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Kern Award Winner William Scanlon: More Than a Desire to Fly

Reflecting on the circuitous path that led to his position as chief pilot for Adobe, William “Bill” Scanlon, a recipient of NBAA ‘s 2023 Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award, said, “A career in business aviation requires more than a desire to fly.”

In a business aviation flight department, “you are really involved in so many other aspects of its operation, so you must have the drive to be engaged in a broad array of challenges. It’s more than getting an airplane from point A to point B,” he added. “As everyone must when making career decisions, you must determine whether your passions and interests are aligned with these realities, and is this how I want to invest my time and energy?”

Addressing a fundamental foundation of any aviation career, he shared advice from a former professor he had at the University of Illinois.

“If you have any illusions of a straight-line career path and stability in this industry, forget them,” Scanlon recalled the professor saying. “At the time, I wondered what he was talking about. All I saw were my instructors climbing the ladder, but by the time I became a flight instructor, the airlines had stopped hiring and instructor jobs were hard to find. But I persevered and was able to stay one step ahead of unemployment.”

He flew for a major retailer, then was hired on with TWA, then returned to business aviation before a stint with Delta, which ended after 9/11.

“With a 9/11 furlough on the horizon, I was happy to return to business aviation with Morgan Stanley,” he said. “Within two years I had the opportunity to join Boeing’s executive flight operations and then its pilot services team, which helps airlines get new airplanes into service.”

He was there for 14 years, until an opportunity opened up at Adobe. As chief pilot of Adobe’s nearly 5-year-old flight department, Scanlon oversees a small group of pilots and cabin safety attendants for the company’s Gulfstream 650ER.

“Helping to create a new flight department from scratch – the first in my career – has been a fabulous opportunity that introduced many new challenges.” Scanlon said. “Each flight department is different and must be connected to the culture and values of the organization it serves.”

Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award

Nine individuals were selected to receive the NBAA Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award in 2023. Established in 2015 to honor its namesake, the peer-nominated award recognizes individual pilots, maintenance technicians, flight attendants, dispatchers and other aviation professionals who excel in leadership in the areas of professional ethics, vocational excellence, continuous improvement, professional engagement, professional image and selflessness.

Learn more about the NBAA Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award.

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