June 16, 2020

Perspectives on race relations from across the broad spectrum of the nation’s aviation industry, including business aviation, was the subject of a recent two-hour online discussion, sponsored by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP).

OBAP launched the series, called “Courageous Conversations,” in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and other high-profile incidents between law enforcement and African-Americans. Jo Damato, NBAA’s vice president of educational strategy and workforce development, was among more than a dozen panelists in the June 16 installment of the series.

Recognizing that “such conversations must begin at the top,” Damato noted NBAA launched its own diversity and inclusion initiative across the association. Among the topics covered include addressing unconscious biases in recruiting and hiring practices, and how diversity of perspectives and thought can lead to more creative and innovative solutions to common objectives.

“We need to show younger people that they are represented within our industry, and make it a welcoming environment, and we need to train those in hiring positions about removing bias and recognizing the benefits of bringing in a diverse candidate pool,” she said.

The panel included representatives from organizations including the Society of Professional Engineering Employees Across America and Black Flight Attendants of America. The session also included a surprise appearance by American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker, who spoke about his recent impromptu discussion about race relations in America with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant.

Such discussions, awkward as they often can be, are necessary to fully confront racism in America, noted panelist Dawn Cook with the President’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion at Air Line Pilots Association International. “We will not back down until hard conversations are had, and they will be,” she added. “Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is where change happens. That is where transformation happens.”

Those interested may register for the next Courageous Conversations discussion scheduled Thursday, 3 p.m., Thursday, June 18 at 3 pm (EDT).