AAAE Follow-Up

ATLANTA — This year’s session agenda at the American Association of Airport Executives’ (AAAE) annual Conference & Exhibition held here in May proved popular as panel presentations drew standing room only attendance for several topics.

Among highlights, FAA’s Catherine Lang spoke on the inherent benefits of implementing safety management systems (SMS) industry-wide; Justin Meyer, Kansas City International Airport (MCI), talked about the evolution of communication among passengers; and TSA announced a paradigm-shift for the agency.

What’s changed?

The primary goal of people using the airport in 1950 and today is still transportation. Asks Meyer, air service development manager at MCI, “So what’s changed?

“The primary difference is that passengers today are connected like they have never been before.

“Smart phones are changing everything; I can do everything with my phone … I don’t need your airport information desk anymore, because I can get the maps and reviews and everything I need to know about your city available to me on my smartphone.

“I don’t need the airline customer service desk anymore. I am using the airline website to take care of myself — and if I’m feeling extra savvy, I’m sending a tweet to DeltaAssist, because the airline manages that Twitter account 24/7 … and they can take care of you faster than a service representative on the phone.

“We prefer to communicate through texts, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. And when we are sitting in your airport, we’re tweeting about you; we are in your facility and sharing what we are experiencing.

When you listen to what’s being said about your brand, and you’re being recognized in the social media space, the ball really starts rolling, remarks Meyer. This is where your customers are, he adds.

Some numbers Meyer points to with regard to emerging forms of connectivity include: 83 percent of Americans have a mobile phone; 25 percent of mobile phone users are using smartphones; the worldwide smart phone market has grown 79.7 percent year over year; and every day, 400,000 Android devices are activated [Android represents a third of the smart phone market].

Says Meyer, “The demographic shift is towards connectivity, and I would encourage you to meet your customers there.”

TSA update

With regard to the recent announcement by TSA on a new approach called risk-based security, comments TSA deputy assistant administrator John Sanders, “This is a paradigm shift for the agency … the vast majority of passengers pose little or no risk to committing a terrorist act.

“That is a change for the agency. Until this time, fundamentally, the officers have been told that everybody is a potential threat. It’s important to look at technology and everything TSA is doing through the lens of risk-based security.”

On the passenger screening program, an interface that touches 1.7 million passengers per day, relates Sanders, AT (advanced technology) will hopefully be the platform going forward that will allow the agency to leave laptops and liquids in bags. “At the end of last year we purchased some 700 of these systems; you will probably see about 75-100 of these systems rolled out in the June/July timeframe,” explains Sanders.

Recapitalization is the number one priority and the single largest initiative the agency faces, says Sanders. “We have roughly 800 EDS [explosives detection systems] that are coming up on eight years; nearly 1,000 systems that are over eight years old. The manufacturers estimate that the life of this equipment is between seven and ten years.”

Regarding international collaboration, comments William Fain, senior VP for L-3 Security & Detection Systems, “It has definitely helped from the vendor’s perspective that TSA is collaborating and is looking at putting joint standards together so that we aren’t developing a product specifically for the Europeans or for the TSA.”


“Part 139 is a fantastic foundation and provides many of the building blocks that are going to make the move to SMS much easier in the United States, and I do believe under 139 compliance is essential,” remarks FAA’s Lang.

“Prescriptive regulations work when there are a lot of common cause events; SMS is different. It is a future approach, and really looks at addressing unique causes and organizational aspects.”

Says Tim O’Krongley, assistant aviation director at San Antonio International Airport, “We have decided to implement SMS campus-wide ... there is a lot of talk about scalability. What was right for San Antonio was right for San Antonio.

“Every airport needs to look at how they want to implement SMS, and where they want to implement SMS.”

O’Krongley says the airport has a five-year program, and that SMS is not a quick set-up. “We fully expect our program to take 5-7 years,” he adds.

“One of the biggest things that we found in implementing SMS is just getting people to understand what it is you’re doing. We learned that from our tenants; we get a lot of feedback from them.”