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Students See Diversity of Business Aviation Careers Up Close

October 12, 2011

Hunter Villarreal is a junior studying aviation management at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, UT. He’s wanted to fly since he was three years old and now, with 350 hours under his belt, he’s working towards his Certified Flight Instructor credential. After college he plans to gain more hours as an instructor, but “eventually I want to fly corporate.”

Villarreal was one of more than 100 university students who came to NBAA2011 to learn more about working in the industry and take part in the Careers in Business Aviation Day activities that took place throughout the third day of the Convention. The day started with several leading figures who have led truly inspiring careers in aviation:

  • Jamail Larkins, founder of Ascension Aircraft and the first Federal Aviation Administration ambassador for aviation and space education;
  • Ron Mumm, director of Raven Aviation and former commander of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds; and
  • Lt. Col. Case Cunningham, the current commander of the Thunderbirds.

Larkins encouraged the more than two dozen students present at a morning session to think about “all the different career opportunities available in aviation, beyond being a pilot or a mechanic,” including business, engineering, flight medicine, safety science and so much more.

One student particularly focused on safety science was Lisa Dalhouse, who served eight years in the U.S. Navy as a jet engine mechanic and is now a senior in aviation management at City University of New York’s York College. “My goal is to be an inspector with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB),” she said.

Students also heard from representatives from the University Aviation Association (UAA) and Women in Aviation International (WAI), who encouraged them to apply for the hundreds of the thousands of dollars in scholarships available from UAA, WAI and NBAA. After the morning program, students had the opportunity to walk the exhibit floor and see all the latest technology and the many diverse companies in business aviation.

Exploring the business side of business aviation drew Jeremy Leonard and Payum Abtahi, both sophomores at Westminster College. As a business major, Leonard was looking for ways to pursue an aviation career even if it didn’t involve flying. “I worked the line in high school and I pretty much paid for all my flight training,” he said, reflecting that he bonded with many mentors in business aviation that way.

Later in the day at the annual NBAA/UAA Career Lunch, students met new mentors, chatting over a boxed lunch with established pilots, mechanics, business and marketing professionals, scheduler/dispatchers and NBAA regional representatives. The casual format allowed students to ask the industry representatives questions, then switch tables and talk to other mentors. The most common question at the table: “How did you get to where you are today?”

Earlier in the week, the students visited the Static Display of Aircraft at Henderson Executive Airport (HND), where they talked to the pilots of several different business aircraft. “We had excellent feedback from them,” said Chantz Conder, a junior in aviation management at Utah Valley University who also hopes to fly corporate someday. “They described exactly what they did to get where they are.”

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