October 12, 2012

When the administrator of the Aeronautics Division of the Idaho Transportation Department left in the midst of fire season last month, departmental leaders needed someone with experience and leadership qualities to take over immediately. Luckily, they had a Certified Aviation Manager (CAM) in the house: Chief Pilot Mike Pape.

“It was definitely a battlefield promotion,” Pape, the former head of the Idaho Business Aviation Association, said of his appointment as administrator of the Division of Aeronautics.

A 1985 graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), Pape began working for ITD in 2007. As director of flight operations for the Aeronautics Division, he served as chief pilot of all flight operations, was responsible for staffing and supervising ITD pilots, mechanics, schedulers and also served as a pilot in command.

Pape has held the reins of the division for more than a month, a task he believes would have been much more difficult had he not completed and maintained the training necessary for NBAA’s CAM certification.

Like most of his fellow graduates at ERAU in the 1980s, Pape headed for the airlines in hopes of a lucrative career in the cockpit. But after a decade in the airline business, watching his employer, Eastern Airlines, go through bankruptcy and labor-management issues, he decided that side of the business might not be all it he thought it would be when he was a college student. That is when he discovered business aviation.

“I just took a real liking to it. In business aviation, you’re a manager. You’re a leader. You’re an executive and you’re in charge of an aviation department like someone else is in charge of an accounting or finance or supply department,” he said.

That excitement spurred Pape to take on another course of study at ERAU – aviation management. Completing that in two years, he realized he was still thirsty for knowledge. That thirst led him to NBAA’s Certified Aviation Manager program.

“I noticed that the people who excelled and are promoted are those who can lead other people,” he recalled. “There are lots of pilots, but only a small group who get promotions. I took the CAM course seven years ago. It gave me a leg up. It opened doors for me. I became a flight operations director, then an administrator. My employers saw leadership.”

Pape attributed that leadership ability to skills he developed through the CAM program.

“It [the CAM credential] used to separate you from the line pilots,” he said. “But these recessionary years, businesses can’t afford to have people who are just pilots, you have to wear more hats. You have to do more with less. The CAM credential is a way to do that.”

When faced with taking over the Idaho Division of Aeronautics on short notice, Pape said his CAM training was a real asset.

“If you look at that CAM breakout… there is decision-making and management. You have to prove that [ability]. I think that was exceptionally valuable. I think CAM was very helpful in that respect,” said Pape.

In fact, realizing how much his CAM training aided in his own transition from operations manager to division administrator, Pape said he will now recommend that all of his pilots and mechanics consider participating in NBAA’s Certified Aviation Manager program.

“In fact, we’re demanding at least a start in the CAM program because we have a lot of hats to wear,” Pape said.