“It is important that we as an industry stick together,” noted Shelly Simi, v-p of communications for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, at the press conference breakfast at the Women in Aviation International convention, held March 20 to 22 in Cincinnati.
Her comments on March 21 were made just two days after the war with Iraq began and with the aviation industry in the throes of economic troubles and layoffs.
Despite the war raging with Iraq, more than 2,000 attendees gathered for the annual networking and job-searching conference, which featured a record 120 companies occupying 176 booth spaces in the Albert Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center.
The opening general session was led by an all-female Color Guard from Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, followed by a moment of silence in memory of those who had already died in the war.
Although the war was prominently on the minds of those in attendance, the conference was a time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Enhancing the celebration was The Centennial Flyer, a replica of the airplane used by the Wright Brothers in 1903, which was positioned at the entrance to the exhibit hall. The Flyer was recreated by the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co. Amanda Wright Lane, great-grand niece of the Wright Brothers, was one of the conference speakers. She gave a history of the Wright family and welcomed attendees to Ohio, the state where the Wright Brothers were born. “On behalf of the Wright Family, welcome to the birthplace of aviation,” she said.
Also in recognition of the first flight anniversary, 100 women were honored by Women in Aviation for their contributions to aviation and aerospace during the last century. They were recognized during the convention’s final night banquet.
The conference was also the place for job searching, networking and career advice. Although business aviation operators and companies and the airlines had announced layoffs before and during the convention, many exhibitors accepted résumés at their booths and even set up on-site job interviews.
Before the convention, Women in Aviation announced a partnership with aeroindustryjobs.com, which hosted a virtual career fair for conference attendees and exhibitors from March 17 to 24. During that time, job seekers could view and download job descriptions posted online by exhibitors and submit their résumés for posting on the site.
“Even in these tough times, there are several companies looking for new employees,” said Dr. Peggy Chabrian, Women in Aviation president.
JetBlue Airways was one of the airlines conducting interviews during the show for pilot and maintenance positions. “We use the conference to draw the attention of qualified female pilots and get them into our applicant pool,” the airline noted. West Chester, Pa.-based Keystone Helicopters had a designated career opportunities booth and was also accepting résumés.
Other companies collecting résumés included Northwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air.
Susan Bailey, a Bombardier Q400 first officer for Horizon Air, said the regional airline industry is growing and Horizon Air was “very busy” collecting résumés and conducting interviews at the convention. Bailey said Horizon Air has had three new-hire classes from January to March and predicts more definite growth for the company in late summer or early fall. She said one of the things Horizon Air looks for in job candidates is experience with different kinds of flying.
Todd McGregor, a Comair CRJ captain, said that airline is also growing and is planning to hire 320 pilots this year and 200 to 250 next year. He said Comair is adding 32 new aircraft to its fleet this year. McGregor said Comair looks for pilots with 1,200 hours TT and 200 hours multi-engine (less time for applicants who have fixed-wing experience in the military or corporate experience), professionalism with a good attitude and flexible schedule.
Gary Kral, manager of employee development for Cessna Aircraft, offered tips for success in his talk “Surviving and Thriving in Turbulent Times,” one day after 1,200 layoffs were announced for Cessna. His suggestions include advancing within a company through promotions, having a can-do attitude and taking risks to achieve results.
He noted that employers often look down on people who sit on the sidelines without taking risks to improve themselves or improve a product that will help the company. “Playing it safe is a dangerous move in today’s environment,” he said.
He encouraged attendees to look for ways to double or triple output, communicate their ideas and be willing to implement them and search out processes that aren’t working for the company.
“Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can,” Kral said. “People who survive are people who make a difference. If you succeed, you are the type of person companies keep around.”
Recognizing that women in aviation have encountered obstacles in their careers because of gender, Martha King, co-chairman and co-founder of King Schools, offered some career advice at one of the general sessions. “There is not one single path to success,” King stated. “There are many ways to do it.”
King compared life to a Scrabble game. “All of the pieces come together and each piece represents a different part of your life,” she said. “Your passion for aviation is the first and most important Scrabble letter.”
King told the attendees to develop trust with people they come in contact with. “Make every person you come in contact with better off for coming in contact with you,” she said.
Panelists in the Women in Corporate Aviation career discussion talked about the interview process, their flight schedules and the importance of an individual’s personality to a corporate flight department.
“Attitude is important in the corporate world because we work with customers one on one,” said Ava Sumpter, president of Women in Corporate Aviation and a Beech King Air pilot for Houston-based PK Air Charter.
Wendy Paver, a co-pilot for Ford Motor Co. and scholarship chairperson for Women in Corporate Aviation, said that professionalism is also important. “Be yourself, be professional and be very, very honest,” she said.
Representatives from the regional and commercial airlines offered similar advice. “Try to get as much flying time as you can and stay motivated,” said Melanie Reynolds, a pilot for Pinnacle Airlines. Lucy Young, a captain for US Airways, said she has had “a wonderful and enriching career as an airline pilot.” She told attendees to “persevere and don’t look behind but look ahead.”
Jenny Beatty, a first officer for American Airlines, said that those looking to pursue an airline career should be prepared to stay in the field for several years. “Be ready to be there for awhile. While you are there work on improving yourself and get your type ratings,” Beatty said.
Erin McKay, a furloughed pilot from Midwest Express who is now a Learjet captain flying canceled checks for Bank Air, said the key to success is to stay focused and formulate a plan.
From the other side of the fence, representatives of the FAA offered their advice on being successful. Cecilia Hunziker, FAA regional administrator for the Great Lakes region, said that adaptability to a changing environment might be the best skill one can possess and that jobs will be given to those who have a current skill base that is continually under refinement. “Our industry is in a state of evolution and we must evolve with it,” she said.
Carol Read, an aviation safety inspector for the FAA’s Detroit Flight Standards District Office, encouraged the attendees to apply for jobs with the FAA. She said flight standard offices hire through a national register of applicants.
Speaking at a general session at the convention, T. Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Industrie of North America and former FAA Administrator, said that although the “world’s airlines are struggling with the economy, war effort and high fuel prices” and that the nation’s aerospace workforce has “serious problems,” he believes “women in aviation will be well suited to enhance aviation careers.”
Hunziker concurred. “You are the present and future of aviation professionals,” she told the mostly female audience. “Looking out at you gives me the energy to get through the year. Aviation is in good hands.”
At the convention, Women in Aviation announced a partnership with Golden, Colo.-based Summit Aviation, publisher of the Computerized Aviation Reference Library. Women in Aviation is offering the reference library at a 25-percent discount. Summit Aviation in turn will donate a portion of all profits of the promotional offer back to Women in Aviation.
Another partnership was announced with Women in Aviation and King Schools. Women in Aviation members may purchase King Schools’ Practical Risk Management For Pilots, a CD-ROM training course, for $39–a $10 saving.
Women in Aviation members are also entitled to a one-year free subscription to Aviator’s Guide. Registration is available via http://wiai.aviatorsguide.com
The association awarded 55 scholarships worth $313,600. Helping build the scholarship fund was UPS, which donated $20,000 to the cause. “We see this as an important investment for the future of our airline,” said UPS crew resources manager Karen Lee. “Our donation to the scholarship fund shows that UPS is committed to promoting diversity in the workplace and supporting women who aspire to careers in aviation.”
The association also announced that its new Web address is www.wai.org. Next year’s conference returns to the Reno, Nev. Hilton from March 11 to 13.
Women in Corporate Aviation
Ava Sumpter was elected president of Women in Corporate Aviation during its annual meeting held at the Women in Aviation Conference in Cincinnati. Sumpter replaced Helen Williams, who was elected president last year but had to step down due to illness. Sumpter, a charter pilot on a King Air for Houston-based PK Air Charter, named goals for the year ahead. Among them are increasing membership, enhancing the organization’s Web site (www.wca-intl.org), holding a mid-year membership meeting at NBAA and increasing scholarship funds.
Other officers elected were Gail Julien, international v-p; Brenda Bonnelli, v-p; Nel Sanders, secretary; Jenna Cohrs, public relations chairperson; Darcy Eggeman, historian; Michele Prusak, Web site coordinator; and Wendy Paver, scholarship chairperson.
Sanders, a principal of Conklin and de Decker, has established her office in Arizona as the headquarters for Women in Corporate Aviation. The address is 7631 E. Greenway Road, Suite C, Scottsdale, AZ 85260.
The organization, which shared a booth at the convention with NBAA, presented scholarships to Marianne Ross, Christine Poelma and Rebecca Kizior.