Rick Piccolo, President, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport: “People today do not enjoy flying.”Rick Piccolo

President, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport

Fredrick (Rick) J. Piccolo, president of the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport since 1995, doesn’t think there will ever be another 9-11 terrorist attack in which airplanes run into buildings. “Because of the security we have now, because they have hardened the cockpit doors, and, more importantly, because the passengers won’t stand for it anymore,” says Piccolo, 59. The Sarasota Bradenton airport and related businesses employ about 1,800 people. About 125 of them work for the airport authority, including in operations, information technology and marketing.

Your first job in aviation: A janitor at the airport in Buffalo, where I grew up. I thought I would do that until I found another job. But then I went into airfield maintenance—driving snowplows—and eventually into management.

What’s changed in the airport post 9-11? We have spent $15 million in improved security. We have installed a completely new communication center, emergency operations center and access control system. We have gone from 19 cameras pre-9-11 to 80 now and from two VCR recorders to 16 digital recorders. More important is that people today do not enjoy flying, so we try to make the flying experience as pleasant and stress-free as possible in areas we can control. We try to make the place really clean. We offer free Wi-Fi. We try to move the security lines quickly.

Is the job harder now? It is less fun. I still love the industry and love the job, but there is definitely more stress.

Most important skill to have as airport director: Patience.

Hardest part of your job: When you have to lay somebody off. When I came here, we had to cut the staff from 135 to 121. I did it personally. Here is a person—loyal, hardworking—who did nothing wrong, but you have to say to them that I don’t have a job for you anymore.

Goal not yet achieved: I’ve been elected vice chair of the Airports Council International World Governing Board, a trade association of 1,750 airports around the world, and in two years I should be elevated to chair. I want to do a good job because it helps put Sarasota on the world stage.

Favorite airport in the world other than SRQ: Seoul, Korea.


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