May 3rd, 2009
April meeting report by Michael Black:
Our April meeting was held at the Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jerry Peterson arranged for this special tour of the airport and it turned out to be a fascinating evening for all in attendance. Members met at the Mitchell Air Museum inside the terminal and were ushered into a meeting room by Mitchell Airport PR Director Ryan McAdams and Airport Security Director Mike Keegan.
After a brief overview of the airport and its various areas, members were shown a large photographic map of the facility and each location was explained. The Mitchell International Airport has two major runways servicing commercial aircraft as well as subsidiary runways for smaller aircraft. The airport also has its own fire department and a contingent of Milwaukee County Sheriffs who handle law enforcement duties on the facility and grounds. Mike Keegan says during a typical week they arrest five or six people for various offenses. The electric bill alone for the airport is about $12 million a year, and there are over 2200 acres that must be secured and patrolled constantly.
The Mitchell International Airport contributes 8.2 billion dollars to the local economy and provides over 18,000 jobs.
The members were then escorted through the TSA Security Checkpoint and into the main terminal for dinner at Nonna’s restaurant. At dinner, chapter President Julie Hyzy thanked the airport representatives for their hospitality and Jerry Peterson for his work in arranging this event. The customary member introductions and news items were reviewed. Julie mentioned the continuing plans for Printer’s Row in Chicago in June. Ted Hertel talked about his participation in an Elderhostel writing seminar in Green Lake, Wisconsin, June 7 through 12. This event will include MWA members Jerry Healy, Sandy Balzo, and Gary Niebuhr, among others. For more information go to www.elderhostel.org
After dinner the perambulation began with a presentation by the TSA supervisor regarding procedures and safeguards taken by the organization. The tour continued through the baggage claim areas, and the members got a bird’s eye view of how luggage is dealt with once it’s been checked in at the counter.
After a fascinating walk through what was termed “the bowels of the airport,” the tour was completed with a trip up to the observation deck. This deck is the highest point of the airport excluding the control tower. The view was magnificent and the stalwart members who made the trek up the tower stairs were treated to the sights of the lighted airport and several planes taking off and landing.
The enormous responsibility and Herculean tasks became evident as Ryan McAdams explained the amount of maintenance work required for such things as snow removal, grass cutting, perimeter security, animal control issues, and continuous training of personnel. At the conclusion of the evening the members had a better understanding of how a major airport works and got to glimpse some fascinating behind- the-scenes areas that are normally off-limits to the general public. Everyone raved about how informative the tour had been and there is little doubt that the writers in the group were given many new ideas and details for their future writing projects.