Sept. 21, 2020

Business aviation is well-positioned to attract top talent, but must “find new flight paths” to overcome short- and long-term challenges, advised Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton, USAF (Ret.) during a Sept. 17 webinar hosted by the Aero Club of Washington, DC.

Newton, an association board member, former chair and trailblazing pilot with the U.S. Air Force “Thunderbirds,” focused on the industry’s need for flexibility during the discussion with NBAA’s Sierra Grimes and JetLaw LLC’s Kali Hague, chair of NBAA’s Emerging Leaders Conference within the association’s  Young Professional Council. The workforce-focused webinar was hosted by the Aero Club’s Runway Program, which helps connect emerging professionals in aviation.

“We need to be much more willing to embrace change,” Newton said, cautioning that “change is going to accelerate, and if we don’t keep up with that acceleration, we’re going to lose.”

Predicting that the industry is poised for “extraordinary” technological breakthroughs that will attract new talent, he pointed to inclusivity and sustainability as areas where the industry must be willing to embrace new ideas.

Newton said that organizations truly seeking inclusivity must have leaders willing to engage in frank, even uncomfortable, conversations about topics such as race and gender. The impetus for creating a more welcoming environment isn’t on minorities, he noted, but rather lies with those who feel most comfortable.

“Until we have an environment such that all of us feel like full members of the team, we have a problem,” he said.

Newton said his Air Force career taught him the importance of being proactive rather than reactive – an approach he recommended for the business aviation industry as it prepares for a new era of technology.

“As a fighter pilot, it was hard to get my head around an individual in the U.S. making strikes 8,000 miles away with much higher precision than we could accomplish,” he recalled. “That’s the drastic growth and change we have [in aviation].”

Newtown received the prestigious Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy in 2018 for significant public service to aviation and the United States. He was recognized for “his extraordinary achievements as a history-making, African American military aviator and his continuing contributions to the advancement of aviation education and advocacy.”

View an NBAA video about Newton’s life and accomplishments.