API In the News

In The News

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.
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.”
As seen in the St. Helena Star publication.

Barden-McKinnon Honored for Corporate, Private Aviation Contributions

St. Helena’s Janice Barden-McKinnon with National Aeronautic Association chairman Walter Boyne, left, and fellow NAA award recipients Bruce Whitman and Hugh Risseeuw at the Nov. 12 NAA fall awards dinner in Arlington, Va. Not shown are awardees Ralph Crosby and Matt Zuccaro.
Janice Barden-McKinnon described herself as “thunderstruck” when she first learned she had been named a 2013 recipient of the National Aeronautic Association’s Wesley L. McDonald Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award.
“When I got the word I was speechless,” St. Helena resident Barden-McKinnon said and laughed before adding, “And I’m not speechless often.”
The professional aviation psychologist who founded the San Francisco-based Aviation Personnel International in 1971 was being recognized for her contributions to the world of corporate and private aviation. Joining her at the NAA awards ceremony were her husband, Chuck McKinnon, and 12-year-old grandson, Peter Coholan.
API was the first female owned and operated, and now longest running, search firm designed exclusively to serve the hiring needs of private and business aviation professionals.
Barden-McKinnon, now semi retired, has received numerous awards during a career that spans 58 years but this latest accolade, she said, is “the top.”
Although, she hastened to add, “It isn’t just my award, it’s the award of all the people we’ve justified” — the senior aviation pilots, pilots, maintenance and cabin safety crews as well as schedulers and dispatchers who have passed through API’s psychological testing and evaluation and assessment program.
In addition to the 2013 Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award, Barden-McKinnon’s additional honors and milestones include the University Aviation Association Janice K. Barden Aviation Scholarship which, through the National Business Aviation Association, annually awards $1,000 to each of five undergraduates studying aviation-related curricula at NBAA and UAA member institutions.
She was the recipient of the Kent State Distinguished Alumni Award in 1986 which recognizes and honors alumni whose leadership, character and hard work have made exceptional contributions in their chosen field, in their communities and at Kent State.
In 1990 Barden-McKinnon envisioned an outreach program for aviation students and created the annual NBAA Careers in Business Aviation Day.
In 1992 she was appointed by George H. W. Bush to a Presidential Blue Ribbon Panel to research the training options to address the Pilot and Aviation Maintenance Technician shortage.
She was also a recipient of the NBAA John P. “Jack” Doswell Award bestowed on those with a lifelong individual achievement on behalf and in support of the aims, goals and objectives of business aviation.
Barden-McKinnon was awarded an NBAA American Spirit Award in 2000. The award recognizes 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.
She served as NBAA Local Committee Chairman six times, more times than any other individual in the association’s history, and was the only woman to serve as its chair.
“I am immeasurably proud of the lifelong accomplishments and impact that my mother has made in the lives of professionals working within the business aviation industry,” said Sheryl Barden, API president and CEO.
“She has received an outpouring of emails from former clients, candidates and industry partners, congratulating her on this Distinguished Statesman honor,” her daughter added. “All have thanked her for contributing to their success and the success of our industry.”
resizedimage300346-CalvinHendrickson-SherylBarden-NBAA13-JaniceKBardenScholarshipSan Francisco, Oct. 28, 2013 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) offers a wide range of scholarships that encourage young people to seek careers in business aviation. Last week at NBAA’s Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA2013), five students were recognized for receiving the UAA Janice K. Barden Aviation Scholarship at a press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 1 p.m. The UAA Janice K. Barden Aviation Scholarship is named for the founder of Aviation Personnel International (API), who has been active in the aviation community for decades, and has served many times as the local committee chair of NBAA's Convention. 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:
  • Savannah Bonty is a sophomore studying air traffic control management and aviation business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He has spent time working with People to People in Costa Rica as an ambassador, as well as a representative in the Global Youth Program. In his post-graduate career, Bonty hopes to help manage airports more efficiently.
  • Calvin Hendrickson (pictured), a junior at Western Michigan University, is studying aviation maintenance technology and works at the university’s airport. He also is a member of Alpha Eta Rho and the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association. Hendrickson hopes to pursue a career in aviation maintenance after graduating in December.
  • Tyler Hutchinson is a sophomore at the University of Dubuque studying business aviation and operations, and he worked at Dubuque Regional Airport. Following graduation, Hutchinson looks forward to gaining a variety of aviation experiences.
  • Ashley Thorsen is a sophomore at Hampton University pursuing a degree in aviation management, air traffic control specialist. After deciding to get her pilot’s license and taking weather classes at a community college, Thorsen realized her interest in air traffic control, and she now interns at the terminal facility at Raleigh-Durham TRACON.
  • Jannesar Vahid is a junior at Kent State University pursuing a degree in aeronautics, flight technology. He has wanted to be a pilot since the age of 10, and upon arriving in Ohio as an Iranian refugee in 2009, he was thrilled for the opportunity to enroll in Kent State's flight program.API's President and CEO Sheryl Barden was at the press conference to congratulate Calvin Hendrickson after he was presented with his scholarship in person.Apply for the 2014 scholarship A completed application package, which includes application form, one essay, one transcript, one resume and one letter of recommendation, must be received by NBAA no later than Nov. 1, 2013, to be considered for the scholarship. See application for full details.For more information on the Janice K. Barden scholarship, click here.

Panel of Business Aviation Experts to Discuss Talent Development, Internships, Training and Recruitment

San Francisco – October 18, 2013 – For the second consecutive year, Sheryl Barden, President and CEO of Aviation Personnel International and NBAA Associate Member Advisory Council member, will moderate a panel of industry experts to address new developments regarding the declining aviation talent pool. The 90-minute session is Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 10:30 a.m. during the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA) Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Las Vegas, Nevada. “Last year at NBAA, in front of a packed room, a panel of industry leaders postulated their theories for why the business aviation industry is currently facing ‘the perfect storm,’ and why flight departments are being forced to recruit aggressively to increase the pool of talented people,” said Sheryl Barden, President and CEO of Aviation Personnel International. “As we face a shortage of qualified aviation candidates entering the corporate aviation industry, I’m proud to be asked once again to moderate a panel of experts to help our industry’s leaders navigate the storm.” During the Career and Leadership Development panel entitled: “The Perfect Storm:” Continuing to Address the Declining Aviation Talent Pool,” hear from Barden and five industry leaders as they reveal startling statistics and discuss ways flight departments can plan to be at-the-ready, and attract and retain talented employees, especially during a shortage of trained aviation professionals. The panel will explore, and even challenge, current approaches to recruitment, talent development, internships, training, as well as ways to develop passion and commitment for aviation careers in the next generation. The five panelists include:
Ms. Lee Brewster

Lee Brewster

Lee Brewster, President and Executive Director, National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies, will highlight how aviation maintenance roles are evolving. She will explore the skills gap between newly licensed A&P mechanics and the basic needs of business aviation flight departments.
Carlton Davis

Carl Davis

Capt. Carlton "Carl" Davis, Chief Pilot - Pilot Services for Boeing Flight Services, will share relevant data from Boeing’s Pilot & Technician Outlook workforce statistics as well as thoughts on how business aviation will be affected by changes in the airline industry.  
Kevin Hiatt

Kevin Hiatt

Kevin L. Hiatt, President and CEO of Flight Safety Foundation, will discuss the challenges put upon a safety organization due to a lack of trained aviation personnel and a tight labor pool.  
Dr. Charles Reagan

Dr. Charles Reagan

Charles “Chuck” Reagan, Ph.d., NBAA Board Member, is a Professor of Aviation and Philosophy at Kansas State University, and serves as an advisor to the University President. Dr. Reagan will share how the development path for students has been affected by the FAA’s 1500 hour/ATP rule for commercial pilots and how this may impact the influx of new students.  
Richard Walsh

Richard Walsh

Richard Walsh, NBAA Board Member-Elect and vice-president of a Fortune 20 flight department, will share his company’s approach to developing entry-level college graduates into fully functioning members of a Business Aviation flight department within a 3-year time frame. Attendees will take away a greater understanding of the talent shortage and learn how to address these six questions:
  1. WHO in my organization needs to know about this?
  2. WHAT do they need to know?
  3. WHERE do I find internal and external partners to help me tackle this for my organization?
  4. HOW do I craft solutions so my department and my organization can stay ahead of this issue?
  5. TODAY, how and where do I find talent and what impact do internships play?
  6. TOMORROW, how do I vigilantly retain talent?
naaTwo individuals with ties to NBAA will be honored this fall by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA). Janice Barden and Bruce Whitman will be among five recipients of NAA’s 2013 Wesley L. McDonald Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award, to be presented at the NAA fall awards dinner on Nov. 12 in Arlington, VA. “We congratulate Janice and Bruce on their selection for this prestigious award, for which they are both well deserving,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. Barden is a former recipient of NBAA’s John P. “Jack” Doswell Award for lifelong achievement in support of business aviation; a former chair of NBAA’s Convention Local Committee; and the namesake of one of NBAA’s collegiate aviation scholarships. She is the founder of Aviation Personnel International (API), a retained-search firm designed to serve the hiring needs of business aviation professionals. API is the longest-running aviation recruiting business and has contributed immeasurably to the entire aviation industry, according to NAA. Whitman is president and CEO of FlightSafety International and has enjoyed a long and distinguished career there. A former senior executive with NBAA (then known as the National Business Aircraft Association), he also has served on NBAA’s Associate Membership Advisory Council. Under Whitman’s leadership, FlightSafety provides more than a million hours of training each year to more than 75,000 pilots, technicians and other aviation professionals from around the world. NAA’s Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award was established in 1954 to honor outstanding Americans, who, by their efforts over a period of years, have made contributions of significant value to aeronautics and have reflected credit upon America and themselves. NAA will also present its 2013 Public Benefit Flying Teamwork Award to ORBIS International and FedEx at the Nov. 12 event. NBAA nominated ORBIS and FedEx for the award, which honors their 30-year partnership to fight blindness around the world.

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