Carlos Blackwood enjoys being involved in every aspect of keeping Tampa International Airport and its employees out of harm’s way. As the Aviation Authority’s Risk and Safety Manager, he looks for ways to reduce potential for injury or damages, makes sure the airport and Authority are properly insured and identifies potential pitfalls that other department heads may not see. He even goes around preaching to employees about the danger of texting and driving.
“I’m constantly thinking about risk,” Carlos said.
This includes during all the times he’s sped down the highway on his motorcycle, one of his favorite activities, even after a woman once knocked him off his bike with her car. Or the time he found himself flying 140 miles per hour on Germany’s Autobahn as his wife slept in the passenger seat and his kids happily looked out the car windows.
Carlos may be an insurance and numbers guy, but that doesn’t make him a bore. Born the second-to-youngest of seven siblings to Panamanian parents who immigrated to the United States just before his birth, Carlos grew up with his family of nine in a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y. His father worked as a fueling technician at John F. Kennedy International Airport; his mother cared for the children. Eventually, the family moved from Brooklyn to a house in Queens, not too far from the airport.
“I learned very early on how to share and how to get used to eating the same foods all the time,” Carlos said. “I also learned from my father that you do whatever you have to do to take care of your family. That’s number one.” Carlos attended Brooklyn College, studying accounting. He always loved math and bookkeeping, but soon realized an accounting career would include auditing and business law and other tasks he didn’t like. So after graduation, he began selling life insurance.
“Eventually I ran out of family and friends to sell it to,” Carlos said. That’s when he learned of a job opening with New York City that sounded interesting: risk manager.
“I had no clue what a risk manager was,” Carlos said. But he applied and the City hired him, and soon he was a major part of protecting New York City from accidents and implementing new safety initiatives. He was heavily involved in protecting the city and working with the United States Secret Service when the Democratic National Convention came to town. He also managed insurance programs and monitored safety for construction projects with the New York City public schools system and the Port Authority of New Jersey.
His experience with those projects, and several others around the world when he later worked as a risk manager for Siemens, gave him experience he feels helped him prepare for the huge task that lies ahead in his job at TPA. He’ll be managing insurance, reducing risk and ensuring safety for the 9,000-plus workers – not to mention for the current employees and traveling public – that will be at TPA over the next three years as the rental car facility, people mover and main terminal expansion projects get underway.
“I’ve been looking to mirror other programs on large projects that have been successful and have had no fatalities, such as at Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, which has been undergoing nearly $2 billion in construction,” Carlos said. “We want to be able to say, without a doubt, that we’ve been as safe as anyone could be at TPA.”
Carlos hopes to eventually take advantage of TPA’s nonstop Copa Airlines flights to Panama, where his parents have retired and relatives live. He also loves spending time with wife and his children, a 17-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 13 and 9.
He sold his old motorcycle awhile back to pay off his bills, but he plans to buy another soon.
“My wife gave me the okay to get another one,” he said. And don’t worry, he assured, he understands the risks and promises to ride safely.