“The pilot points the plane, but who points the pilot?” read the sign over the Avitat exhibit at the 17th annual NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference in San Antonio in January. It was a blunt affirmation of schedulers’ and dispatchers’ contribution to safe and efficient flight operations. It was displayed prominently in a venue that welcomed a record 2,200 attendees and 322 exhibitors to the event–increases of 45 percent and 17 percent, respectively, over the numbers from last year.
“It was a record show in every way,” said Amy Roy, the NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee’s incoming chair. Roy noted that there were more than 30 workshops, forums and panel discussions covering a broader range of subjects than at past events. She also said the conference has gained the confidence of flight department managers, who are not only more willing to send their schedulers and dispatchers to the event, but are also attending it themselves.
Roy also confirmed a growing presence from outside the U.S. at the conference, noting that the flight handling service in Japan for her flight department was in attendance. A total of 21 exhibitors from countries other than the U.S.–including Canada, Dubai, France, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden and the UK–attended the conference.
Recognizing the growing number of Canadian exhibitors and attendees, the committee this year made its first scholarship offered exclusively to a Canadian scheduler or dispatcher. Shell Aviation Canada sponsored the $5,000 award, which went to Tessy Neitsch, flight operations coordinator for Enbridge of Calgary, Alberta.
Creating a Better Show through Feedback
This year, the conference began providing “absentee coverage” for the first time in the form of a daily Podcast and daily headline e-mails to members. “Nowhere else is there a forum like this for the professional exchange of information,” said Jo Damato, NBAA staff liaison to the Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee.
Those who couldn’t attend seemed to appreciate the option. In fact, “We had one member who e-mailed us after the convention and said he had downloaded the Podcast of NBAA president Ed Bolen’s address and listened to it later in his car,” said an NBAA spokesman.
The committee is also making available to NBAA members a CD that includes many of the presentations given at the conference.
This year’s show also reflected exhibitor and attendee desires for changes. Instead of the usual single convention hotel, members had a choice of three. NBAA decided on San Antonio as the venue because it has adequate airline service and a convention center with the capacity to keep the show and meeting rooms under a single roof. In addition, NBAA changed the Monday-through-Wednesday schedule to Wednesday through Friday to accommodate exhibitors and attendees.
Exhibitors had expressed an “overwhelming preference” that booth sizes remain standard, “so we intend to stay with that layout for the time being,” the NBAA spokesman said.
According to Damato, at past shows attendees frequently requested more challenging educational sessions. As a result, more of this year’s workshops and breakout sessions were of an intermediate and advanced nature, from advanced weather and international operations to cross-border issues and international operations.
One aspect of the convention that remained consistent was the Schedulers Professional Development Program, which took place the day before and the day after the conference. The six different courses of study addressed vital communication skills, corporate aviation ethics, basic corporate aircraft scheduling and customer service, crew resource management, persuasive speech and international trip planning for corporate aircraft schedulers and dispatchers.
To make convention newcomers feel welcome, the committee launched its “passport” program at S&D 2006. At the first-timer meeting the evening before the show opened, each received a “passport” with a page to be stamped at various educational sessions and submitted later for a drawing. The winner received two round-trip tickets on Southwest Airlines.
“We had a record 198 people at our first-timer meeting,” said former committee chair Kristi Ivey, who believes this “user-friendly” attitude toward newcomers is one reason for the growth of the conference.
An Apollo 13 Highlight
The highlight of this year’s conference was a luncheon keynote address by Gene Kranz, retired NASA director of mission operations. Kranz was a key player
in getting the Apollo 13 astronauts home safely.
Kranz remained after lunch to sign copies of his book, Failure Is not an Option, drawing a crowd and selling some 300 copies.
In his talk, Kranz highlighted the similarity between the role of mission control in the space program and that of the scheduler and dispatcher. The Apollo 13 crisis, he explained, was an example of teamwork by people who are “committed and dedicated.” Similarly, a flight, he said, can succeed only when everyone involved employs the principles of teamwork, leadership and trust.
During his address NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen challenged attendees to become active in supporting issues facing business aviation today, from user fees to regulations. “Schedulers and dispatchers,” he said, “have a grassroots core competency that can serve to protect and defend this industry.” He urged schedulers and dispatchers to make their voices heard in Congress, saying that the FAA is on the verge of unveiling a new aviation system funding mechanism based on user fees that would “quadruple the taxes paid by business aviation.”
According to Damato, the Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee’s first post-convention action was to begin planning for next year’s event, which is scheduled for January 24 to 26 (again Wednesday through Friday), tentatively in Phoenix.
The Conference at a Glance
Air Chef Says, ’Aloha’
Air Chef, the Columbus, Ohio-based business aviation caterer, has taken another giant step, this one across the Pacific. At the Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference, the company announced three new affiliate catering kitchens in Hawaii–Culinary Flight, Blue Sky Cuisine and 808 Sky Catering. The three Hawaii kitchens provide catering on the islands of Hawaii, Maui and the main island of Oahu.
Air Chef consultants at (800) 247-2433 will assist customers with Hawaii orders; fax (877) 247-2433. Those wishing to speak directly to the Hawaii-based affiliates can be connected to the proper kitchen order desk.
Guy Smith, former owner of Air Culinaire, with long-time personal ties to the islands, will oversee Air Chef interests in the Hawaii operation.
The move by Air Chef consolidates three of the primary business aviation catering services in Hawaii, leaving Luciano’s on Maui the remaining independent bizav caterer. FBOs, however, appear to think that even in that relatively small market, “There’s always someone who will compete with the big guys and do it successfully.”
Luciano Zanon, Venice-born and the owner of Luciano’s, shares that opinion. “Air Chef’s coming doesn’t disturb me at all,” he said.
JetEx Flight Support Plans Dubai FBO
JetEx Flight Support, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates and with offices in Dallas, revealed at the Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference its plans to open an FBO called JetEx in the Middle East, possibly in Dubai. A source with the company indicated that the new facility might open as early as June, saying, “The company expects to be the most cost-effective solution for travelers to Africa, the Middle East, Far East and Commonwealth of Independent States.”
JetEx was launched last April and opened its Dallas office last fall. The company currently provides cargo charter, air ambulance, flight-planning and fueling services.
Acquisition and Merger in Boise
At Gowen Field in Boise, the new owner of Boise Air Service and Boise Executive Terminal is looking for a new name for the facility that will emerge from its acquisition of the two FBOs.
Jackson Oil acquired Boise Air Service in June. Six months later the Meridian, Idaho conglomerate–a motorfuels retailer and wholesaler with convenience store and real-estate holdings–bought Boise Executive Terminal. According to Jackson Oil president Tony Stone, a major renovation and expansion of the Boise Executive FBO has already begun and will be complete sometime in May. The Boise Air Service facility will be converted to aircraft hangars and offices. Meanwhile, said Stone, “We’re in the process of coming up with a new name.”
While it is Jackson Oil’s first venture into the aviation business, CEO and owner John Jackson is a pilot and the company owns and operates a Citation CJ1.
Egyptian Caterer Plants Seeds of Worldwide Organization
Marsell Amineddine, managing partner of M Foods of Alexandria, Egypt, has taken the lead in an effort to create a worldwide business aviation catering trade association.
Paula Kraft, president and owner of Atlanta-based Tastefully Yours catering, presented the idea to the NBAA catering subcommittee at the Schedulers and Dispatchers show. Such an organization, said Amineddine, would promote best-practice and professional standards; ensure government authorities hear the voice of the catering industry; promote innovation and excellence, develop standards within the catering industry to improve efficiency and safety; and build a network among members for the exchange of ideas and information.
The headquarters would logically be in the U.S., said Amineddine, noting that North America is the home of 68 percent of the international business aircraft fleet and accounts for some 70 percent of annual operations.
Membership might include the catering departments of aircraft operators, food safety and hygiene training specialists and catering suppliers and vendors.
“At this point,” said Amineddine, “the idea is in a primitive stage and we are working to bring it to the next level.” Those interested can contact Amineddine at M Foods by phone (011-2012-246-1056) or at email@example.com. In the U.S., contact Paula Kraft at (770) 455-7002 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.