Business Aviation’s Trailblazers, Future Leaders Shine at NBAA-BACE
Oct. 23, 2019
From record-setting pilots to those eyeing the future of aviation, the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) Day 2 Keynote inspired attendees with a forward-looking panel of speakers.
“What is making NBAA-BACE 2019 so special is that we are able to see the future all around us – in products, in services and in a new generation of leaders,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “We want to shine a bright light on the future.”
Bolen then recognized the NBAA 2019 Business Aviation Top 40 Under 40 as well as new NBAA Certified Aviation Managers (CAMs) for their dedication to excellence in business aviation, noting these individuals are the future of leadership in business aviation.
Next Bolen presented Barrington Irving Jr. with the 2019 NBAA American Spirit Award, which recognizes courage, pursuit of excellence and service to others and the aviation community. Irving, who in 2007 became the youngest pilot to fly solo around the work in a single-engine airplane, is a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and he established the Experience Aviation Learning Center, which is dedicated to empowering middle and high school students in the Miami area to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM+) careers, including within aviation and aerospace.
“I wanted to fly around the world to inspire kids,” said Irving. “It is so important to engage kids and show them the finish line. The destination is important.”
In accepting the award, Irving discussed his desire to empower young people and encourage them to use aviation to achieve their highest self. He also recalled his first early experiences with aviation and NBAA-BACE, thanking mentors who reached out to him, as well as one business aviation professional who paid Irving’s way to his first NBAA convention.
Maj. Gen. Jeannie M. Leavitt
In an inspiring leader-to-leader discussion, Maj. Gen. Jeannie M. Leavitt, the first female combat pilot in the U.S. Air Force and first woman to lead a combat wing, now commander of the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Texas, was interviewed by retired USAF Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton, the first African American to fly for the Thunderbirds and NBAA’s current chair.
Leavitt shared with the audience her experience as the first female combat pilot as well as the U.S. Air Force’s current emphasis on diversity and inclusion, adding she doesn’t mind being called a trailblazer if it means those who follow the same path meet less resistance.
Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, spoke with attendees about his company’s goals of creating a multimodal aerial rideshare, an automation platform, electric aircraft and connected skyports in partnership with other industry players. Allison also discussed UberCopter, which provides airport transportation in New York City, but more importantly is serving as a sort of launch platform to future urban air mobility (UAM) service using electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
“We want this to be an option for everyday transportation,” said Allison. “It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.” Allison predicts launching UAM operations using eVTOL aircraft in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in 2023.
“Jetman” Yves Rossy closed the session with his journey to what seems impossible – a man flying without a vehicle. Rossy was a fighter pilot in the Swiss military, calling flying a fighter aircraft “freedom with a big F.” But as liberating as this experience was, it did not meet his dream of flying autonomously, so Rossy began development of the jet engine-powered wing that allows him to fly without a vehicle, using small body movements to change his direction.
Years of development have led to a wing so capable, he can perform formation flights with traditional jet airplanes and even aerobatics – including a full loop.
“It’s not only flying – it’s a journey of life,” Rossy concluded, encouraging attendees to keep a place for the “fun, for the fantasy.”
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