciation Month

 

As U.S. Airport Professional Appreciation Month comes to a close, we have been so excited to celebrate the airport industry professionals who are demonstrating their commitment to industry excellence and professional development.  We recently caught up with Sylvia A. Palmer, Vice President, Operations and Regulatory Affairs, at the Airport Consultants Council to learn about her experience in the program.  Sylvia recently completed her USAP studies and is now an accredited U.S. Airport Professional.  She is one of eleven students to be celebrated this first U.S. Airport Professional Appreciation Month!

ACI-NA: Why did you decide to enroll in USAP?

SP: In 2020, as the aviation industry was undergoing massive disruption, I desired a resource that would provide a comprehensive overview of the entire U.S. airport system as we knew it, and the all-encompassing evolution occurring as a result of the pandemic’s wide-reaching impact on the aviation industry.

ACI-NA: How is USAP making you a better airport industry professional?

SP: The USAP program’s detailed and well-constructed modules touched on every aspect of the U.S. airport ecosystem, in a cohesive manner. It helped me understand the changing industry landscape, and operational and management strategies that would help to re-invent the overall airport and travel experience. The program is also helping me better understand how to engage airport development stakeholders and regulatory bodies in the advancement of a more resilient, efficient, sustainable, customer-centric aviation system.

ACI-NA: What would you say to a friend or colleague who expresses interest in USAP?

SP: I endorse the USAP program for anyone who desires to grow as a leader within the aviation industry. It strengthens the critical skills necessary to effectively manage and lead change in the current dynamic airport environment. Congratulations to ACI-NA for delivering such rigorous professional development, and thank you for the opportunity to participate.

About the USAP Accreditation Program

In 2020, ACI-NA launched an accredited e-learning training curriculum, the U.S. Airport Professional (USAP) Program, to equip students with the leadership and strategic management skills necessary for personal and professional advancement in the U.S. airport industry.  The program was developed in collaboration with U.S. airport industry and professional development experts.

Comprised of seven online courses and a writing assignment, the USAP accreditation program covers the full range of current airport management topics, including leadership development, business strategy, commercial management, finance, operations, safety, security, air service, and more.  Each student who completes the program is permitted to use the USAP credential to demonstrate their understanding of the U.S. airport system.

Learn more about the U.S. Airport Professional accreditation program at www.usairportprofessional.org.

 

Houston Airport System Showcases Edge4Vets “Success Vets”

By Tom Murphy, Director, Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University.

As airports strive to rebuild their workforces after the pandemic, there is no better employee than a military veteran. However, studies show that veterans need support to translate their military skills into tools for civilian success. ACI-NA continues work with the Edge4Vets program conducted by the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University in New York to accomplish the task.

And it’s working. The Human Resources Department at Houston Airport System (HAS) is leading in the implementation of the online Edge4Vets training for veterans in the Houston community and that is serving as platform for national expansion.

A new video, Edge4Vets – Success Vets,” profiles two veterans, Chris Mercado and Don Konecki, who took the training at HAS, got hired, and now are performing at a high level.

Research shows that veterans bring unique skills, including a strong work ethic, a desire for responsibility and an ability to work as a team, but often because they don’t possess a strong network of contacts after separating from the military they can have a hard time breaking in.

Chris and Don talk about the frustration of applying for jobs before Edge4Vets and never hearing back – in the video Chris calls looking for a job “like being in a black hole.”

Both attest to benefits they gained from taking Edge4Vets, including instruction to identify their transferable skills from the military, support to articulate their skills in civilian terms and learning how to create a personal “PLAN4SUCCESS” for an “edge” to get hired. In addition, they talk about help they received from HAS HR staff and hiring managers who served as mentors to guide them during the training.

The Edge4Vets online course is being expanded for all airports that are ACI-NA members, and HAS is offering a SPRING 2022 workshop series beginning April 14. The program has the support of colleges in the Houston community, local veterans’ groups as well as University Aviation Association which will be participating in the national expansion of the program.

For more information about Edge4Vets, visit edge4vets.org.

To join the network of ACI-NA airports participating in the national expansion, contact Nancy Zimini or Tom Murphy.

Marking 20 Years of Our Partnership with TSA

By Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO, ACI-NA

Collaboration has long been the hallmark of our industry.  No matter if we’re in a season of joy or a time of crisis, the greater aviation industry has always found common ground to help ensure the health, safety, and security of the traveling public.  Whether responding to a global pandemic or a security incident, our industry is built on strong partnerships.

One of our closest partners is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency comprised of tens of thousands of individuals who are dedicated to ensuring the security of the traveling public. The close partnership with TSA has been critical during the pandemic in helping airports remain operational while working collaboratively to provide for the health, safety and security of the travelers, employees and tenants.

Just two months ago, ACI-NA and the airport industry recognized the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that significantly impacted our industry, and resulted in widespread enhancements in aviation and airport security across the world.

Today, we mark another significant milestone in aviation security: the twentieth anniversary of the TSA.  On this very day, 20 years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, legislation that would further enhance aviation security through the creation of TSA and help restore public confidence in air travel.

The legislation directed the newly created TSA to hire, train, test and deploy Transportation Security Officers; purchase and install Explosive Detection Systems for screening checked baggage; hire and dispatch Federal Security Directors to airports to oversee screening operations and verify airports’ compliance with established regulations.

Airports remain committed to working with their TSA partners to ensure effective security through the implementation of risk-based measures to mitigate current and emerging threats, and in response to assessments.  Due to the unpredictable nature of security threats, airports often go above and beyond baseline security requirements, implementing additional processes, procedures, and technologies that are adapted to each airport’s unique geographic locations and facility designs.

While passengers see security checkpoints, the most recognizable part of the aviation security system they do not see the fully integrated, multi-layered approach to airport security that happens behind the scenes.

Maintaining the safety and security of the traveling public is the top priority for airports.  Airports, in full compliance with federal requirements, continually work with their TSA, law enforcement and airline partners to examine, test, and improve upon the risk-based security system to provide for the safety and security of travelers.

So much has changed in the last 20 years, including the overhaul and expansion of aviation security and the creation of agencies like the TSA.

We appreciate the strong partnership we have with TSA and our other aviation partners.  Our security mission is a shared mission.  During the pandemic airports worked closely with their TSA partners to deploy contactless security systems and technology to further enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the aviation security system.

Notably, a new generation of airport leaders have joined our industry since the 9/11 attacks and the creation of TSA.  These leaders will build upon the extensive work that has been conducted and the lessons learned through our close collaboration with TSA over the last 20 years, further reinforcing the safety and security culture we have today.

As we look toward the next 20 years of partnership with TSA and our aviation security partners, we are continually reminded that our work to provide for the health, safety, and security of the traveling public and airport workers will never be finished.

Looking Forward One Year In

By Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO, ACI-NA

Now at the one-year milestone of widespread travel and local restrictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19, we are reminded that this past year has been incredibly challenging for so many, both personally and professionally.  While so much has changed in our industry as we continue to respond to this prolonged crisis, airports remain fully committed to ensuring the health, safety and security of the traveling public and airport workers.

Although North American airports quickly mobilized to protect travelers and workers, the significant drop in passenger traffic has wiped out record growth in air travel and decimated the airport industry’s financial outlook. In 2019, more than 1.9 billion people traveled through North American airports.  At the start the pandemic, air travel dropped by upwards of 95 percent.  ACI-NA estimates that the pandemic will cost U.S. airports more than $40 billion and Canadian airports more than $5.5 billion — a number that will only grow if the pandemic drags on.

There is no shortage of issues confronting the industry.  Early in the pandemic, ACI-NA created the Airport Industry Recovery Advisory Panel to provide the industry with valuable recommendations on immediate term, medium term and long-term measures to address the public health concerns and assist airports coming out of the pandemic.

These initiatives, ranging from restoring confidence in air travel to implementing a wide variety of mitigation strategies, are fostering a completely new level of collaboration across aviation industry stakeholders.  We each have a role to play, and the value of partnership has never been more important. As we think about the future, airports leaders should remain cognizant of the ever-evolving airport business model.  Our ongoing relationships with airline partners, concessionaires, retailers, service providers, and government regulators are essential to our continued success.

ACI-NA led the charge in an effort secure $20 billion in immediate financial relief for the U.S. airport industry.  We are immensely grateful from the strong support of the U.S. government for airports and their concession partners as they remain open and fully operational though this crisis.

Thanks to the proactive leadership of our team in Ottawa, Canada’s airports received some of the only sector specific COVID support in Canada, with some CAD $1.4 billion through ground rent waivers and deferrals, wage subsidy, and infrastructure funding.  However, as the situation in Canada grows more dire each day, our work continues in Canada to secure addition relief to meaningfully address the financial challenges Canada’s airports face.

One of the silver linings to come out of this pandemic is the rapid innovation and the deployment of new technologies to allow for a seamless – and contactless – passenger experience.  While most of this progress had seemed years away, the pandemic has accelerated this effort to turn our industry’s aspirations into reality.  One thing is clear: the passenger experience will look different than it did before. It is going to be better.

Airports have taken unprecedented actions to limit the spread of COVID-19.  As the eternal optimist, I am confident there is a light at the end of the tunnel and much to be done when we emerge from it. From enhancing airport sustainability and resiliency to taking full advantage of automation and big data to enabling a new generation of aircraft to operate at our airports, we face myriad opportunities to make a difference in the aviation industry. All of these opportunities require a ready and able workforce. We look forward to working with the industry to develop training that will help current airport workers adapt as well as prepare the next generation to make their mark on aviation.

Thank you for the continued trust you place in ACI-NA and the immensely talented team here at your trade association.  I continue to be proud of our team, our members, and the important work we do on behalf of North American airports.