Dec. 10, 2021

A dramatic business aviation upswing is bringing challenges both familiar and new, according to NBAA Leadership Council members who took part in a recent webinar for the group.

“We’ve got a new year ahead of us. It’s filled with opportunity and challenges,” said NBAA President & CEO Ed Bolen. “NBAA’s Leadership Council participation is at an all-time high, and that’s critically important for our association and for our industry. Leadership is exactly what we need, right here, right now.”

Webinar participants updated fellow council members on the overall state of business in 2021, as well as looked ahead to what 2022 would bring.

“Starting in Q3, we’re back up probably 110% on the flying side,” said Steve Golden, director of aviation at Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A. “Last month we flew about twice as much as we did the month before.” The restaurant chain is doubling its fleet in 2022 with a second airplane, he said.

After a deep dive in early 2021, “October was absolutely banner for us,” said Tom Mounger, director of aviation with Dow Chemical Company.

“We’re delighted to be back on the road,” added Lucille Fisher, president of Cleveland-based documentation specialist Quality Resources. “There’s just nothing like that face-to-face and that shaking hands.”

Lisa Holland, president of Sheltair Aviation, said she’s seen an increased demand for fuel and hangar space – “a huge surge.” But, touching on a key topic of the roundtable, “It’s very difficult to hire people right now. It’s a struggle,” she said,

Holland agreed with colleagues that “quality of life” has emerged as an essential issue in recruiting. Candidates increasingly have to be assured of guaranteed scheduling, too.

Safety also remains a top priority as business aviation looks to 2022 and beyond. Roundtable moderator Doug Carr, NBAA senior vice president of safety, security, sustainability and international operations, noted that additional safety management system (SMS) practices are expected to be codified shortly, with SMS mandated for additional flight regimes and possibly even for airports.

Panelists agreed that they are all implementing SMS, with Fisher noting that she sees the trend in the documentation she prepares for clients. Golden added that SMS-related records have helped him justify additional pilots as his company doubles its fleet.

Sustainable aviation fuel also will continue to be at the forefront of the industry headed into the new year.

“It’s definitely a buzzword,” said Holland. But price is “the hot button.”

“On top of that,” said Golden, “I want to have a good audit system so we’re actually doing what we say we’re doing with the SAF product itself.”