As a young boy, Chris Sloan would wander around Miami International Airport in awe of the exotic airlines and glamorous travelers who passed by.

He grew up to be an aviation buff and co-owner of a production company with his wife, and Thursday he showed off his latest work right in the middle of MIA: Airport 24/7: Miami, a series that debuts on the Travel Channel at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

“This place to me was just pure magic,” said Sloan, 43, who lives in North Miami with wife Carla Kaufman Sloan. “This is absolutely a dream come true to be able to participate in telling the story of my hometown airport.”

The show’s first two episodes, screened in the south terminal, were a hit with employees who work at the airport. But the idea did not go over quite so well when Sloan first approached airport officials.

“My security head said, ‘No way are we going to allow cameras to follow us around,'” said Lauren Stover, assistant aviation director in charge of public safety, security and communications. She is one of nine employees featured in the six-episode series, which will air Tuesday nights at 9 p.m.

But after months of talks with a multitude of agencies, airlines and companies that work in the airport — not to mention serious vetting of Sloan and his crew — MIA agreed, hoping to present a kinder, gentler side than most people might see.

“I agreed to do this program if it would show people that we really do care,” Stover said.

While officials seem pleased with the way employees are depicted, they admit there was an adjustment period to working with an audience.

“A lot of people thought we were crazy to have a film crew follow us everywhere,” said deputy director for operations Ken Pyatt, who is also featured in the show, at Thursday’s event. “I started to ask myself the same question after a few months.”

From Christmas week of last year through the end of April 2012, Sloan said crews worked at the airport every day from 7 a.m. until midnight to capture the day-to-day drama as it unfolded.

Circumstances obliged. The first episode shows a man packing a loaded gun in his suitcase, a woman emotionally attached to the jar of peanut butter she had to toss and the countdown for Lufthansa’s giant Airbus A380 to get cleaned, inspected and back in the air on time.

It also features ramp duty manager Albert Cordeschi, who describes what he typically encounters as he empties out the mammoth plane’s lavatory: “turds the size of — huge, bro.”

“This is really life at the airport,” Stover said. “We can’t repeat things when they happen. If there’s a security incident, those cameras better be rolling and getting it. We’re not going to tell the passenger that had a loaded gun to go back and walk through TSA security again.”

While the Travel Channel had editorial control of the program, airport and federal officials watched each episode to make sure that no sensitive security information was being revealed.

Sloan said no one ever threatened to limit the producers’ access.

That ability to go so far behind the scenes was what sold Travel Channel on the show, said general manager Andy Singer.

“I would tell you that from a network perspective, you ask a bunch of questions when a producer’s going to try to sell you a show: Do you have the access? Are there enough stories here? Can we really make a show there?” Singer said. “We were just blown away.” ___

(c)2012 The Miami Herald

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