Sept. 5, 2018

From aircraft maintenance to pilots to dispatchers and more – the career prospects in business aviation are endless.

That was the message industry professionals had for area college students who came out to the Northern California Business Aviation Association’s (NCBAA) annual Career Day, held Sept. 5 at San Jose International Airport, prior to NBAA’s San Jose Regional Forum on Sept. 6.

“Business aviation has a tremendous influence on our global economy and it’s so vital, yet it’s a little misunderstood,” said NBAA Western Regional Representative Phil Derner. “That [business] jet, or that Cessna 172, enables freedom and flexibility. Having that flexibility makes that aircraft a time machine.”

Following a series of presentations from industry professionals, students had the opportunity to meet with individuals in one of seven professional areas: professional pilots, maintenance/management services, employment services, student support, industry advocacy, fuel/flight coordinators and operations. These breakout sessions allowed students to ask questions and learn first-hand about a career in business aviation.

David Gill, a San Jose State University graduate, said events like these are vital to his career. “I get to meet great people and really make networking connections, as well as make sure I’m doing everything the correct way – my resume, my networking. I get excellent advice from everybody.”

Currently focused on the pilot side of business aviation, Gill said he could envision himself in the industry. “It’s a great opportunity for those who want some flexibility. In a corporate flight department, you find a little more flexibility,” he said.

Practical Advice From Industry Experts

Sheryl Barden, president and CEO of recruiting firm Aviation Personnel International, said the industry is “hungry for young talent,” and she urged students to start making contacts now while still in school.

She congratulated them on taking the first step, by coming to the NCBAA Career Day, but there’s more the students should be doing. For example, she said:

  • Build your personal brand through a professional social media preference
  • Create a simple business card to hand out at events
  • Follow up with people who give you their business card
  • Create a resume and website that talks about who you are
  • Ask local operators for informational interviews

Also, she noted that organizations like NBAA have a multitude of resources for students, including a myriad of scholarships.

For Tom DaFoe, of Textron Aviation, his message to the students was simple: find your passion and never be afraid to help out wherever you can in an organization.

“Don’t be afraid to pick up that broom,” he said. You need to have expectations going into your career, but carry a sense of humility; don’t ever leave that behind.”

Owen Leipelt, a second-year aviation major at San Jose State University and a commercial-rated pilot, said he found the Career Day helpful.

“I would like to encourage other students to put themselves out there and network,” he said. “Business aviation is great career choice.”