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Making a Mid-Career Switch to Business Aviation

Skilled workers who are willing to think beyond the obvious job options may find golden opportunities in the business aviation industry.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when people worked for the same employer their entire lives. Bosses might have rewarded that loyalty with a fat pension, which was good for life. But the past few decades have seen a generational shift, of sorts.

“Companies don’t seem to offer that [pension] carrot any longer. Employees also don’t see the need to stay with one particular company, or even just one career track anymore.”

Lisa Archambeau Vice President, Facilitator and Strategist, Service Elements

“Loyalty to one company until you retire doesn’t exist on either side anymore,” said Lisa Archambeau, vice president, facilitator and strategist at Scottsdale, AZ-based Service Elements. “Companies don’t seem to offer that [pension] carrot any longer.

Employees also don’t see the need to stay with one particular company, or even just one career track anymore,” added Archambeau, a member of NBAA’s Business Aviation Management Committee (BAMC). But career upheaval can translate into a wealth of opportunities for workers willing to think outside their normal employment boundaries, especially if they’re not already working in business aviation.

Another tradition that’s been upended is how potential employers view a worker’s total number of job changes. “It’s not a bad thing to move into a different career,” said Stephanie Goetz, a former broadcast TV journalist who runs an executive coaching company. “It actually makes you much more multifaceted.” Goetz currently flies a Citation Latitude for a large business jet charter company. A 2014 story she wrote for television about her first discovery flight ignited her passion to fly. “When I’m speaking to people now, I have a whole breadth and depth of journalism and executive coaching experiences [to talk about] in addition to aviation.”

Aviation career outreach today focuses considerable efforts on young people. But reaching out to experienced people in mid-career is also important.

The trick is how to engage these mid-career folks. The U.S. military serves as a rich source of experienced professionals, some who find their way to business aviation after serving years in completely unrelated roles. Vince Huebner spent nearly 21 years in the U.S. Air Force as a meteorologist and a mechanic. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in workforce education and development with a minor in adult education. “I was the superintendent of First Weather Squadron,” he said, working closely with the U.S. Army on deployments. That assignment led Huebner to three combat tours, including time in the Middle East. “I deployed to the Gulf War in ‘90 and ‘91 and worked directly for Gen. [Norman] Schwarzkopf at Army Central Command Headquarters.”

After retiring, Huebner served a short stint as a human resources manager for a large private security company in Washington state until, “I saw several openings on Monster.com at Universal Weather and Aviation in Houston.” With more than 18 years of weather forecasting experience, he was probably a shoo-in, but Huebner had other ideas. “Universal was also looking for a human relations generalist and a trainer, in addition to a meteorologist.” With additional Air Force training experience, “I applied for all three jobs.” Eighteen years later, Huebner serves as Universal’s vice president of talent where he oversees training for the company’s 150 or so mission advisers – the company’s bread-and-butter trip planning consultants.

Jason Blase, a U.S. Navy veteran, said if not for a close friend, he would have missed out on the Department of Defense’s valuable SkillBridge program offered to active-duty members within six months of discharge. “A friend of mine who’d already retired didn’t specifically mention business aviation, but said SkillBridge offered a smoother transition to civilian life.” But business aviation was just waiting in the wings for Blase. He spent his 24 Navy years as an aviation machinist mate and later as a Naval aircrewman rescue swimmer on helicopters like the MH-60 Knighthawk. “I was a little unsure of what I wanted to do after the Navy,” Blase said, “but I did know I wanted to return to the Midwest.” When he saw Duncan Aviation in Lincoln, NE, on the SkillBridge list, Blase applied and went to work there during those last few months of his enlistment. The benefit to Duncan Aviation was the chance to see Blase in action while the Navy covered his payroll expenses. It was a win-win for everyone.

“I really like working as part of a team. This job offers me an opportunity to think on my feet and communicate with others. I would definitely encourage anyone to look at business aviation. It’s an amazing career.“ ”

Jason Blase Engine Line Technician, Duncan Aviation

Blase said Duncan put him to work on his first day as an engine line technician. “They had me taking engines out of crates, helping put them in stands and preparing them to go on a wing,” he said. “It was an intense experience, but it was also exciting and fun.” While he knew nothing about business aviation before his arrival at Duncan Aviation, two years later Blase is about to take the first of the practical exams to earn his Airframe & Powerplant certificate. Looking back on his move to a new career with a new employer, Blase said, “I really like working as part of a team. This job offers me an opportunity to think on my feet and communicate with others. I would definitely encourage anyone to look at business aviation. It’s an amazing career.”

Lisa Archambeau remembered meeting a man in his late 40s or early 50s who was working at a boutique furniture store in New England. She said he told her how much he loved the relationships he formed in sales for a company that thrived on repeat, word-of-mouth business, just like business aviation. “He had amazing skills in marketing,” she said. “He had a great personality, great willingness to learn, but no aviation experience.” During her listening session, Archambeau said he told her he lived near an airport and really wanted to get into aviation, but wondered if anyone would hire him. When Archambeau approached her business management committee members for their take on a candidate like this, she received a resounding “yes,” to considering him even with no aviation background.

“We have [business aviation] clients who expect perfection. It’s a high-pressure environment that’s always changing. And, of course, we never close. Vets generally have the passion and the desire to succeed in this kind of environment.”

Vince Huebner Vice President of Talent, Universal Weather and Aviation

Sourcing Spouses

Huebner said Universal is always on the lookout for ways to add more former military folks to the company’s payroll. He discovered an indirect source, the spouses of active-duty personnel. “When an active-duty spouse gets orders, the husband or wife also must leave their own jobs behind them,” Huebner said. Universal learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that remote operations were a good fit, so now, “when Universal identifies qualified spouses anywhere in the U.S., we train them and give them their own equipment. If their spouse gets transferred [within the U.S.] again, we transition the spouse to work from that new location.”

Huebner mentioned a few other reasons he’s keen on vets. “Aviation is a tough 24/7, 365 industry. We have [business aviation] clients who expect perfection. It’s a high-pressure environment that’s always changing. And, of course, we never close. Vets generally have the passion and the desire to succeed in this kind of environment.”

“If I can do it, anyone can. There's nothing special about me, there's nothing unique about me. I wasn't a genius in high school, or through college. I just found a way to use my skills at the highest level and that made me happy. Now I don't feel like I work a day in my life.”

Stephanie Goetz Ex-TV Journalist, Current Business Jet Pilot

Goetz remembered struggling with the decision to leave broadcast television, where she’d spent 10 years. “I never put myself in the world of aviation because I thought that’s really just for smart science and math people. I didn’t realize that – in regard to the math and science knowledge needed – it really just demands high school math and some physics, like aerodynamics, that you can figure out with a high school education.” And it just clicked for her. “If I can do it, anyone can. There’s nothing special about me, there’s nothing unique about me. I wasn’t a genius in high school, or through college. I just found a way to use my skills at the highest level and that made me happy.

“Now I don’t feel like I work a day in my life. But it doesn’t mean I didn’t put the hard work in to get to this point. It’s just that, ideally, it’s about finding the skills you already have and matching them with the things in the world that you can do to make money. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

Review business aviation job postings at nbaa.org/jobs.

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