May 13, 2013

They are tomorrow’s aviation leaders, who recently faced some of the business aviation industry’s toughest testing criteria. Last month, NBAA added four new Members to the ranks of its Certified Aviation Manager (CAM) program, bringing the number of people who have successfully mastered this challenging course to more than 200.

“The credential has been respected in the industry for many years,” said NBAA Director of Professional Development Jay Evans, “but now we’re reaching a point of ‘critical mass,’ and the CAM is becoming a standard that is expected.”

The CAM program, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is a highly focused development course for business aviation managers, and those who aspire to manage in fields that range from flight department operations to maintenance, from schedulers and dispatchers to flight attendants and FBO managers.

Why They Became CAMs

The four applicants who most recently successfully completed CAM testing and received notice of their certifications in April are:

  • Kelvin Boyette, avionics sales manager for Landmark Aviation
  • Sharon DeFreitas, manager of flight operations at Cigna
  • Troy Ladue, executive flight coordinator for Mass Mutual
  • John McIntyre, Gulfstream 550 captain for Philip Morris International

Each of the new graduates has a story to tell about the decisions that led them to become CAMs, but all shared a common theme: They wanted to take the next step in their respective career paths.

“I’ve been a pilot for 25 years,” said McIntyre, who is based at Westchester County Airport in New York. “I spent years at General Motors, where I got my MBA and was encouraged to take a leadership role before that flight department shut down. I became intrigued with NBAA’s CAM program because the industry is changing quickly and I needed to do something fresh. So I started studying about a year and a half ago.”

“I got my master’s degree in 2005,” explained Ladue. “I was looking for a way to expand my knowledge and open up new opportunities. CAM seemed a great path to continued professional development and career enhancement.”

Preparing for CAM No Easy Task

The new CAMs acknowledged the time commitment needed to pursue certification.

“Realizing how much work I needed to do to prepare for CAM certification, I think the toughest part for me was putting time aside. I mean, the material list I received from the CAM Testing Committee was daunting; it was so long. And of course, I have a wife and two young children. But in the end, they were a great help. My wife did so much to keep the kids occupied while I studied at home. I couldn’t have done it without her.”

“It was a challenge to take time outside of work to understand and learn the concepts; it was a huge challenge,” agreed DeFreitas. “My significant other was there for me as he has been for 20 years. He was very supportive. But so was the rest of my department. When they found I was going for my CAM certification, they all offered to help. To have that support was wonderful.”

While McIntyre studied on his own, DeFreitas and Ladue, whose companies are housed in the same building in Windsor Locks, CT, decided to team up. Long-time friends, they found a great measure of support in working together.

“Many times, one of us would ask the other, ‘Do you really want to study tonight?’ There were times when we both wanted to let it go. But one of us would always say, ‘Let’s study,’ so in a huge way, we helped keep each other on track.”

Each of the newest CAMs faced remarkable challenges in their study efforts. There were sleepless nights after grueling days on the job, and life events that could not be put off. But perhaps no one in this batch of graduates faced the challenges than McIntyre faced in 2012.

“I was in an [auto] accident, hit by an impaired driver,” he said. “I was seriously hurt and had to go through several months of physical rehabilitation. At my worst point, I felt like I had thrown away six or eight months of study.”

McIntyre said he overcame his injuries and returned to work about a month after the accident, even while he continued with rehabilitation. He was able to use his down time during long trips, along with time he “borrowed” from his family, to focus on his studies and succeeded in passing the 175 question multi-choice CAM exam.

The Payoff

“What a sense of accomplishment,” said DeFreitas upon receiving the CAM credential. “Also, it’s another level of confidence that says, ‘I can do more.’ I feel like I can succeed in areas where another scheduler might not succeed. It’s not that often that you see someone coming from my background as a flight attendant and scheduler rise up to lead a flight department. But I’ve accomplished this CAM certification. I’ve accomplished a lot more than I thought I could.”

Ladue also shared that sense of accomplishment – and found it validated recently when an auditor from the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) program visited his flight department.

“My manager, Deb Prosinski, is a CAM. The IS-BAO auditor raved about the importance of CAM, he just raved. The high regard for which CAMs are held in the industry became absolutely clear. Now that I am a CAM, it’s a personal benchmark. It shows I am prepared to seek a higher level in my career and that realization is an honor. It’s a great goal,” Ladue said.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen had high praise for the newest CAMs: “Their achievement, and that of the broader CAM community now more than 200 strong, is a testament to the professionalism of the people who work in business aviation, as well as to our industry’s commitment to continuous improvement.”

For more information on what the CAM credential can do for your career and how you can apply for the program, visit the CAM website.