Ever notice that it’s the times you most don’t want to leave the office that you reap the greatest reward? That happened to me last week. I left a long list of to-dos behind and headed to southeast Florida with colleague Ashley Bowen Cook. I’m glad I did.
We spent a packed day at the record-breaking NBAA Regional Forum at Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) on January 24. More than 2,700 people checked out the sold-out exhibit in the Atlantic Aviation hangar and the 30-plus aircraft on the static display.
Advocate for Aviation
NBAA CEO Ed Bolen kicked things off with a look at the promising year ahead and the need to keep fighting ATC privatization. He asked the aviation community to stay engaged by using resources like the website ATCNotForSale.com, which makes it easy to contact members of Congress.
“Business aviation is important to our nation’s fabric,” Bolen said. “It’s important to our infrastructure, it’s important to our economy and we’re very proud to be a part of it.”
Advancing the Industry by Expanding Women’s Roles
We headed south to Boca Raton for the inaugural General Aviation Women’s Leadership Forum on January 25. This rousing one-day forum was put on by the International Aviation Womens Association (IAWA). Its goal: to help attract, retain and promote women in aviation as a way to make the industry itself bigger and better.
Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie welcomed the 100-plus women and men gathered at the Privaira Aviation-sponsored event. She set a positive, high-energy vibe that grew throughout the day.
IAWA VP of Communications René Banglesdorf (and CEO of Charlie Bravo Aviation) says companies are more profitable when they have diversity in decision-making and leadership. This inaugural forum was designed to revitalize interest in aviation – and avoid workforce shortages, especially for pilots and mechanics.
Wisdom From Those Who Have Been There
I felt honored to be part of a panel with executives from Embraer Executive Jets, Flexjet and Aero & Marine Tax Professionals. We talked about the next generation of emotional intelligence and how it affects marketing communications, customer service and employee engagement.
I spoke about external communications and all the opportunities now available to advance or tarnish your personal brand. Think blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo and LinkedIn. Each of these channels serves a unique purpose and delivers a unique storytelling platform. Whether long-form, 140 characters or image-based, each gives you a stage to spread your ideas.
When developing your content strategy be true to your personality and personal brand. Deliver a point of view and thought leadership to advance your company or your opinion. Be consistent and relevant to your target audience. Remember it is a marathon, not a sprint. Build your tribe delivering curated content that inspires and connects. In social media, Seth Godin says you get what you deserve. Treat your customers right and they will say good things and sing your praises. Be generous on social, like and share, engage in conversations and always remember it is called social for a reason.
From War Refugee to STEM Trailblazer
Dreams Soar founder Shaesta Waiz inspires women to dream big and achieve more – especially in the field of aviation. Waiz was born in a refugee camp during the Soviet-Afghan war and immigrated to California with her parents and five sisters in 1987. She became the first Afghan native to receive her civilian pilot’s license. Waiz completed a round-the-world solo flight in a single-engine Beech Bonanza A36. Her copilot: a 60-gallon fuel tank. She completed her circumnavigation at Daytona Beach, Florida, site of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
As only the eighth woman to cross the Atlantic solo, Waiz says success is never achieved solo. She’s focusing her considerable energy now in enlightening children about careers in aviation and the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
There’s a reason we leapt to our feet to give Waiz a standing ovation. She’s making a profound difference.
Our Small, Connected, Beautiful World
Private aviation saves lives, and several speakers hit home that undisputed fact.
Last fall our agency sponsored an award for female documentarians in the Tallgrass Film Festival. The winning film, Stumped, told the story of Will Lautzenheiser, who had to have both his arms and legs amputated. One of the forum speakers was pilot Jodie Krisiak, who flies for The New England Donor Services. Her organization flew the arms for Lautzenheiser’s transplant surgery. I know aviation makes differences in ways large and small, but making this connection reinforced for me how aviation is always there. Helping miracles happen.
“Time is life,” Krisiak said. Her job means her own life gets constantly interrupted. She might be sitting down to a holiday meal, when the call comes in that a organ needs transported. Now. And she’s off. Her company has transported 203 organs, including 61 lungs, 56 hearts, 48 kidneys, 36 livers and 2 pancreas. Nothing’s sweeter than being able to tell someone, “Your heart is on the way.”
Robin Eissler shared stories empathizing the value of humanitarian missions. She founded the Sky Hope Disaster Relief Program for those affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. It’s part of Patient Airlift Services (PALS), which arranges free medical and humanitarian flights. PALS’ network of volunteer pilots and aircraft provide this service without compensation. Eissler said, “We find a plane and make it happen.”
IAWA President Alina Nassar spoke about the organization and its mission to cultivate and advance women leaders in the aviation and aerospace industries. The forum’s robust panel discussions and Q&As revealed an engaged group. I believe IAWA is on to something big.
Keynote speaker Lt. Col. Christine Mau has quite the story. This retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and current Lockheed Martin F-35 flight instructor became the world’s first female F-35 pilot. At the time, in the entire Air Force there were only 86 other pilots, all men, certified to fly the F-35. Did she face resistance? You bet. But she learned early on that persevering is the key to success. That and ignoring those who try to block your path.
“The plane doesn’t know or care about your gender as a pilot, nor do the ground troops who need your support. You just have to perform,” she said. It’s a job seemingly designed for Lt. Col. Mau, who said, “There’s nothing more rewarding than dropping bombs on bad guys.”
Lt. Col. Mau flew the Air Force’s first all-female combat sortie in 2011, an operation against insurgents in Afghanistan. The flight was given the call sign “Dudette 07.” She stared in the documentary, “Journey to Normal: Women of War Come Home.” It tells the story of women in Iraq and Afghanistan combat missions. Talking after the presentation, Ashley Bowen Cook, a young mother, asked Lt. Col. Mau if overseeing 1,000 soldiers had made it any easier to parent her two daughters. Lt. Col. Mau laughed and admitted it had not. Regardless, this woman’s an inspiration.
We support the growing numbers of women in aviation and applaud IAWA for its first-ever General Aviation Women’s Leadership Forum. We count on more to follow.