Taking off with Terrance Slaybaugh

 Taking off with Terrance Slaybaugh

The director of aviation is making changes to improve services for those flying in and out of Dayton International Airport.By Jamie Kenny

Whether it is helping get over 2.5 million people to their destinations every year, shepherding his eight kids to different activities and commitments, or serving as the president of the Ohio Aviation Association, Terrance Slaybaugh is a busy man.

However, as director of aviation for the city of Dayton, Slaybaugh has everything under control. “Our airport is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year so it never stops…and it is that way with my kids too,” says Slaybaugh. “I’m never far from my phone.”

And that commitment shows. Slaybaugh came to Dayton in March 2011 to take the director of aviation job with the city of Dayton and immediately began to look at the current systems in place to develop an understanding of where the James M. Cox Dayton International Airport had been and where it needed to go.

Owned by the city of Dayton and operated by its Department of Aviation, the Dayton International Airport is unique because it is considered an “island” of the city, as the majority of the airport property (approximately 3,000 acres) was officially annexed into the city during the 1980s.

The airport is host to six airlines, which serves 14 non-stop destinations. Located at the “Crossroads of America” at Interstates 70 and 75, the Dayton International Airport is centrally located within 90 minutes by air to 55 percent of the country’s population, making it ideal for serving both air and over-ground. The airport is making changes and plans to expand its capabilities as a cargo airport while continuing to provide passengers with convenience and accessibility.

“The first step I made when I took this job was to try and reenergize the airport workforce. They are the face to our customers and I wanted them to understand how important they are to the success of our organization,” says Slaybaugh. “They should feel appreciated and valued every day so that they can pass that appreciation along to our customers. Dayton celebrates a rich history with the aviation industry, beginning with the Wright Brothers. That pride should carry over to the Dayton International Airport and our employees.”

Slaybaugh put training programs in place and helped each group understand the importance of their role to deliver on the mission, which is “to contribute to the prosperity of Southwest Ohio by connecting it to the rest of the world through our aviation system.”

“I value the nearly 2,500 employees it takes to make this airport hum…from our own firefighters and police force to our equipment operators and maintenance people. I want them to feel that value, too.”

According to Slaybaugh, the focus should always be the customers. “Today, our airport staff is dedicated to providing our passengers with the most enjoyable and successful travel experience.”

Slaybaugh came to Dayton from Rochester, New York, where he served as director of aviation at the Greater Rochester International Airport and led business development, large capital projects, operations and expansion of security. He says what drew him here were the many similarities between Dayton and Rochester including its rich history of innovation and invention.

“My wife and I had been in the Rochester area for over 30 years, so it wasn’t an easy decision to relocate to Dayton,” says Slaybaugh. “However, once we visited the community, we were blown away by all that it had to offer. We love the Dayton Dragons, the Air Force Museum, the education opportunities and hometown environment. We found that it was much like Rochester with a more Midwestern feel.

“One of my roles is to tell people how great Dayton is. My family has found Dayton to be one of the cleanest and most organized downtown areas of its size and we hear that from people we know who have visited the area. We know that the airport is often the first chance we have to make a good impression on guests and we take that very seriously. We want people to see the airport as a reflection of our great community and vital downtown area.”

Since his arrival, the airport has seen many changes, including major renovations to the terminal such as new bathrooms, carpet, furniture and signage as well as bringing in new vendors like Chick-Fil-A and the American Bagel Company and revamping the onsite Max & Erma’s restaurant. Another Starbucks was added so that both concourses now have a location. On the exterior, updates were made to signage from curb to gate, and reconstructing and repaving all of the parking lots is now in the queue.

“The improvements we’ve made so far have been great, but you will see more changes coming that will be focused on bringing in the history of this great aviation community to our organization, including new artwork, graphics and historical information from partnering with local organizations.”

The airport was built in 1958 and the concourses were built in the late 1970s, making today’s footprint over 360,000 square feet. The city just completed a 20-year capital program to identify ongoing improvements that need to be made to expand the overall service and viability. Over the next several years, $125 million in capital improvements will be made to the airport that include rehabilitation of the general aviation center apron, enhanced airfield signage and replacement of certain airfield pavement, along with $220 million for the terminal, public areas and parking lots.

“What I think is really exciting for Dayton is that the airport expands the impact the city can have because we are considered a regional asset, not just a local asset,” says Slaybaugh. “As the airline and travel industry changes, so will our local airport, but we will continue to take advantage of having this great resource in our community.”

Slaybaugh believes that the Dayton Airport is successful because of its easy access, customer-focused attitude and competitive, if not lower, fares than other airports within a 100-mile radius. “The dynamic of the airlines is changing as they continue to merge and do whatever they can to be profitable again. They have to be strategic and fly from where they can make the most revenue. We continue to work with the airlines to best utilize the resources we have and prove to them that we are a viable opportunity for increased passengers and revenue.”

In his free time, or what there is of it, Slaybaugh serves on the board of directors for Good Samaritan Hospital because he loves what the hospital is doing in the community and feels that health care is going through a consolidation similar to that of the airline industry. He likes collaborating with other Dayton leaders to see how other industries are coping with change.

So what does he do for fun? Right now, Slaybaugh is content to run after his kids and keep his customers happy.

“At the end of the day, I want my family to be content and my customers to be proud to have their friends, family and business associates fly into our airport. It is a great community asset!”