API In the News

In The News

As seen on the AINOnline.com blog.
Barrington Irving was a star attraction at the Compton Middle Schools STEM day on October 12. (Photo: Matt Thurber)
I was wrong. In a conversation with Sheryl Barden, president and CEO of Aviation Personnel International, I dismissed her idea of reaching out to middle and high school counselors to promote careers in business aviation. We were discussing this subject before the NBAA Convention in October, where she was part of a panel session on business aviation careers. Knowing how busy the counselors are at my kids’ high school, I felt that it would be difficult to get their attention and that other industries are trying to do the very same to attract kids to their career opportunities. On October 12, I found out how wrong I was. I drove to Davis Middle School in Compton, Calif., to see the Compton school district’s first annual science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) day celebration and to see how the kids reacted to the arrival of Barrington Irving in a Robinson R-44 helicopter. Irving and his crew flew to Australia and the Asia-Pacific region in a Hawker 400XP equipped as the Flying Classroom, promoting STEM education and introducing kids to the joys of aviation. Irving took off on September 23 and completed the trip in Miami in mid-October. The visit to Compton wasn’t originally planned and was added at the last minute, during the Flying Classroom’s stop in Van Nuys, Calif., where Irving and sponsor Clay Lacy Aviation hosted an event for kids from Gault Elementary School. At the Compton event, more than 1,000 kids were bused in from other Compton schools. Davis Middle School, by the way, is named after Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, commander of the Tuskegee Airmen. All of us at the event were thrilled to see Tuskegee crew chief Levi Thornhill, who told the kids, “Pay attention to what your teachers are trying to teach you. Take advantage of what you learn and take care of your friends.” The STEM day at Davis Middle School wasn’t just about Barrington Irving’s Experience Aviation program and the Flying Classroom, although the arrival of the R-44 and a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department AStar was plenty thrilling for the kids. STEM participants put up booths to show off their work–robots, architectural models, flying machines, etc. The kids were uniformly polite and welcoming and they lined up in droves to see the inside of the helicopters. The R-44 carrying Irving was flown by a local hero, Robin Petgrave, chief pilot and president of Celebrity Helicopters and founder of Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (both are based at Compton Airport). Petgrave and the museum put donations and grants to work to help local kids learn about aviation and learn to fly, and many of these kids have gone on to remunerative aviation careers. While at the STEM day, I spoke to two counselors at Compton schools and asked them if they wanted industry help to highlight careers in aviation. Rather than complain how busy they are, both responded enthusiastically. Apparently no industries currently are pestering these counselors for attention, so the door is wide open for aviation. This is where I was wrong, so Sheryl, by all means encourage everyone you know to contact their local middle and high school counselors and get aviation’s foot in the door. Every company I speak to in aviation these days complains about how hard it is to find qualified personnel. If we don’t prime the pump for the future, then it’s our own fault. These kids are enthusiastic, smart, ambitious and just plain fun. What is your plan to reach out to them?
[caption id="attachment_3179" align="alignright" width="300"] From left: Walter Boyne (NAA Chairman), Bruce Whitman, Janice Barden, and Hugh Risseeuw[/caption]

K. Barden Honored with the 2013 NAA Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award

Barden one of five recipients honored by the National Aeronautic Association

San Francisco – November 15, 2013 – Janice K. Barden, founder and chairman of Aviation Personnel International, was one of five recipients honored with the 2013 Wesley L. McDonald Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Awards at the National Aeronautic Association’s (NAA) Fall Awards Dinner on Nov. 12, 2013 in Arlington, VA. Established in 1954, the Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award honors outstanding Americans who have made contributions of significant value to aeronautics and have reflected credit upon America and themselves. Barden was awarded alongside Ralph Crosby, Hugh Risseeuw, Bruce Whitman and Matt Zuccaro. “I am immeasurably proud of the lifelong accomplishments and impact that my mother, Janice K. Barden, has made in the lives of professionals working within the Business Aviation industry,” said Sheryl Barden, President and CEO of Aviation Personnel International. “She has received an outpouring of emails from former clients, candidates and industry partners, congratulating her on this Distinguished Statesman honor, and all have thanked her for contributing to their success and the success of our industry. Janice is a true legend in aviation, and is very deserving of this award from the National Aeronautic Association.” In 1971, Janice K. Barden leveraged her 16 years as a professional aviation psychologist to create Aviation Personnel International (API), the first female owned and operated retained search firm designed exclusively to serve the hiring needs of private and business aviation professionals. Since API’s establishment more than 42 years ago, the firm has impacted thousands of corporate flight departments and professional aviation careers. “The values Janice imparted continue to live through those of us who she impacted,” said a former API Director of Aviation candidate, Don Henderson. In addition to this 2013 Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award, Barden’s additional honors and milestones include:
  • Namesake for the UAA Janice K. Barden Aviation Scholarship, which the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) annually awards $1,000 to each of five undergraduates studying aviation-related curricula at NBAA and University Aviation Association (UAA) member institutions.
  • Recipient of the NBAA John P. “Jack” Doswell Award in 1994, which is bestowed to those with a lifelong individual achievement on behalf and in support of the aims, goals and objectives of business aviation.
  • Recipient of the NBAA American Spirit Award in 2000, awarded in recognition of an individual within business aviation who exemplifies the courage, pursuit of excellence and service to others that characterize men and women who created and nurtured the American aviation community.
  • Served as NBAA Local Committee Chairman for a total of six times, more than any other person in NBAA history and the only woman to serve as chair. The Local Committee chairman traditionally acts as a liaison between NBAA and the Convention’s host city in the year leading up to the Show.
  • Envisioned an outreach program for aviation students, and in 1990 created the annual NBAA Careers in Business Aviation Day.
  • Appointed by George H. W. Bush to a Presidential Blue Ribbon Panel in 1992, to research the training options to address the Pilot and Aviation Maintenance Technician shortage.
  • Creator of API’s Psychological Testing Program, a battery that has evolved into API's PEQ (Professional Evaluation Quotient), which assesses aviation professionals/candidates based on 17 factors.
  • Recipient of the Kent State Distinguished Alumni Award in 1986, which recognizes and honors alumni who, through leadership, character and hard work, have made exceptional contributions in their chosen field, in their communities and at Kent State University.
Civil Aviation Training Magazine logoAviation Personnel International (API) CEO, Sheryl Barden, was quoted regarding the need for the continued expansion of corporate aviation training. This is especially due to an estimated 23,000 corporate pilots needed worldwide in the next 10 years.
Read the Aviation Training article as seen in the October 2014 issue of Civil Aviation Training magazine.
Orlando, FL, Oct. 19, 2014 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), through NBAA Charities, offers a wide range of scholarships that support young people seeking careers in business aviation. This week at NBAA's Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA2014), students will be recognized for receiving the following awards: UAA Janice K. Barden Aviation Scholarship, Alan H. Conklin Business Aviation Management Scholarship, William M. Fanning Maintenance Scholarship, Lawrence Ginocchio Aviation Scholarship, NORDAM Dee Howard/Eitenne Fage Scholarship and the new Eddie Queen Aviation Management Scholarship. The recipients will be recognized at a press conference on Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. in the Orange County Convention Center, Room N220B. UAA Janice K. Barden Aviation Scholarship The UAA Janice K. Barden Aviation Scholarship is named for the founder of Aviation Personnel International, who has been active in the aviation community for decades and has served many times as the local committee chair of NBAA's Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition. The following five college students studying aviation-related curricula at NBAA and University Aviation Association (UAA) Member institutions have been selected to receive this year's Barden scholarship:
  • Clayton Marr, a senior at Arizona State University (ASU), is studying aeronautical management technology and professional flight. He is a certified flight instructor at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and has been an altitude chamber operator at ASU, an airline ramp agent, Alpha Eta Rho president and ASU American Association of Airport Executives chapter vice president.
  • Francisco Patrana is a junior studying aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. He is a certified flight instructor and participated in the NIFA region SAFECON in 2011. Patrana was selected for both the Outstanding Member Award and Community Service Award from the aviation fraternity Alpha Eta Rho. He plans to obtain a master's degree in aerospace engineering with a minor in pilot technology. He would like to be a flight test pilot and hopes to be accepted at the United States Air Force Test Pilot School.
  • Taylor Ratliff is a senior at Oklahoma State University (OSU), majoring in aerospace administration and operations with a pro pilot/aviation management minor. She holds a private pilot license and is president of OSU Women in Aviation. Ratliff assisted with the National Intercollegiate Flying Association regional competition, and is a member of the OSU Flying Aggies as well as being an aviation dispatcher for OSU.
  • Scott Singleton is a senior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ, where he studies aeronautical science with a minor in business administration. Singleton's career goal is to fly for a major corporation. He has a PPL and instrument airplane rating with more than 150 hours. He has been an intern with ExpressJet Airlines in Atlanta, GA, and is a member of AOPA. Singelton has also been involved with Safe Haven Animal Rescue and Sanctuary.
  • Jonathan Wright is a junior at Kent State University, majoring in flight technology. He holds a private pilot license and is a member of the Honors College at Kent State. Wright is employed as a golf caddy at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, PA. He has assisted in various charity drives, helping to raise more than $21,000 for Cornerstone of Hope, a local grieving center.
Alan H. Conklin Business Aviation Management Scholarship The Conklin Scholarship was created to honor the memory of Al Conklin, a U.S. Air Force veteran, business aviation leader and member of NBAA's Operations Committee for many years. This year's recipient is Kyle Budewitz, a senior at Lewis University majoring in aviation flight management with a minor in business administration. He has a private pilot license with an instrument rating and is working on his commercial license. He has worked as a line service technician at Dodge County Airport in Wisconsin. As a member of the Lewis University Flight Team, Budewitz competed in the 2014 National SAFECOM, where the team finished 10th nationally. He placed ninth individually out of 135 competitors in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation. William M. Fanning Maintenance Scholarship The Fanning Scholarship recognizes individuals who are studying to enter the field of business aviation maintenance. The scholarship is named in honor of retired NBAA staff member William M. Fanning, who was active in maintenance issues during his nearly 20-year tenure at the Association. This year’s recipients are:
  • Mark Brutke is a junior at South Seattle College, where he has been on the honor roll and dean’s list. In 2016, he will complete the two-year program for both airframe and power plant certificates, along with an associate’s of applied science degree in aeronautical technology. Brutke plans to further his studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in workplace/occupational safety.
  • Justin Moore has been accepted into the airframe and powerplant program at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks Community and Technical College. Moore’s many extracurricular activities have included the Talkeetna Build-a-Plane, through which he is currently working on a Cherokee 6/PA32-300 aircraft. Since 2011, he has worked at K2 Aviation as a summer aviation mechanic helper. Moore is also dedicated to community service; he assisted with evacuation, sand bagging and helping to move household goods out of danger during the Talkeetna flood of 2011.
Lawrence Ginocchio Aviation Scholarship The Lawrence Ginocchio Aviation Scholarship was created in 2001 by NBAA Charities, and the family and friends of the late Lawrence Ginocchio, to honor his outstanding personal contribution to business aviation. Recipients should possess a passion for aviation and should have utilized their interest or involvement in business aviation to enhance the lives of others. This year, the following students received this award:
  • Dana Atkins is a junior at University of North Dakota (UND), majoring in aviation management. Her career goal is to work abroad for the International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO) as a liaison between local governments and ICAO. Atkins is part of the Student Aviation Management Association, in which she will be conference co-director for the 2014 to 2015 academic year. Atkins has been on the UND Flying Team – National Intercollegiate Flying Association since spring 2014, and is a private pilot with 120 total hours. Atkins has performed volunteer work at Kishwaukee Community Hospital.
  • William Dirks is a sophomore at University of North Dakota, majoring in aviation management. He is a member of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at UND, and was awarded Outstanding Cadet MSI/MSII for 2013/2014. Dirks has served as the ROTC Raider’s Club president since 2013, and he has been an EAA Chapter 1342 member since 2013. He holds a private pilot license. Dirks has volunteered at the Special Olympics and at UND sporting events.
  • Nathan Douglas is a sophomore at Western Michigan University, studying aviation flight science. He has his private pilot license and earned his instrument rating in May 2014. He plans to continue his commercial training to become a certified flight instructor. Douglas has performed extensive volunteer work, including assisting the KRESA Young Adult Program as a weekly volunteer.
  • Nicholas Meyer is a junior at the University of North Dakota, studying aviation management and air traffic control. He holds his private pilot license, and as a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, he assisted with the annual B-17 Flying Fortress Tour in Van Nuys, CA. Meyer was awarded a Congressional Award Gold Medal, which is presented by the United States Congress to young adults who have achieved goals in public service, personal development, fitness and exploration. Meyer volunteered for two terms as president for Aviation Explorer Post 747, where he raised more than $2,000.
  • Logan Salaki, a senior at Arizona State University, is majoring in air traffic management and aeronautical management technology. He worked as a training department intern at the Federal Aviation Administration in Phoenix, AZ. He has been a student member of American Association of Airport Executives since 2013, and treasurer for the Alpha Eta Rho Professional Aviation Fraternity since 2011. Salaki has performed volunteer work at Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity and Falcon Field Airport.
NORDAM Dee Howard/Etienne Fage Scholarship The NORDAM Dee Howard/Etienne Fage Scholarship was created by NBAA Charities and NORDAM to honor the lifetime achievements of two aerospace engineering pioneers, Dee Howard and Etienne Fage. This year’s recipient is Ciara Thompson, a senior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, AZ, where she is studying aerospace engineering. Thompson learned about business aviation as a teenager in Ghana, where she saw its direct benefits to the livelihood of the community. She has been a member of the Society of Women Engineers since 2011, and in that time she has held almost every title available; currently serving as president. Thompson has been on the dean’s list every year since 2011, and during the 2012-13 school year, she was awarded the Best Female Student of the College of Engineering award. Throughout her studies, she has worked on several engineering projects with the Society of Women Engineers, and she is currently conducting research on computational fluid dynamics. Thompson wants to expand aviation through businesses in developing countries to give students and communities in those countries the same opportunities that she has. Eddie Queen Business Aviation Management Scholarship Along with Signature Flight Support, NBAA Charities created the Eddie Queen Business Aviation Management scholarship to honor the memory of Eddie Queen, a Signature Flight Support line service technician for 58 years. His dedication and commitment were an inspiration to all who benefitted from his service. Applicants must show a passion for aviation and demonstrate superior customer service skills, as Eddie Queen did. This year's recipient is Aaron Lenkersdorfer, a sophomore at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. He has a 4.0 grade point average, and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in aviation administration. Upon graduation, Lenkersdorfer plans to become a U.S. Army aviation officer. He is a dispatcher at the Utah Valley University College of Aviation and Public Services, and a soldier in the Utah Army National Guard with the 211 Aviation Regiment. He is also an Eagle Scout and member of the Utah Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. Lenkersdorfer has served as a volunteer in Russia and Belarus and is fluent in Russian. To learn more about the numerous scholarship opportunities offered by NBAA Charities, contact Jay Evans, director, professional development, at (202) 783-9353 or jevans@nbaa.org, or visit www.nbaa.org/scholarships. For complete coverage of NBAA2014, visit the NBAA2014 Online News Bureau. # # # Founded in 1947 and based in Washington, DC, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is the leading organization for companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful. The Association represents more than 10,000 companies and provides more than 100 products and services to the business aviation community, including the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition, the world's largest civil aviation trade show. Learn more about NBAA at www.nbaa.org. Members of the media may receive NBAA Press Releases immediately via email. To subscribe to the NBAA Press Release email list, submit the online form.
Listen to an NBAA Flight Plan podcast on addressing talent pipeline challenges. This is the eighth podcast in a series about NBAA’s 2014 Top Safety Focus areas. The NBAA Safety Committee has identified concerns about the talent pipeline in business aviation as one of its 2014 Top Safety Focus Areas, as flight departments around the country look to attract more young people to careers in business aviation and keep them in these jobs. In its definition of talent pipeline challenges, the Safety Committee noted, “The forecasted shortage of business aviation professionals will create challenges in attracting, developmental mentoring and retaining new professionals who can safely manage, maintain, service and fly business aircraft into the future.” “My first reaction is that these [issues] are definitely distractors for flight departments,” said David Ryan, director of flight operations for MedImpact and secretary of the NBAA Safety Committee. In addition to the daily challenges of trying to meet the operational needs of the department, the needs of company leaders and ongoing training requirements, he said operators will have a hard time dealing with employees who spend two to five years becoming familiar with the operation only to leave for another job. It is perceived by many as a perfect storm – a combination of greater demand for pilots and maintenance technicians, the impending retirement of current professionals and the fact that the number of people entering the business aviation field is flat, if not declining, said Sheryl Barden, president and CEO of Aviation Personnel International, a talent acquisition firm that focuses solely on fulfilling the needs of both business aircraft operators and industry professionals. The distractions these concerns cause within FAR Part 91 and Part 135 flight departments is so tangible, according to Ryan, that many departments are addressing them with a tool in their safety management systems called change management, Ryan said. “It’s used to help manage the distractors, such as taking on a new hire who has individual techniques and styles of getting the job done, as well as bringing that person up to speed on the policies and practices of the department,” he said. “These are all stressors that we need to minimize as best as possible.” “We need to become more competitive in a number of things,” suggested Barden. “We need to become more creative in how to bring new people into the industry. If we make business aviation such an engaging place and compensate our new employees appropriately, we can certainly be more competitive than the airlines from the sheer standpoint of the enjoyment they get out of the job.” Safety culture, sound values and a solid compensation package are all key elements in that equation, according to Ryan. “We need to make it impossible for them to leave,” he said. For those attending NBAA’s Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA2014) in Orlando, FL, the Association’s Young Professionals in Business Aviation group is hosting the Soar networking event on Oct. 21 for rising and current industry leaders. Learn more about Soar.
As seen in the AeroSafety World publication.

The aviation community still debates what the term means — and how to achieve it.



For the past several years, professionalism has been one of the most widely used words and fervently discussed topics in aviation. Pilot and air traffic controller professionalism made the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB’s) Top 10 “Most Wanted” list in 2011. It was the focus of a 2010 NTSB forum and a 2009 Air Line Pilots Association, International white paper.
It has been the subject of countless articles and blogs in the years since then. Whether it’s an accident post-mortem determining that pilots behaved in an “unprofessional” manner, a CEO declaring his employees are the “most professional” in the business or leaders calling for an industrywide elevation in the level of professionalism, aviation is reaching for improvements in this area to make continued gains in safety and to attract future talent.
One of the challenges is the lack of a common definition. Ask any 10 people in the aviation industry to define professionalism, and while some basic themes tend to remain consistent, you will hear 10 different definitions, each placing greatest emphasis on the traits most important to an organization or segment of the industry. If it is true that an organization cannot manage what it cannot measure, it is also true that the industry cannot manage what it cannot define — clearly, succinctly and across organizational boundaries.
Professional behavior is something we all know when we see it. It was cited often with respect to the flight crew’s ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after both engines were damaged by bird strikes shortly after takeoff (ASW, 8/10, p. 57). Unprofessional behavior just as readily has been cited in other accidents, such as some attributed to the flight crew of Colgan Air Flight 3407, which crashed during an approach (ASW, 3/10, p. 20). Distracting, nonoperational conversation by the Colgan crew below 10,000 ft contrary to regulations, inadequate monitoring of airspeed and the captain’s failure to effectively manage the flight, for example, were among contributing factors in the loss of control–in flight (LOC-I) accident that resulted in 50 fatalities.
But that’s an oversimplified juxtaposition to make while the full concept of professionalism is much more complex. For one thing, while many emphasized technical mastery of flying as the hallmark of the professional, in the Hudson landing, it was not only the skills of Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles, the captain and first officer, respectively, that prompted the industry acclaim they received. It was their overall performance to high expectations, including unflappable calm after a startling event, quick decision making and total focus on duty and critical priorities. It was, for example, Sullenberger’s twice walking the length of the cabin after evacuation to confirm no one was still aboard, although the airplane had begun to fill with water and to sink.
As the many regulatory, LOC-I risk-reduction and pilot licensing and training changes have demonstrated since the Flight 3407 crash, how much of pilots’ performance and response to threats can be attributed to their professionalism alone can be a tricky question. Systemic questions — experience, training, acceptability of ratings on routine flight checks — are among numerous factors to consider. Airlines often struggle with realism in their expectations. What aspects of professionalism can be trained and influenced by an employer, and which are more intrinsic aspects of individual character?
“Companies always advertise that they are the gold standard, but no one has defined what that is,” says Richard Walsh, who serves on the board of directors of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and in recent years was chairman of NBAA’s safety committee. Professionalism is the same, he said; until a clear, industry-accepted definition emerges, no one can really know what level they actually have attained.

Technical Proficiency

Among people who work in aviation, casual definitions of professionalism typically touch on two components: technical proficiency and emotional/relational proficiency. Guenther Matschnigg, a former senior vice president of safety and flight operations at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), says professionalism means “adherence to procedures and regulations; knowledge, experience and the willingness to do a job with the best information. It’s also a value,” he adds. “Don’t violate anything. Stick to the rules and don’t deviate.”
Similarly, in a March 2011 presentation, NTSB Member Robert Sumwalt said that professionalism “is a mindset that includes precise checklist usage, precise callouts, precise compliance with SOPs [standard operating procedures] and regulations, and staying abreast and current with knowledge and skills.”
On the pilot side, recent efforts to advance technical professionalism have included the United States last year increasing the minimum number of flight hours for first officers to fly for a commercial airline from 250 to 1,500 and requiring an airline transport pilot license; the institution in many countries of the multi-crew pilot license, which takes zero-time students to the right seat of an advanced airliner, embedding the multi-crew environment, threat and error management, human factors awareness and airline-specific SOPs throughout the training program; and introduction of revised training methods, to name a few.
“We felt very strongly that the training, how it is being done in modern aircraft, needed to be improved and adapted,” said Matschnigg, citing IATA’s introduction of competency-based and evidence-based training. The former entails teaching candidates until they are deemed competent in a skill, rather than concentrating on completing a specified number of training hours. Evidence-based training requires pilots to demonstrate competence in managing the most relevant threats based on operational evidence, including industry data. For example, Matschnigg says, most airlines’ checks in a simulator still require the flight crew to respond to a V1 cut, an engine failure during takeoff, even though today’s engine reliability means this situation rarely happens relative to other threats. “I’m not saying you should never do it, but technology has advanced beyond training today,” he says. Emphasis should instead be on handling situations that present higher-priority risks based on flight data analysis. For instance, in the February 2010 issue of IATA’s Airlines International, Matschnigg noted that “there was nothing that trained pilots for a high-altitude stall, even though we have clear evidence that this can be a real risk.”
Ron Nielsen, a retired airline captain and industry expert who is often called on to provide input on topics related to professionalism, says training of technical competencies based on evidence of threat prevalence should extend to addressing the issue of maintaining a sterile cockpit below 10,000 ft, a causal factor, as noted, in the Flight 3407 crash as well as at least three other fatal U.S. accidents since 2004 (ASW, 10/08, p. 38; 11/07, p. 38; 4/11, p. 16).
“There are human limits to imposed stoicism,” says Nielsen. “If I were training pilots, I would try to invite them into non-operational conversation [during simulator training] so if they make a mistake, they can experience firsthand how getting sucked into conversation can cause an error. We should be practicing in the simulator what we truly experience in the cockpit.”  

Relational Proficiency

Technical competence is unarguably a foundational element of professionalism, but Sumwalt’s list of traits that make an aviation professional includes one additional line: “The ability and willingness to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I am wrong.’” That is where the discussion begins to cross over into the softer, but equally important, side of professionalism — the ability to effectively manage relationships and interactions with others. This aspect tends to be not only harder to measure, but for pilots and mechanics, who tend to be highly precise, analytical, data-driven and individualistic people, it is also very challenging.
Nielsen, who participated on a discussion panel in the NTSB’s May 2010 forum on professionalism in aviation, defines professionalism as “encompassing two aspects: technical competence and social competence. A professional is someone who is fully self-aware of his own personality and how he impacts others.” A captain acting with expected professionalism, for instance, intentionally creates an atmosphere of open communication, he says. Such an environment is critical for a safe and highly functioning team, and, therefore, this is considered an essential aspect of professionalism. If the captain’s interpersonal behavior style is more domineering and dictatorial — and he or she allows that style to set the tone in the cockpit without awareness of its impact — it can make the first officer reluctant to speak up about a problem.
“In the first 15 minutes in the cockpit, the other guy [first officer] is making an assessment about whether he can risk telling me what’s on his mind,” Nielsen explains. “Current aviation training doesn’t address personal style, and it needs to, because the things that naturally make a good pilot — being task-driven, direct and precise — can create problems in the cockpit.”
Those on the corporate side of aviation say this relational dimension of professionalism is critical. Asked to define professionalism, Sheryl Barden, president and chief executive officer of Aviation Personnel International (API), starts by pointing to the ability to communicate and manage relationships. “What is your demeanor and your bearing? How do you handle tough situations with a client?” she says. Corporate pilots, for instance, must be able to skillfully communicate problems — such as the inability to land at the flight-planned destination — and present solutions to top executives and high-net-worth passengers accustomed to successful outcomes on demand. Professionals can navigate these kinds of interactions in addition to being masters of their craft and seeking continued development of their technical skills.
These softer skills are tough to measure, as noted, and it may be nearly impossible to document a return on investment from training on these skills, some observers say. The industry spends little time training on softer skills, but that may need to change. API has been in business for more than 40 years, and Barden says she is among those noticing a shift in the behavior of some of the people now coming into the workforce. There have been many anecdotes about some millennials — those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s — presenting challenges related to individual professionalism that the industry must address, she says.
“Aviation is a very precise career demanding excellence and the ability to follow a lot of rules. You can’t make it up as you go along or just decide you’ll do it later, as we are seeing in many of our millennials,” Barden said. “The concept of ‘I want it all now’ is also a factor because this is an industry that doesn’t put ‘me’ first. This is going to be one of the hardest challenges we face as we move forward: How do we adjust to meet the values of the next generation?”
Barden is not the only one who has noticed these changes, and she is watching their implications for professionalism in aviation. Brad Stemmler is director of operations at Aviation Search Group, an executive and technical direct placement search firm to the aviation industry. He has dealt with people — both those already in the industry and those hoping to enter — for 16 years, and says the newest generation tends to be less comfortable than previous generations with what older workers consider relational basics, like a handshake and eye contact. Long accustomed to communicating via electronic devices and to becoming “friends” at the click of a button, the ability to manage difficult conversations with confidence and mastery does not seem to come readily to some individuals in this generation, he argues.
Another challenge millennials face in presenting themselves as aviation professionals involves the myriad online outlets in which their lives and demeanor are portrayed. Social media has blurred what once was a clear line between personal and professional lives. “If someone has put their life out for the public to see, they are making a conscious decision to display themselves in a certain light,” Stemmler said. “Potential employers are certainly interested in how they have done that,” as it can be revealing of a person’s values and character traits.
He is quick to add that while social media makes the non-technical side of professionalism more complex, the basics of professionalism have not changed. In addition to being technically proficient, he says, a professional in aviation “demonstrates appropriate behavior — courtesies, appearance and respect — toward others in the workplace. We all know when we interact with a professional. There’s a certain acumen, a polish,” he says. “You walk away pleased with the engagement. You appreciate the courtesy and respect they’ve shown you. You walk away confident in their competence.”  

Giving Back

As with every generation before them, millennials in general need coaching and development in order to be and to grow into employees recognized for professionalism. A willingness to mentor and bring along the next generation of workers must be included in any definition of the word professional in aviation, says Dale Forton, president of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA). “The mark of a professional today is someone who learns, earns and returns to their industry,” he says.
Learning encompasses not only the initial aviation education, licensing and ratings that enable a person to get their first job but also ongoing training and education that keep people technically proficient and continually up to date on best practices. Earning simply refers to a person’s ability to make a living in an aviation career, the dictionary definition of professional.
Returning is “the final and true mark of a professional,” says Forton. “Your conduct, your character, your ethical responsibilities and standards all get ‘topped off’ when you return to your industry. Volunteer. Participate in a career day. Get involved in chapters like PAMA. Bring new people into the industry. Create a positive image of the profession. We all need to give back.”
NBAA’s Walsh agrees. He defines professionals as those who pursue “continuous improvement to excel in their role” and people “committed to sharing and developing the talent around them.” This works in two directions. A professional must have the expertise to mentor and the humility to be willing to be developed. Walsh said he has noted “a real paradigm shift” over the last two or three years in this area, with growing numbers of intern programs, value-sharing across different corporations, job shadowing and other human development initiatives.
Still, we as an industry have a long way to go, these observers agreed. While Walsh believes the business aviation community recently has made “incremental progress” in instilling professionalism, the economic challenges of the past five years combined with globalization of corporate aviation adversely have affected those efforts. Perhaps most revealing of how far we have yet to go in cultivating widespread professionalism is individual awareness. “When I do talks, I always ask pilots, ‘What is the difference between an amateur pilot and a professional pilot?’” Walsh concludes. “A lot of them can’t define it.”

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