Schedulers and Dispatchers Conference 2007

 - March 7, 2007, 11:49 AM

“My husband is a pilot for the company, but I’m the one who tells him where to go,” said a dispatcher for a Northeast-based charter operator with a broad smile, one of more than 2,400 men and women attending the 18th Annual Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference in Phoenix in late January.

The total number of attendees set a new record for the NBAA-sponsored event. It represented a 9-percent increase over last year’s show, and the number of exhibitors jumped from 322 to 351. According to NBAA, the conference is now the association’s second largest event.

Show organizers also noted that 250 attendees were first-time participants, a 25-percent gain over last year’s show. In fact, said Amy Roy, the outgoing Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee chair, the conference has outgrown the typical large hotel conference center as a venue. This year’s event was held at the Phoenix Convention Center; the 2008 conference will be at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center in Savannah, Ga., from January 29 to February 1. Ideally, a good hotel adjacent to a convention center is best, said NBAA, and the association has been able to accomplish that for the past several shows.

But numbers alone, said NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee staff liaison Joanne Damato, are only one indication of the importance of the event. She gave credit to the efforts of the committee members and former NBAA liaison Jay Evans for consistently finding new and interesting speakers and subjects that are relevant and timely, as well as to the association’s efforts to validate the profession through training and certification programs.

One example is the two-day Schedulers Professional Development Program (SPDP), which covered such skills as basic corporate aircraft scheduling, international scheduling and weather. The program, held before the convention, was attended by more than 200 people. As part of the course schedule, NBAA recognized 18 individuals, each of whom had completed six or more classes, for achievement in the SPDP course.

NBAA has also developed the more general Professional Development Program (PDP) to prepare schedulers and dispatchers for management roles within flight departments and the Certified Aviation Manager (CAM) program to identify qualified professionals to lead flight departments and companies that make use of business aircraft.

Kellie Rittenhouse, director of managed aircraft services at Pentastar Aviation in Waterford, Mich., passed her CAM exam last October. “It was a tough exam, but it adds legitimacy to the professional,” she told AIN.

To date, Rittenhouse was the first of two people from the scheduler/dispatcher community to pass her CAM exam. The other is Wendy Gavigan, v-p and manager of operations for Citigroup Corporate Aviation.

Jenny Showalter of Showalter Aviation Services in Orlando is the new chair of the sponsoring NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee, replacing Roy. Like Damato, Showalter credits much of the show’s success to the committee’s efforts to keep the subject matter of the lecture series informative and timely.

She added that the committee’s decision to create sessions based on the level of experience of those attending is another important factor. For example, at the most recent show there were two beginner sessions on the basics of scheduling, an intermediate international trip planning session and an advanced session on the formation of low-level jetstream winds.

Among the lectures at the Phoenix show was a session on aviation law, understanding standard industry fare levels for use of company aircraft and how the FAA interprets Part 135 operational control issues.

Another indication of the value of the convention, said Showalter, is in the mix of attendees, which includes, “in addition to schedulers and dispatchers, everyone from pilots to flight department managers to FBO directors.”

She also noted that when she attended her first conference a decade ago, the only male faces belonged to exhibitors. Now, she said, a much larger percentage of attendees are men. In fact, of the 26 members of the 2006 Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee, 11 were men.

A highlight of the annual conference is the presentation of monetary and training scholarships. This year eight corporate sponsors each contributed $5,000
to the Schedulers & Dispatchers Scholarship program and four corporate sponsors contributed six training scholarships.

There is also an annual Shell Canada Schedulers & Dispatchers Scholarship available only to Canadian residents. This year’s scholarship recipient was Carol Bavis of Transport Canada. Bavis plans to use her $5,000 award from Shell Aviation Canada to attend next year’s conference, as well as the FlightSafety international dispatch resource management course.

New Goodies from the Princess

B.E. Princess, a purveyor of galley supplies to business aviation flight departments and caterers, has announced the opening of its new Princess wine emporium in Port St. Lucie, Fla. According to company president Annie Balshi, the new facility will maintain a stock of more than 1,500 wines, beers and liquors.

The Monsey, N.Y.-based company has also added to its inventory a new Cuisine Naturale import line of miniature salad dressings from the UK. They come in 15 ml designer glass bottles and 35 different flavors.

Also new is the Vojo “energy mint,” citrus flavor, sugar-free and with vitamins C and B12 and a jolt of guarana, a berry native to Brazil and widely used as an energy booster and herbal remedy. The smaller individual pill boxes come in a lined, polished wooden presentation container.