Getting Ahead of the Curve: Tom Slavin has secured his FBO; now he wants to secure an industry

Tom Slavin has secured his FBO; now he wants to secure an industry CLEVELAND – He sees it as an investment in good customer service, a cost of doing business, a marketing opportunity – a moral responsibility. Tom Slavin has the digital...


Tom Slavin has secured his FBO; now he wants to secure an industry

CLEVELAND – He sees it as an investment in good customer service, a cost of doing business, a marketing opportunity – a moral responsibility. Tom Slavin has the digital eyes of technology watching over his store, and his employees are watching the technology. As are the airport police. Yet all else at the FBO is as it was. This is an example, he says, to take to the TSA and to the industry, to spur a serious dialog about general aviation security before it’s mandated externally.

Million Air Cleveland has fortified its FBO with technology: 8 digital color cameras; 3 monitors; computerized gates/fencing; internet access; and a wireless feed to airport police who can directly monitor ramp activity when needed.

"General aviation airports and the general aviation community are at a very critical juncture," says Slavin, president of the Million Air at Burke Lakefront airport in downtown Cleve-land. "If they do not act assertively, then under the circumstances I think that various regulatory agencies and TSA are going to seek to regulate us. I am taking the position of advocating self-regulation.

Burke Lakefront Airport lies next to downtown Cleveland, adjacent to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the city's professional sports
stadiums. Says Tom Slavin, "Obviously, a dirt strip in Nebraska probably doesn't pose the kind of threat to our country's infrastructure that a Burke Lakefront might."

"Now what does that mean? Under the aegis of NATA [National Air Transportation Association], this is a tremendous opportunity for our industry to actually have self-enforcement regulations that are pretty stringent. I think it’s in the country’s and the GA community’s best interest to really work together to address the issue of security. Security and safety are paramount issues."

Toward that end, Slavin would like to see NATA come up with regulations created by the FBO industry that the association would enforce through inspections and a rating system. Ratings would be based on a formula much like the one recently submitted to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) by a taskforce of the American Association of Air-port Executives. AAAE puts GA airports into four categories, from the most rural to the most urban.

Says Slavin, "Each one of those categories has a different, measurable risk quotient associated with it. Obviously, a dirt strip in Nebraska that’s 3,000 feet long doesn’t pose the kind of threat to our country’s infrastructure that a Burke Lakefront might, being located five minutes from the center of a metropolitan area of some 2.5 million people."

James Price, operations manager and Tom Slavin, president

He was preparing to submit his ideas at an NATA security briefing in Washington made up of representative industry and government officials, in late September.

"It’s clear that NATA should really try to define separate policies and procedures, and separate levels of infrastructure, that are necessary at different airports based on their category. It’s very important that we come up with a rating system for safety and security, like a Michelin-type of 1-star, 2-star, 3-star, 4-star. Users should know who is comporting effectively with security and safety mandates and who is not, and where on that index of our trade association everybody falls."

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