By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director
Ted Stranczek, president of Aircraftsmen & Associates of Highland Village, TX, formerly headed up the aviation division of AAR Corporation. Today, he provides security analyses for airports and airport-based businesses, as well as a series of aviation security guides. Following is an edited transcript of a recent discussion with AIRPORT BUSINESS
Stranczek, 62, has spent some 42 years in aviation. He began as a corporate pilot before working at Combs-Gates FBOs in Denver and Indianapolis, and then heading up the AAR center in Oklahoma City until 1990.
AIRPORT BUSINESS: How is it you got involved in security and emergency planning?
Stranczek: When I was running AAR, I became chairman of Aerospace America, and part of the responsibility for the airshow was to put together a group of people — the FAA at Will Rogers [World Airport], the Air National Guard, the airport itself, and myself as the FBO operator — and we put together and published the first airshow safety manual. In the next ten years we developed this plan to perfection. That got me started in the emergency planning and safety issues. When 9/11 happened, and people said we have to come up with better ways to make facilities safe, it was not a stretch for me to lay out what I thought was needed.
I also went to an executive protection school on security, and I took a look at how professional security organizations and specialists address security for travel executives and offices complexes. I got a helluva education on what security looks like from the law enforcement side of things.
AB: How do you view aviation security post-9/11?
Stranczek: Years ago, who would have thought of sending a lineman to a school and giving him a certificate for knowing how to handle, park, and tug airplanes? Twenty years ago that was unheard of; today, it’s a minimum requirement. Same with security. There really wasn’t a secure airport, per se. You could literally walk over gates and crawl under fences and it wasn’t a big deal. Today, you have to go back and look at it and say, wait a minute, the laissez-faire attitude we had is no longer acceptable.
There’s a gene that wasn’t present with the majority of people at airports. They assumed what they were doing was good enough. It’s a fact that our perception of security was very naïve.
If you ask a typical TSA guy to tell you about a general aviation airport, he doesn’t have a clue. Why? Because we’ve operated under the radar, we were deliberately low profile. In all honesty, it’s not a gigantic step for the operators to go to having a very secure environment. It’s not something that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, it may be ten or twenty thousand.
Many of the corporations with corporate hangars were way ahead of the airlines and, quite frankly, today are way ahead of the airlines in the executive protection posture they take, and the fact that they had a corporate hangar that was far more secure than the FBO was. So, you had a model in many cases at an FBO. From a TSA standpoint, the major corporations were far more secure on September 10th than any of the major airports or the airlines themselves. What they’re doing now is enhancing them with current technology — the ability to monitor via the Internet and having biometrics.
So now, the TSA is coming in and saying that everybody has to do something, but the problem is no one knows what that something is. It’s going to have to focus on personal identification, facility security, abso-lute identification and monitoring, and an attitude that says if something happens everybody gets involved.
AB: Expand on the concept of a law enforcement mindset.
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