Business Aviation Insider

NBAA’s Mentoring Network benefits young people and helps industry veterans give back.

Jan. 21, 2019

With business aviation facing a growing shortage of talent, mentoring is considered a key tool for helping to cultivate the next generation of industry professionals. Mentors can help mentees understand their career possibilities, set both near-term and long-term professional goals, and chart the path needed to realize those goals. Mentorships also help build a better, more knowledgeable work-force, producing more confident and satisfied individuals who are likely to remain in the industry for the long run.

The nationwide NBAA Mentoring Network, which was launched last year, helps longtime business aviation professionals – as well as those brand new to the industry – grow in their roles and make important career decisions.

“Mentors have found it’s a great way to give back, and mentees have learned from the insights and advice of seasoned industry professionals,” said Brian Koester, NBAA’s senior manager of flight operations and regulation, and the staff liaison to the NBAA Mentoring Network. “Some mentees have even made significant career choices based on their mentorship interactions.”


Koester explained that the program was initially the brainchild of NBAA’s Domestic Operations Committee (DOC), whose members several years ago became concerned about work-force development issues in business aviation. A mentoring steering group was formed – which together with input from the DOC, NBAA’s Young Professionals (YoPro) Council and Business Aviation Management Committee, along with NBAA staff members – developed program materials.

NBAA staff and committee members started reach-ing out to potential mentors in the business aviation community, and the “beta” phase of the program was launched in January 2018, when 20 mentors were paired with mentees for a six-month period. Based on the success of that initial effort, a nine-month program will begin in September of this year, followed by a full program in the fall of 2020.

The “beta” phase, as will be the case with the full rollout of the mentoring network, carefully pairs mentors with mentees based on the specific goals and interests of both individuals. Assisted in part by detailed materials, checklists and participation guidelines, participants in the program complete the four stages of the mentoring process – preparation, collaboration, growth and closure.

According to Koester, participants in the NBAA Mentoring Network must be at least 18 years old. Both mentees and mentors are asked to sign an agreement that provides an outline for the mentor-mentee relation-ship, covering goals, confidentiality, how often they will meet and a specified end date. Interested individuals can sign up by completing an application, which will be submitted to the NBAA Mentoring Steering Group. For the next “class” of mentors and mentees, the application period will run through this summer.


“Somebody mentored me years ago and gave me good advice,” said Gary Dietz, the chief pilot for a Fortune 500 company and an International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling board member who partic-ipated in the initial phase of the mentoring program.
“It’s nice to pay it forward.”

A useful tie-in was that Dietz and his mentee had graduated from the same university, but particularly helpful was his mentee’s energy and honesty in setting goals.

“I received regular reports,” said Dietz, “which helped us focus on what this person wanted to do and what needed to be done to get there. I think I was able to give advice and direction without being over-bearing. It was a great experience, and I am looking forward to doing it again.”

Shari Frisinger – who teaches aviation leadership at several universities, is an NBAA Professional Development Program provider and former NBAA Safety Committee member – agreed that the program is valuable.

“It is a definite value-add for mentees, and it helps me as a mentor see situations from different perspectives, along with challenging my own thinking, which can lead to a deeper, much richer discussion with my mentee.”

Frisinger recommends that mentees tell their mentors about any company evaluations they have undergone, thereby ensuring that the mentees get the most out of the program.


Jay Evans, CAM, NBAA’s recently retired director of professional development, mentored the engineering team lead at Duncan Aviation and found that he learned a lot as well.

“We discussed our backgrounds and career aspira-tions, and from that we found common ground to share experiences and be helpful to each other,” said Evans. “I was also pleased to be able to share with her informa-tion on Women in Aviation International and Women in Corporate Aviation, with which she had not been famil-iar. I also introduced her to several individuals who had similar experiences as she had. Overall, this was a great sharing experience.”

Joe Barber, vice president of fleet development at Clay Lacy Aviation at Van Nuys Airport in Southern California, was paired with mentee Matt St. Clair, an aftermarket sales associate at Textron Aviation in San Antonio, TX.

St. Clair, who graduated from college in 2017, heard about NBAA and the YoPro program and then thought the mentoring network “sounded like a good way to get more involved in aviation.” With an interest in but no background in aviation, St. Clair got
a crash course when he joined Textron, and talking with Barber regularly greatly helped him to focus his career goals and aspirations.

“I got matched up with somebody great, as we are both focused on sales and aircraft services, and he even works with our aircraft in the field,” said St. Clair. “Speaking with Joe really helped open my mind up to different perspectives and ideas about the aviation industry, and to what else is out there. His story is really motivating, and he was encouraging about the aviation industry.”

The two would speak regularly on the phone (usually several times a month) converse via email, and even got to meet face-to-face once when St. Clair was able to meet Barber on a work trip to Southern California.

Barber, who was mentored when he was younger, is a mentoring advocate and serves as the chairman of the Southern California Aviation Association’s Mentorship Committee.

“The most gratifying thing to me about mentoring is when my mentees come back to me years down the road and tell me what they are doing, and how their mentor-ship helped,” said Barber. “Mentoring isn’t necessarily a short-term project, and most often you won’t see results for years. I find it personally gratifying to be able to help someone in our industry.”

Mentee Martin Ghattas, a director of maintenance for a small, California-based Part 91 operator, said that the best part of his mentorship was that his mentor “made me think.”

“My mentor was a great guy and very knowledgeable, and he got me thinking about what I really want in life,” said Ghattas, who said his mentor has been a great resource for advice regarding the next phase of his career. According to Ghattas, his mentor helped him understand his career options.

“I also think he will be my mentor for a long while, beyond the term of the mentorship,” said Ghattas. “Knowing I have him to call on for advice helps tremendously.”

Ghattas summed up the value of mentorships this way: “Aviation is a small community. Surround yourself with greatness, and maybe you will achieve it.”

To learn more, direct questions to, or visit the NBAA Mentoring Network website.