Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) students on Monday evening got a first-hand look at the different paths into a business aviation career, learning that they don’t all start with such aspirations nor is there one traditional way to get there. The Air Charter Safety Foundation kicked off its annual Safety Symposium—now held annually at ERAU's Daytona Beach, Florida campus—with a panel involving a cross-section of business aviation leaders who shared insights on various paths into business aviation.
They said they started with the desire or career path to be a police officer, airline pilot, or accountant, among others. The panel, which was streamed live in addition to speaking to students in the audience, also gave an overview of the opportunities that come with business aviation.
Moderated by Jessica Naor, who originally wanted to be an air traffic controller and is now president of GrandView Aviation, the panel emphasized important traits that thread through business aviation. They include being a team player, having strong communication skills, and keeping up with technical skills.
When asked by a student how one could break into the tight-knit world of business aviation when airlines are offering guarantees through pathway programs, Steven Friedrich, chief commercial officer for Embraer—who got his start as an accountant and broke into business aviation by working with fractional ownership pioneer Richard Santulli—stressed to just apply and be engaged. Business aviation is looking for talent, he explained, noting that the airlines keep tapping into their workforce.
Jet It founder and CEO Glenn Gonzales, who came up through the U.S. Air Force and then worked at Gulfstream, reinforced that pilots who want to fly for their operations don’t have to start with the airlines. They can come up through business aviation and may even prefer the lifestyle and benefits. And maybe they could catch onto its entrepreneurial spirit, he said.
Priester Aviation chairman and CEO Andy Priester, who was born into business aviation but whose family history includes auto mechanics and a rail fireman, added that employees who have remained engaged have received support to achieve their goals such as becoming a pilot or an A&P mechanic.
John Brogan, president and CEO of USAIG, once wanted to be a police officer or even an FBI agent and thought accounting would help that effort. But instead, he fell into an insurance role and caught a love for the industry. Most people who are at USAIG come from aviation backgrounds and are there because of their passion for the industry, Brogan said. He also noted that while insurance may not be the first thought of an aviation career, the company has a fleet of Cessna 172s for employees to use to reach their general aviation clients.
Also participating was Todd Weeber, Magellan Jets COO and ACSF chair, who came up through the ranks of the airlines and ultimately Executive Jet Aviation/NetJets. He discussed the importance of helping to bring others along and lift them up. He added that this will raise everyone up as they pursue career advancement.
As for why business aviation, Gonzales explained: “The world is changing. Technology is changing. How people use aircraft is changing. People are looking for more autonomy and efficiency.” While that comes with a cost, “you can’t beat it.”