Sheryl Barden
Sheryl Barden (API) moderated a panel about successful strategies for hiring low-time pilots and ensuring their success. Panelists included: Kirk Mies (AbbVie), Kim Kissh (AbbVie), Greg Burris (Masco), and Alison Wynne (Brown & Brown).

Business aviation’s biggest event of the year—NBAA-BACE 2023—is a showcase for the latest aviation technology and innovation. But what made this week’s gathering in Las Vegas special was its unwavering focus on the people who make this industry move and thrive.

Attendees were exposed to a wealth of insights and wisdom on workforce-related matters ranging from fostering connections and building confidence to nurturing a positive culture and enhancing communications. Also in the spotlight were the critical issues of compensation and career-path development, mentoring, and networking. All of this reflects the industry’s commitment to recognizing and rewarding talent.

As a recruiter and HR consultant, I was pleased to see how much sessions touched on people and their professional growth. One area of focus that was particularly relevant this year involved exploring workforce compensation and culture as key retention strategies. I was grateful to host a session on how to successfully hire low-time pilots and integrate them into the department to broaden and strengthen it.

Career Path Planning & Networking

Throughout NBAA-BACE 2023, there was a strong emphasis on sessions catering to a bevy of industry professionals, including recent business aviation interns, young professionals (YoPros), 40 Under 40 award winners, safety leaders, maintenance professionals, schedulers, and dispatchers. These sessions underscored the importance of investing in the next generation of aviation talent, and ensuring that these professionals have a clear path for growth within the industry.

Celebrating the Best and Brightest

The luncheon honoring the 40 Under 40 award winners was particularly rewarding. Also inspiring was witnessing the aviation departments recognized for their 50, 60, and 75 years of safe flying. (Special shout-out to Chevron, which has operated without incident for 75 years!)

Likewise, it was rewarding to applaud this year’s nine winners of the Tony Kern Professionalism Award. The amazing Nel Stubbs was also named the recipient of NBAA’s John P. “Jack” Doswell Award, which honored her high standards for lifelong individual achievement on behalf and in support of the aims, goals, and objectives of business aviation. The Doswell Award always has a special place in my heart, because both my mom and stepdad—Janice K. Barden and Chuck McKinnon—were so honored.

Career Fair

In the spirit of nurturing the business aviation community, this year’s NBAA took a significant step by introducing the Career Fair. This event was designed to bridge the gap between job seekers and employers in the aviation industry, highlighting the incredible range of career options available. This Career Fair was not merely a recruitment drive, but also a networking platform from which aspiring aviation professionals could explore the diverse roles the industry embodies.

Corporate Angels

Each year, one of the highlights of the NBAA-BACE is attending the Corporate Angel Network (CAN) fundraiser. I’m always so moved by the generosity of our industry, its owners, and its executives. The impact of their opening up business aircraft to make life easier for those who are enduring some of the worst physical challenges a human can experience cannot be overstated. Those who give back via CAN are the personification of compassion and excellence.

Climbing. Fast. Launched NBAA-BACE 2023

Speaking of excellence, another central theme of this year’s show was the imperative of addressing environmental concerns. To kick off the event, NBAA’s president and CEO, Ed Bolen, highlighted the NBAA’s ambitious campaign to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with the campaign aptly named “Climbing. Fast.” The industry’s commitment to environmental sustainability is a testament to its recognition of its broader responsibilities, which extend well beyond profit margins and bottom lines.

The resounding message broadcast throughout the show was a reminder that business aviation is not merely about airplanes; it’s about the people who operate, maintain, and support these aircraft. This sentiment resonated with attendees, reinforcing the idea that the aviation community is a tight-knit family, and one that’s driven by passion, dedication, and a shared commitment to excellence.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional, a newcomer to the industry, or simply someone who’s passionate about aviation, NBAA-BACE serves as a reminder that, in the grand scheme of things, our focus is always on the people. And that’s a principle that extends far beyond the boundaries of the event.

In fact, it’s the essence of the aviation industry. I happen to believe that; at API our company tagline says it best: “It’s about people.”

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