Oct. 18, 2022

An astrophysicist, a NASCAR champion and two international aviation safety leaders headlined the Day One Keynote Session that focused on excellence, leadership and aspiration at the 2022 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in Orlando, FL.

First up was NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, who welcomed FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen and Patrick Ky, director general of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), to a discussion about their respective agencies’ shared goals.

“I dare to say the relationship between the FAA and EASA has never been better,” Ky said. “To have a real partnership is [the ability] to have a discussion, even if the person on the other side of the Atlantic may not always agree.”

“None of this happens without safety,” Nolen agreed. “We have a long-standing bilateral agreement with EASA that sets out how we go about handling certification validation, working on emerging issues and emerging risks.”

Both entities also are working to improve aviation’s environmental sustainability. The FAA and EASA agree with the 193 countries that committed at the recent ICAO Assembly in Montreal to the long-term goal of zero-carbon emissions by 2050. Nolen said, “It will take all of us globally working together to make this a reality.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Next, former ABC News and PBS correspondent Lisa Stark engaged in a lively conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson, an acclaimed astrophysicist, author and science commentator.

Pointing to recent developments in space, ranging from detailed images of distant galaxies provided by the James Webb Space Telescope to commercial spaceflights and the privately funded and operated Inspiration 4 orbital mission, Stark noted this is an exciting time for space exploration.

“When investments go where they should and [have] political and public support, then you live in a time where those kinds of developments are exponential,” Tyson said. “When we landed on the moon in 1969, we didn’t know yet that we would one day be flying helicopters on Mars and deflecting an asteroid. These are special times.”

Advancing humanity’s quest for discovery requires the ability to see beyond worldly arguments and political strife. Tyson recalled Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s oft-quoted perspective following his lunar mission.

“‘From out there on the moon, international politics looks so petty,” he recounted. “’You want to grab a politician by the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that!’”

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The Day One Keynote wrapped up with Bolen’s conversation with famed stock car racer Dale Earnhardt Jr., who spoke about his early days in NASCAR against the backdrop of his legendary father’s legacy in the sport.

Even as he was able to mark some impressive victories of his own, Earnhardt Jr. said, “I knew that I was never going to meet that mark or have comparable stats. So, I started to think more about how to be an asset to the industry, so that the leaders of the industry are glad that I’m here and they want me to be here tomorrow.”

That led to ownership of his own racing team and the ability to nurture other competitive drivers, along with a prominent role as a race commentator for NBC Sports. Earnhardt established his own place among champions with his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year. “It was kind of a big pat on the back from the industry,” he recalled.

Earnhardt also noted the importance of business aviation throughout his racing career and his multiple endeavors today. “Having that flexibility and ability to move around the country is essential for me.”

View Highlights from the Day 1 Keynote

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