Sergeant Ron Barzyk has worked at DFW Airport for more than 15,000 days, and he almost didn’t make it past the first one. Eight months before the airport’s January 13, 1974, opening, Barzyk sat in a downtown Dallas office building and waited the entire day for the personnel director to see him. Exhausted after spending hours in the lobby, he headed for the elevator to leave. The doors opened, the director stepped out, and Barzyk began his 41-year tenure at the airport.
“It’s like watching your son being born and watching him grow,” he says of the airport. “So for 41-plus years, we see how we’ve expanded and become better at what we do.”
He joined a public safety department that used a mishmash of revolvers and bought some supplies from an Army-Navy store, chasing down construction-site thieves while contractors erected the terminals. Eventually that squad grew into one of the most well-respected airport public safety forces in the country and has now split into five different specialties.
Barzyk has worked as a bomb tech, a member of the SWAT team, a firefighter, a K9 handler, was sent to school to learn how to repair machine guns and grenade launchers, and now finds himself managing the airport’s gun range. Of the more than 60,000 airport employees, he’s the only one with a two-digit ID number: 48.
Since its opening, DFW Airport has grown from a primarily regional airport with nine airlines to the ninth-busiest passenger airport in the world, with more than 60 million annual travelers. On the day you’re reading this, 1,900 planes will take off from the airport. It generates $31 billion in economic impact to North Texas annually, and it was built 40 years ago for a relatively paltry $700 million. (Current renovations are running $2.3 billion.) It’s no stretch to imagine a North Texas that would have remained mostly prairie without that $700 million investment.
“It means everything to the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” Barzyk says. “It has been the mechanism that made this region grow. Plano just got Toyota. Wonder why Toyota came here.”