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Addressing Talent Pipeline Challenges in Business Aviation

Sept. 22, 2014

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.