The Day 2 Keynote session at NBAA’s Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) was a celebration of aviation’s past and a look toward the industry’s future.

40 under 40

The event began with recognition of NBAA’s inaugural class of the Business Aviation Top 40 under 40. More than 300 aviation professionals under the age of 40 were nominated in several categories, including pilots, technicians, schedulers, business management and more.

“We are very proud of our 40 under 40,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, introducing a video featuring the young professionals chosen as the top 40 aviation professionals in their field today. These professionals “aim higher and strive to achieve greatness. By embracing and empowering the next generation, we can all soar to great heights together,” according to the video.


“There’s a strong sense that the future is about innovation, technology but it’s also about inspiration,” said Bolen, as he introduced Bertrand Piccard, who together with fellow pioneer and entrepreneur Andre Borchberg invented and piloted the Solar Impulse project. Piccard and Borchberg circumnavigated the globe in the Solar Impulse without a single drop of fuel.

Although inspired by Charles Lindbergh and other aviation pioneers, Piccard and Borchberg had a vision of an aircraft which used no traditional fuel source. Initially, aviation manufacturers were not interested in working on the unusual-looking aircraft with a wingspan as wide as a jumbo jet, but 10 times lighter than the most efficient glider.

“If you want to be successful, sometimes you have to go through these moments of humiliation and disappointment,” said Piccard. “If we want innovation, sometimes we have to go outside the traditional system. In school and in life, we are taught to think in a straight line… We tend to be afraid of the unknown.

“We have to be explorers, to accept to go into the unknown, and to try – to try every option, every possibility, every solution until we find the right one. We have to try one more time than the number of our failures. The people who laugh are the people don’t dare to try,” he added.

Piccard encouraged attendees to embrace innovation in renewable energy and clean technology. To continue this movement, the Solar Impulse team created the Solar Impulse Foundation 1000 Solutions Challenge, which encourages inventors, technicians, engineers and professionals from all fields to create innovative solutions to address air pollution, water pollution and the world’s energy crisis.

“Innovation doesn’t come when you have a new idea – it comes when you throw away your old assumptions, your old dogmas,” said Piccard.


Bolen then honored aviation’s past in presenting NBAA’s Meritorious Service to Aviation Award to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) for their service to the country during World War II. WASP members flew more than 60 million miles, delivered more than 12,000 aircraft and operated 70 types of aircraft during the war.

Three women who served in the WASP – Kay Hilbrandt, Bernice “Bee” Haydu and Shirley Chase Kruse – were recognized through enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation. Erin Miller, granddaughter of WASP Elaine Harmon, received the award on behalf of the WASPs. Miller was instrumental in securing burial rights at Arlington National Cemetery, where her grandmother rests today.

“I was struck not just by their service in the war but what they have been doing since they served,” said Miller. “They continue to be active in aviation and contribute to their communities.”

Political Commentators

Finally, political titans Paul Begala, on the political left, and Matt Schlapp, on the political right, gave an overview of the current campaign environment, in the run-up to the 2018 mid-term elections. Both analysts discussed the political divide in our country, and encouraged attendees to get out and vote in the elections. They also fielded questions from NBAA-BACE attendees about the 2020 presidential election and more.

Begala also congratulated NBAA, its members and other general aviation stakeholders for their recent passage of the five-year, bipartisan FAA reauthorization bill. In today’s Washington, DC climate, he said, getting a bill supported and passed by those on both sides of the aisle is often a rare occurrence.

Begala played a central role in electing two different presidents, most recently as a senior adviser for the pro-Obama Super PAC in the 2012 presidential election, and earlier, in teaming up with James Carville to help engineer Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. He was recently inducted into the American Association of Political Consultants’ Hall of Fame, and has authored several New York Times best-selling political books.

Schlapp has more than 20 years of government, corporate and political experience, and is a principal at Cove Strategies, a boutique government and public relations. He has been a political advisor in many top-level Washington, DC assignments, including serving as deputy assistant and political advisor for President George W. Bush. Schlapp is chair of the American Conservative Union and the American Conservative Union Foundation, which is known for its annual conference, CPAC.

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