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Prepare for Takeoff

Why now is the best time to invest in your business aviation career.

While business aviation activity has slowed in the current economy, flight department employees of NBAA Member Companies may be missing a golden opportunity.

"If ever there was a perfect time to invest in yourself, it's now," says Jo Damato, NBAA's director, operations & educational development. "The business aviation industry will recover and jobs will come back. Good jobs, jobs that need technical expertise and industry knowledge. One of these jobs can be your job, if you're ready," she adds. NBAA always has encouraged ongoing professional education for flight department employees. In 1998, the Association consolidated its educational resources, recruited outside providers and created the Professional Development Program (PDP). The program now offers nearly 60 courses, many of which are online. Since PDP's inception, employees of NBAA Member Companies have completed more than 5,000 PDP courses.

Get Ready for Opportunities

The PDP was designed to help prepare Member Company flight department employees for management positions. One early PDP success story is Wendi Gavigan, vice president and manager of flight operations at Citi Aviation in New York, who ultimately became a Certified Aviation Manager (CAM). She regards her achievement in NBAA's CAM Program as another milestone in her professional development. "Being prepared is not easy, but it's worthwhile," she says. "You've got to be hungry. You absolutely must take advantage of opportunities like this." She adds that too many people fail to invest in themselves before promotion opportunities arise.

Shari Frisinger of CornerStone Strategies agrees. "People who wait until an opportunity pops up before qualifying themselves for it are like pilots who arrive at the IAF [initial approach fix] before they pull out a chart to study the approach. Right move, but too late."

Frisinger's company is one of NBAA's approved PDP educational providers. "There are other non-PDP courses with basically the same content, but it's only in the business aviation-specific PDP classes you can share real-world flight department problems and get one-on-one solutions," she says.

Something for Everyone

Schedulers and dispatchers wanting to climb the career ladder got a boost in 2001, when NBAA added a PDP branch specifically for those professionals. "We've made the Schedulers PDP [SPDP] a part of our company's training criteria," says Dorette Kerr, supervisor, flight administration for John Deere Global Aviation Services and chair of NBAA's Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee. "And we're dedicating the entire day of January 26, the day before our 21st Annual Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference in San Antonio, to SPDP education."

On-Demand Education (ODE), NBAA's latest educational outreach, was launched in 2007. The online service offers critical information and seminars, 24/7. ODE is pay-per-view, requiring only a browser and an Internet connection. Several of the courses are free, including videos on aviation safety, podcasts with financial information and presentations from each year's NBAA Annual Meeting & Convention. The videos also are available on CD-ROM. Among the most popular recordings are those that cover the NBAA Tax, Regulatory & Risk Management Conference and the inaugural Light Business Aviation Conference. One tri-part webinar, called The Business Case for Business Aviation, has been particularly popular recently. The latest ODE offering is a webinar on Pandemic Planning and Employment Issues, which helps flight departments plan for an outbreak of the H1N1 virus.

"NBAA's PDP and ODE offerings are invaluable," says Eve Gregory, scheduler/dispatcher for C&S Wholesale Grocers in Keene, NH. "We can see the programs from anywhere, whether it's in the office, an FBO, hotel or even from home. It saves companies travel time and money."

"Don't forget there are scholarships to help you invest in yourself," says Jay Evans, NBAA's director, operations. "We're fortunate to have generous donors who believe in education." NBAA administers more than $100,000 each year in scholarships for working pilots, flight attendants, maintenance professionals, and schedulers and dispatchers. A similar sum is allocated yearly for students enrolled in aviation curriculums.

Keeping Current in a Crunch, Live or Online

When times are tough, training budgets are scrutinized and questioned. How can flight department professionals keep themselves up-to-date in hard times?

Online education is one obvious choice. "We saw NBAA's webinar on swine flu epidemic issues on our laptops while we were waiting in an FBO," explains Pilot Tim Toal of John Deere Global Aviation Services. "On-Demand Education and PDP really help our pilots, flight attendants and schedulers make productive use of down time."

But regional safety day programs sponsored by regional business aviation groups and NBAA are the most popular for "live" cost-effective training. A Westchester County Airport (HPN) event last spring drew more than 120 business aviation professionals and featured FACTS Training International instructors teaching minicourses on hypoxia awareness, cabin evacuation, fire extinguisher use and ditching. FAA experts explained required navigation performance applications and severe-weather avoidance procedures, while Customs officials answered concerns about the new electronic Advance Passenger Information System regulations.

NBAA helps sponsor approximately 20 safety days a year nationwide. "All our Members show strong interest," says Dan Burkhart, NBAA's director, regional programs. "We support local and regional efforts in every way possible, helping NBAA Member Company flight departments stay within their operating budgets."

For More Information

Get details about NBAA's Professional Development Program at For a full listing of On-Demand Education offerings, visit Find the NBAA scholarship calendar and applications at