Sept. 6, 2018

“The future of business aviation looks bright, and technologies on the horizon make this an exciting time to be in the industry, but only if we meet challenges head on and work together to make a difference.”

That was the message NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen delivered to the 1,800 attendees at the Sept. 6 NBAA Regional Forum in San Jose, CA. The final forum of 2018 provided a chance for NBAA to thank its members and other industry stakeholders for their successful efforts in mobilizing to fight back ATC-privatization proposals, and also to discuss challenges ahead.

“How are we going to attract and retain people into this industry, that we know is so important, so rewarding?” Bolen asked attendees. “We have a great industry, but people don’t always know who we are, they don’t know that our airplanes help companies be more efficient and productive.”

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The industry he said, needs to get that word out to keep business aviation strong, and that means attending career day events, speaking with high school and college students, holding events at general aviation airports across the country and other efforts.

“Can you imagine a better place to make your career than business aviation?” Bolen said. “Our industry is uniquely interesting, uniquely challenging and in a lot of ways, uniquely inspiring. That’s who we are.”

An education session at the forum took Bolen’s premise a step further, as millennial speaker and author Jeff Butler presented data and case studies to help better understand how to bridge the gap between different generations within the workforce.

Millennials, he said, are looking for more than a paycheck. They want to work for an organization that will allow them to grow personally and professionally, and also whose mission agrees with their own world view. A recent survey by Glass Door found that 90 percent of millennials prefer benefits over pay raises – benefits including the ability to work remotely, receive more paid leave, or acquire access to company-paid training programs, Butler said.

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Industry Growth

While business aviation faces its challenges in attracting younger people to the workforce, NBAA Forum attendees were optimistic about the industry’s future.

“The mood was extremely positive, there were a lot of buyers here and prospects that were new to the exhibitors,” said Mike Nichols, CAM, NBAA’s vice president of operational excellence and professional development. “People have been talking about how the business aviation market has greatly improved in the last couple of months, and they are appreciative of the opportunity to get business done here this week.”

Exhibitors agreed the forum provided an ideal venue to meet current and prospective customers.

“We’re very happy with the people who are coming out, the quality of folks here,” said Paul Floreck with Dassault Falcon Jet. “We need to be where the people are, where the buyers are. These [regional forums] allow us to get closer to more local customers.”

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Sean McGeough, from New York-based Wheels Up, agreed. “To be at the airport here, visiting with customers of our own, and prospective members, it’s just great to have those kinds of face-to-face meetings,” he said. “They get out here, and they can see our King Air 350, they can see it inside, see what it’s like to fly in one of our airplanes, you just can’t beat it.”

Mary Altman, from the Colorado-based surface-liner production company ALLProtect, said her company’s product is relatively new to aviation, but NBAA events, including the regional forums, have helped introduce it to the marketplace. “We’ve been leveraging contacts at these shows that are in great locations,” she said. “What we’ve found is people are receptive. They come to these shows to actually learn something.”

Her colleague Toni Hll agreed: “You have to touch [a product], and feel it, and see it to really understand what it is, and without coming to these shows you can’t do that,” she said. “Without [the shows], we really wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

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