NBAA Flight Attendants and Flight Technicians Conference: Safety and Customer Service Are Key
Safety, service and success framed nearly every session of this year’s NBAA Flight Attendants and Flight Technicians conference, held in late June in West Palm Beach, Fla. Speakers included Howie Franklin, retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. and former head steward on Air Force One; Dr. Melissa Mallis, chief scientist, and Leigh White, president, of Alertness Solutions; Elaine Lapotosky, Jet Professionals; Debbie Pederson-Nunez, Qualcomm; Greg Ripple, Miller Johnson Law; John Isbell, trainer, FlightSafety International; Kendra St. Charles, Disaster Assistance Institute; and NBAA president Ed Bolen.
The conference opened just after USA Today released its second in a series of articles on general aviation safety, and Bolen made a point of letting attendees know that the conference was just one of the many ways that NBAA and general aviation as a whole is proactive in striving for the safest operations possible, with zero tolerance for negligence such as that posited in the USA Today articles, which he deemed sensationalist in nature.
“The statistics were inaccurate when mixed and matched as in the article,” said Bolen. “NBAA aggressively pushed back and the Washington Post printed a retraction. The Huffington Post went as far as to call the articles ‘unfit to print,’” he said.
Bolen then moved on to a more upbeat note, pointing out that last year’s successes for general aviation in Congress give the industry a sense of optimism for the future.
That optimism inspired attendance by a record number of corporate aviation vendors and support service entities that networked with some 220 attendees, nearly one quarter of them for the first time, during several breaks and receptions that punctuated the core educational sessions. Presentations varied from teaching excellence in customer service to managing fatigue across time zones to how contract flight crew can better work with flight departments, and how flight departments can adapt to OSHA rules.
“We often provide double flight crews,” Elaine Lapotosky, director of operations for crew services USA at Jet Professionals, told AIN. “But this last year I am seeing requests for double cabin crews as the super-long-haul aircraft are coming online, indicating to me that more companies understand the need for augmented cabin crew. These conferences get that information across, especially to contract workers.” Lapotosky, who is also vice chair of the NBAA Flight Attendants committee, explained that nearly 80 percent of Jet Professionals’ current business is contract staffing.
Dodie Thomas, supervisor of aviation cabin safety and services at Altria Client Services and chair of the NBAA Flight Attendants committee, found the fatigue management presentation particularly compelling. “It gave attendees the tools to go back to their flight departments with graphs, statistics and a safety booklet to hand out,” she explained. “Armed with that they can push for an augmented crew or longer rest periods.”
Topics also covered during the three-day event included an introductory course in the role of the corporate flight attendant, presented by Susan Friedenberg; global food safety and catering; OSHA regulations for cabin crew; differentiating contract and W-2 crew for IRS; how first responders take care of passengers in emergencies; an air accident from the passenger’s perspective; and an interactive look, from a safety perspective, at managing problem passengers and deviant behavior on private flights.
“We are so pleased to see sponsorship rising, this year by 10 percent,” said Thomas. “Our flight technician attendance is up this year, as well, with representation from companies such as Boeing, Toyota, PB Air and Occidental Petroleum. We are actively working to expand that side of our conference,” she continued.
To facilitate that, the committee invited the flight technicians (mechanics and maintenance engineers who are cross-trained as flight attendants) to a roundtable discussion where they explored the careers’ differences and solicited ideas for drawing more flight technicians to the conference next year.
The conference is known for its scholarships, and this year was no exception. On the final day 42 scholarships valued at $86,000 were awarded to 34 people. These scholarships ranged from safety training to dispatch to food safety, as well as survival and medical emergency training courses, all designed to enhance attendees’ safety skills, professional skills and, ultimately, success in the industry. More than a dozen NBAA member companies are among the scholarship sponsors.
The group also initiated a new scholarship at the conference in memory of flight attendant Dale “Potsy” McBurney, known for exemplary customer service skills and volunteerism. Funding began at the conference reception and can be augmented by sending checks to NBAA Charities, c/o Potsy Scholarship Fund, 1200 G St. NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005.
Potsy’s scholarship will be awarded at next year’s Flight Attendants and Flight Technicians Conference, which is scheduled for June 30 to July 2, in Tucson, Ariz.