Where do you live?
I live in Coral Gables.
How long have you lived in the area?
11 years in Coral Gables and 28 years in Miami.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Please share about what you do for a livelihood or what keeps you busy during the week?
I work for the Miami-Dade County Government at the Miami International Airport. This April will make 26 years working there. I work in airport operations and my particular area is the airfield.
What does the operations group include?
Operations involves everything that makes the airport function efficiently and safely for the passengers. That includes the terminal, what we call the landside – where people drop off, and the airfield where the aircraft operate. We make sure that the airfield is safe and efficient for the operation of flights. We are responsible for runway inspections, assigning gates, and once in a while we have to respond to an emergency.
Have you ever been there during an emergency?
Yes. Most of the time, emergencies work themselves out. After an emergency, we may have to do a runway inspection to make sure that the runway is safe to operate. I’ve seen a few incidents. There was once a 727 that had an engine containment failure and we had to bus the passengers from the runway. We spent nearly an hour picking up parts from the runway before we could certify the runway was safe to operate again.
What do we as passengers need to know in an emergency?
The airlines have become very creative in how they present the safety briefing before the flight departs. I would recommend to pay attention, look at the exits and prepare for an orderly evacuation if there should be an emergency.
When you go to the airport as a traveler, not for work, is that experience different for you?
That’s an interesting question, and you’re right, I see all the activity out the windows that most of the passengers are oblivious to. Except, maybe for the little kids staring out the windows. I’m proud to say that I have never flown out of any other South Florida airport. I always book my flight through MIA – and it helps that I’m only three miles away.
You’ve mentioned, at the market, a desire to go into radio broadcasting. How does this fit in with what you are doing?
I believe there’s so much that the public can learn about aviation. If I can somehow merge the two fields, radio broadcasting and aviation, I think that would be great. I’m a student of architecture and especially airport architecture. Look at TWA terminal by Eero Saarinen at JFK, it’s a national historic site now. Or, his Washington Dulles airport design, it is beautiful. At MIA, we have very nice concourses as well. If you can see the J concourse from the outside, it looks like a giant wing or cruise ship. By being a public servant, I’m always reaching out to help others with a desire to help people build a sense of community. Radio used to be local and helped create community. Maybe we can bring some of that back.
What type of things might you teach?
Do you know that aircraft are no longer made of pressed aluminum? Now, more aircraft are made with a very strong and light-weight composite that can yield up to a 40% savings in fuel costs. Also, new aircraft are more inviting and environmentally friendly both from the exhaust and noise standpoint. The carbon footprint is a lot less than what it was in the 60’s.
Would you share your story about the Fourth runway at MIA?
When I was in college, I was a peer counselor, and an English professor wrote a recommendation letter for me that I have an ability to listen to others and understand their point of view and see where they’re coming from. I guess that just boils down to a civility and courtesy and knowing that everybody has something interesting to say. Our boss asked us if anyone wanted to go to a public hearing about the addition of a fourth runway. Speaker after speaker after speaker gave the economic justification for construction of the fourth runway. There were some people in opposition to it, especially those who lived in the flight paths. I just kept listening and finally I thought I should just go up there and say something different. It came right out of me, from an operations perspective, that we are a three runway airport and two of the runways intersect. If we have an incident where the two intersect, immediately we become a one runway airport. So if we had a fourth runway, that actually increases the margin of safety because the planes won’t get backed up and we can bring them in more safely. The opposing side actually clapped. I think they were glad to hear that somebody listened and shared a reason that they would want the runway too.
What lessons have you learned at the airport?
I’ve learned, over the course of 26 years, that eventually things work themselves out. I learned this as a gate controller. I used to be worried when flights would not come in at their scheduled time. Gate control is kind of like a puzzle. My coworkers, who were more seasoned than I, would tell me, ‘Felix, just worry about your first two hours and eventually you’ll find a gate for the flight that’s coming in four hours.’ Like the Fourth runway, things worked themselves out.
How often do you come to the market?
I try to come every week when you’re in the Gables.
What do you like to get from our stand?
I really love the Flower Power smoothie. It’s like a jolt of energy, life, prosperity, and well-being, to feed – not just my body- but my mind and soul. What you and Adena do is remarkable and comes with so much love and thoughtfulness. I’m not just drinking the fruit, I’m drinking all the experiences and the care and thought your family puts into it – from growing to the market. Since I can’t always make it to Pinecrest, I want to take advantage of that refrigerator delivery service that you started.
What else do you like to buy from other stands at the markets?
I’ve bought the organic honey and sometimes I’ll buy the produce in the middle part of the market.
What do you think the market’s missing?
My daughter lives in the Hollywood area and they have a very interesting farmer’s market with part of it under a roof. They have freshly opened coconuts with a straw, which we’re missing, and there was even a booth for massages. A farmer’s market where you can get a massage – that’s great!
Do you have any restaurant suggestions?
I like Talavera restaurant in Coral Gables. It’s a Mexican restaurant, but it’s not your typical Mexican food. And, they have awesome margaritas and guacamole. I like to order the Swiss enchiladas.
And, in my opinion, the best pizza and Philly cheesesteak can be found at A Little Bit of Philly in Miami Springs.
Where do you like to go for a special occasion?
I like Cafe Italia. It has a very nice ambiance, delicious food and my favorite dish is the Ravioli Amatricianna.
Do you like to cook at home?
I really don’t cook but would like to learn. I guess my energies are channeled into other creative endeavors like writing poetry.
What do you think Miami’s best kept secret is?
The lighthouse at Bill Baggs State Park has a tremendous view. Also, sometimes I’ll go to the intersection of Krome and Tamiami Trail and set my tripometer to zero and drive 12 miles west to the Value Jet Memorial. It’s a memorial that was designed by the University of Miami architecture students. It’s 110 columns and each one represents a victim. By just driving 12 miles west, you are in this very peaceful place in the Everglades.
What’s a worthy splurge?
Wall’s ice cream for a chocolate milkshake.
What’s a good rainy-day activity?
A snuggle inside and reading a good book with a hot cup of cocoa.
Is there a question you would like to ask us?
Do you plan to go national with your products?
(A+W) Right now we are focused on local. The fruit from our farm is distributed all over the nation, but our focus is bringing products we make with our fruit to the local market. The markets are a great place to constantly grow and there’s nothing more fun than talking with the people we meet.
Is there a question or something you would like to ask our community?
Don’t be afraid to use your turn signals. It’s not a shameful thing.
Is there anything else that you would like to share that I haven’t asked?
I’d like to wish everybody three big O’s for 2019. Options, Opportunities and Optimism. It’s the year to prepare for 2020. I call the year 2020, the Year of Perfect Vision. When you have perfect vision, you know exactly where you’re headed.