Oct. 12, 2021

A rousing, EDM-inspired drum chorus enthusiastically welcomed members of a resilient and triumphant business aviation industry to the Day 1 Keynote at the 2021 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in Las Vegas, NV.

“This is an exciting time for us to celebrate where we’ve been, where we are, and more importantly, where we want to go,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “And it’s going to give us an opportunity to celebrate the excellence that is all around us.”

Bolen further noted NBAA-BACE is the largest aviation gathering in the world to have a zero carbon-impact, through NBAA’s partnership with 4Air to offset emissions connected to the event.

“It’s one of the exciting things that we’re doing to make sure that the future of business aviation is safe, it’s secure and it’s sustainable,” he said. “And you’re all part of it.”

Visionary Martine Rothblatt

Bolen then presented NBAA’s Meritorious Service to Aviation Award to Martine Rothblatt, a trailblazer across multiple fields ranging from satellite communications and biotechnology to the emerging advanced air mobility market.

“Historically, this award is given to somebody the industry knows very well,” said noted engineer and inventor Dean Kamen in introducing Rothblatt. “We have a unique situation here. Many of the people in this room probably don’t know [Martine] and I think that’s fantastic.” Kamen further noted Rothblatt “is critical to the advancement of aviation.”

Rothblatt, in turn, expressed gratitude to many of the people who have inspired her to help blaze the path to a brighter tomorrow in aviation, and the world.

“I might borrow a few words from one of our collective heroes, Orville Wright,” she said. “‘You cannot advance technology unless you’re willing to question assumed truths.’ I thank all of you at NBAA, this is my chosen tribe. The tribe that is blazing the sky itself and propelling aviation forward. Thanks for being who you are for supporting aviation and for moving us into the future.”

NASA Mars Helicopter Team Chief Teddy Tzanetos

NASA Mars Helicopter Team Chief Teddy Tzanetos

The future was also front-and-center for the next speaker. Teddy Tzanetos, operations lead for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory provided an overview of the program’s historic – and ongoing – series of flights in the Martian atmosphere.

“The dream of Ingenuity was to have our ‘Wright Brothers’ moment,” he said. “Orville and Wilbur Wright [flying] for the first time here on Earth was the foundation for why we’re here today talking about aviation. We want to see that happen on Mars.”

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson

In keeping with this unprecedented time of change in the aviation industry, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson emphasized that regulators must adapt quickly to areas like the surging commercial space industry or new technologies available for light aircraft, while not stifling this innovative spirit.

“A lot of people over the years would say that the FAA is the drag that’s pulling innovation back,” he said. “We are challenging that paradigm. Think of our rules and our processes as a protective envelope that we need to operate in…. where you can be assured of a safe operation before reaching the edge of the envelope.”

Veteran, Actor, Comedian Rob Riggle

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson

Marine Corps veteran Rob Riggle closed out the keynote with a wide-ranging series of riffs on subjects ranging from the early hour (“the time when comedy shines brightest. Just for context, I’m getting breakfast after this”) to flying in such varied aircraft as his early private pilot trainer, a Blue Angels F/A-18D and even Air Force Two, “the second most famous private plane in the world.”

“Private aviation is the dream,” he concluded. “What you guys provide is aspiration. I always get along with people of the sky; people on the ground, that’s another story.”

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