Feb. 25, 2021

In a Day Three “town hall” for the NBAA GO Flight Operations Conference, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen joined with three industry professionals in a discussion examining business aviation’s COVID year, and the trends that will shape the industry during and beyond this pandemic moment.

“These have been challenging times for everyone in aviation,” noted panel moderator Bill Garvey, former editor-in-chief for Business & Commercial Aviation magazine. “While all of civil aviation took a hit last year, business aviation seems to have recovered better than other [segments], especially domestically.”

Acknowledging that “predictions are kind of all over the map” on the timeline for a full recovery, Bolen noted that vaccine distribution figures and current economic forecasts offer encouraging signs for the industry in the year ahead. “I’m very optimistic [and] very bullish on business aviation going forward, but I think that enthusiasm I have is well placed,” he added.

In particular, the ability to quickly adapt to new challenges has helped business aviation weather the COVID storm. NBAA’s Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee Chair Emily White noted how technology allows flight operations to perform challenging trip planning tasks while maintaining social distancing.

The present environment also highlights the importance of checklists, “and treating them as living organisms,” she added. “Every single operation, every time you need to adjust something, go back and update it – because everything is constantly changing right now.”

As for the future, Kurt Stehling, chair of NBAA’s International Operators Committee, expects international operations to lag behind recovery for domestic operations. “But I’m very optimistic that people are going to want to make that personal connection and travel to see their customers overseas,” he added. “I think they’ll look at business aviation as a leader to be able to do that.”

Stehling further noted the pandemic has demonstrated the significance of air traffic management technologies such as CPDLC and ADS-C in “helping air traffic control to address capacity issues and keep traffic moving through a finite amount of space. It’s really opened up a whole new world.”

Bolen also noted the “challenges, but also a lot of opportunities” posed by a new Congress and presidential administration, including the potential for a new long-term infrastructure package supporting future aviation needs.

“COVID-19 has been very difficult for our industry in a lot of ways,” he said, “but it has also underscored the core competencies that have built aviation for decades and what’s in our DNA.”