NBAA President & CEO, Ed Bolen discusses the Association’s efforts within, and value to, the Business Aviation Community. Topics covered include:
Ed Bolen became the president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) in Washington, DC, on Sept. 7, 2004.
Prior to joining NBAA, Bolen was president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) for eight years. Bolen joined GAMA in 1995 as senior vice president and general counsel. GAMA’s board of directors elected him president and CEO in November 1996.
In 2001, Bolen was appointed by President Bush to serve as a member of the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry. Established by Congress, the commission’s objectives were to study and make recommendations on ways to ensure American leadership in aerospace in the 21st century.
Bolen was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as a member of the Management Advisory Council (MAC) to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He chaired the council from 2000 to 2004.
Bolen is a member of the board of directors of the National Aeronautic Association. He also serves on the Aviation Advisory Board of the Mitre Corporation, a federally funded research and development corporation.
Prior to his association career, Bolen was majority general counsel to what is now the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. He also served as legislative director for U.S. Senator Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS) and was a key player in the passage of the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994.
Bolen received his Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Kansas. He is a graduate of the Tulane University School of Law and holds a Master of Laws degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
Bolen, a recreational pilot, is also a competitive tennis player and former captain of the University of Kansas varsity tennis team.
Founded in 1947 and based in Washington, DC, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is the leading organization for companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful. The association represents more than 11,000 companies and professionals, and provides more than 100 products and services to the business aviation community, including the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE), the world’s largest civil aviation trade show.
Tony Kioussis (00:33):
Welcome to another Asset Insight podcast covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. I am Tony Kioussis, President of Asset Insight, and your host. Founded in 1947, the National Business Aviation Association represents more than 11000 companies and professionals and provides more than 100 products and services to the business aviation community. It is the NBAA’s mission to foster an environment that allows business aviation to thrive in the United States and around the world. To accomplish its goal, the NBAA collects, interprets and disseminates operational and managerial data related to the safe, efficient, and cost-effective use of business aircraft. NBAA is the leading organization in Washington advocating for the business aviation community, representing the industry before Congress, government agencies, the courts and international forums.
Tony Kioussis (01:30):
Joining me today to discuss the association’s efforts and value to the business aviation community is NBAA President and CEO, Ed Bolen. Welcome to our educational podcast, Ed.
Ed Bolen (01:41):
Thank you, Tony. I appreciate the opportunity to be with you today.
Tony Kioussis (01:45):
Let’s start off with NBAA’s advocacy focus. What are the current issues affecting business aviation the association is pursuing at federal, state and local levels?
Ed Bolen (01:56):
There’s a multitude of advocacy issues that we are continuing from last year. As you would expect with the COVID crisis, NBAA was very involved in CARES legislation, which ultimately, was responsible for bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into our industry, helping companies survive and general aviation airports to have operating money. We were also very active with some of the regulatory issues, including extending medical licensing and proficiency training requirements during COVID. So a lot of that work continues, but there’s an enormous amount of other work related to things like privacy. You’ll recall last year, we created the ADSD mandate and with things like the ADSD mandate and the growing drone community, privacy has become a top burner issue. Sustainability is a major focus, particularly as we begin to look at the economic that we hope will happen after the COVID crisis has ended. Sustainability will be a major focus. Safety, SMS systems will be a big focus. So there’s an awful lot going on, Tony, and a lot of opportunity for our voices to be heard in Washington and around the world.
Tony Kioussis (03:20):
One of the most valuable benefits to NBAA membership, at least for me, has been the association’s networking opportunities with the annual conference serving as the community’s premier meeting event. The pandemic forced the NBAA base to be conducted virtually this year. What was the response to that format from NBAA members and what should we anticipate this year?
Ed Bolen (03:44):
Well, I think what we learned from the virtual convention this year is that there are a number of ways to leverage virtual technology and we found. It worked out well for our education sessions, it worked out very well for some of the press conferences and provided an active area for, what we call, our lounges or chat areas for people to connect. I think what we are recognizing, however, is that there is something real and magical that happens when people are face-to-face. There’s an electricity, a chemistry that for centuries across all cultures and continents, personal interaction has been fundamental to being able to grow relationships. So I think what we have learned is a lot, like all of us have learned during COVID, is that there are ways to form connections. There are ways to stay in touch, there are ways to communicate, but we all feel like we’re missing something very special by not being face-to-face in person and I think we’re all looking forward to being part of that again.
Tony Kioussis (04:57):
I really enjoyed the way and NBAA did base this year as well as it could have been done. Kudos to the organization. Our country is going through a tough period at the moment due to the pandemic and its effect on the business community. What are some of the helpful signs, as well as the hurdles you see as we move through the year?
Ed Bolen (05:20):
Let me focus on some of the opportunities that are out there. I think on a macro level, there is a lot of hope that the vaccine will be able to be widely available, widely distributed, widely adopted, and that within the foreseeable future, we’ll be able to put the pandemic behind us. The hope is, of course, that that will help unleash an economic recovery that I think will be very positive for business aviation. As you know, Tony, a number of people have over the course of the last year, experienced business aviation for the first time. Individuals and companies have chartered aircraft maybe on a subscription, a fractional share and I think that gives us an opportunity to grow our marketplace. I also think that as restrictions end up being lifted, both domestically and internationally, that business aviation may for the first time in history, have an opportunity to actually be a leading indicator of a recovery rather than a trailing indicator of recovery.
Ed Bolen (06:32):
So the economic projections right now are for the economy to grow this year in excess of 3%. That generally bodes very well for business aviation when the economy is growing. I think what we’ll see as the growth will take place not just in the United States, but around the world. So clearly, that’s a big opportunity in front of all of us and so much of it is related to the economy related to the pandemic. In terms of hurdles, we see that the hurdles have been the travel restrictions and a lot of the economic challenges that have frankly, made it very difficult for companies to send people to different places to try to facilitate market growth. So I think getting some of that behind us and moving forward is something that we are all expecting, certainly hoping for, but also expecting and we hope it’s sooner this year, rather than later.
Tony Kioussis (07:33):
Thanks for that, and I couldn’t agree more. Hopefully, it’ll be sooner rather than later. The NBAA provides a lot of value to its membership. Can you talk a little about access to industry experts available to NBAA members?
Ed Bolen (07:49):
Well, with the NBAA, among other things, we try to be a definitive source on all things related to business aviation and that includes a lot of bringing out information that is available in different parts of the world, whether it’s at a federal level, state and local within the industry itself. We tried to find experts and provide platforms that allow people to connect to that. So just as an example, within the past six months or so, I did a town hall with the FAA administrator that we were able to do kind of a virtual event, but it was an opportunity for people to see and listen to the FAA administrator. That was particularly important because this was at a time when people were wondering, “My medical is due. My training requirements are due,” and they had an opportunity to hear from the administrator that he understood the challenges in this environment.
Ed Bolen (08:48):
And of course, we do that with medical experts. We try to focus on operational issues. Over the pandemic, we were forced to operate sometimes with major air traffic control zero environments. In other words, the air traffic control facility at Chicago midway is closed. How do we operate? How do we disinfect airplanes? How do we conduct humanitarian flights? What NBAA tries to do is find experts to try to help people share experiences if people work through an issue and try to provide definitive information coming from the government about everything from travel restrictions to emerging regulations.
Tony Kioussis (09:30):
What other resources does the NBAA make available to members, especially with respect to education and career development?
Ed Bolen (09:38):
Yeah. NBAA has long been very focused on professional development programs. So we have a number of different programs that we do; conferences, seminars, webinars, and a lot of that has really been refined over the last year as we’ve been able to adapt to, and utilize, deploy some new technologies that really are well-positioned for distance learning and remote interactions. So we have used that with a number of our professional development programs, our certification programs. We have a certified aviation manager program and accredited program. So what we’ve seen is a lot of our efforts have not been impeded by the need to go remote or to operate virtually, but in some cases, we’ve been able to have a broader reach because we’ve been able to go as far as reaching people on different continents and dramatically different time zones. So I think the ability to help people understand what best practices are in their industry, expose them to what excellence looks like, provide a community of learning.
Ed Bolen (10:52):
We saw this, for example, on our certification program, CAM. We started creating study groups to help each other along the path, let someone know that they’re not going through this in isolation. So I think a lot of those educational opportunities are very important. Then in terms of attracting and retaining talent, we’ve been trying to do that through programs that really focus on some of the new people coming into the industry and who are having an impact. You may recall, we celebrated 40 under 40 this year, and we’ve actually been doing that for the past three years. So that’s a real program where people can hopefully, see themselves making a difference and inspiring people. It’s hard to have big dreams if you don’t have role models to follow. So I think we want to play a leadership role in helping people see that business aviation is an open and an inclusive industry that welcomes new ideas, new people, and embraces technology in the future.
Tony Kioussis (11:58):
I think the association does a really good job of that. For young people seeking to at, or our industry, the NBAA has a scholarship program that covers student tuition reimbursement. Can you elaborate on that program and what is available to professionals already working within the business aviation community?
Ed Bolen (12:19):
NBAA is fortunate to have an arm called NBAA Charities where we offer a number of scholarships, both financial scholarships and training scholarships. We do that in a number of instances through the community itself. We’ll say we want to create a scholarship that will benefit this type of individual in that way. So through that, we’ve been able to annually provide between $100000 and $200000 per year in different scholarship opportunities that really run through a broad range of pilots, maintenance technicians, flight attendants, schedulers, and dispatchers. So there’s a lot of opportunities for a lot of people and we hope people will be interactive and make sure that those scholarships and training opportunities are fully utilized. All of us want to attract and retain the best and brightest. We want to do that in a variety of different ways, in a variety of different professions within our industry. So this gives us a tool to help us along that way.
Tony Kioussis (13:31):
Yeah. There’s a number of associations trying to help out on the tuition reimbursement or different mechanisms that can help educate people and I commend NBAA for its work in that area. I think you folks really do a great job and provide some great resources to the industry. The association has continually stated its commitment to make business aviation as safe as possible. What does the association provide relative to safety education resources?
Ed Bolen (14:02):
Here’s another case, Tony, where recognizing excellence and celebrating it is very important, and it gets to the question you asked earlier about making experts available to the community. I’ll just give one example from a past several months and that is last October, NBAA held a virtual safety week where we were able to bring in industry experts, people like Charlie Precourt, four time space shuttle commander who is an expert in single pilot operations. We had an opportunity to hear from Robert Sunwall, the chairman of the MTSB. We had a very interesting presentation we made to the pilots who were part of a flight known as the Miracle in Savannah where they basically, dead stick a citation in the Savannah after both engines went out.
Ed Bolen (14:58):
And we had opportunity to hear from people like John and Martha King, and that type of opportunity where you have the best in the business sharing their experiences, sharing their insights, methodically going through various scenario based training. It was really something really special and that’s an example of finding experts, recognizing their excellence and helping them share that with a broad community is what business aviation has done well and I think NBAA has really facilitated a lot of that.
Tony Kioussis (15:31):
Is there anything else you would want people to know about the NBAA’s capabilities, benefits or value to the business aviation community?
Ed Bolen (15:40):
You accurately said that NBAA’s mission is to foster an environment that allows business aviation to thrive in the United States and around the world. I think I want to go a little bit deeper on that in helping people understand that when we want to foster an environment that allows business aviation to thrive, it means we recognize that that means the people in business aviation need to be able to thrive. That’s where we want to provide those types of tools that will give people the access they need to important resources that will help them succeed as an individual, as a professional in our community. That’s why we offer professional development. That’s why we do provide access to the best and brightest in various fields. That’s why we encourage people to get involved at a state and local level with their regional groups, try to make sure people are aware of how government regulations and laws can impact them.
Ed Bolen (16:43):
So I think that’s a long way of saying, we recognize that we’re an industry that at its heart, is about people and passion and professionalism and we want to do all we can to support those because that’s how; with individuals, professionalism, passion, being able to harness that helps business aviation thrive. So we’re here for companies, we’re here for individuals and we want to help both companies and individuals find ways to maximize the amazing benefits of business aviation. As I look forward, Tony, into 2021, I’m really excited about what the future holds. Obviously, we see it as a year when our industry can start to grow again. We see it as a year when some of the technologies like advanced air mobility, supersonic travel take further steps forward. I think we’re also excited about the opportunity that we have to really promote sustainability in business aviation.
Ed Bolen (17:51):
As you know, NBAA, and in fact, the whole general aviation industry has come together for a number of years, but more recently, on a specific initiative to try to help people understand about sustainable aviation fuel, a fuel that is bio-based and has a potential to dramatically reduce our emissions footprint. The fuel has been certified. It is jet A. It’s good for the airplane. It’s good for the environment. Now that we have raised awareness that is out there, I think in the year ahead, we’re going to focus very much on trying to increase its availability and increase its adoption. So I think some of the themes going forward will be amazing growth, amazing technological leaps, and a growing leadership role on sustainability. So I think for so many reasons, we’re excited about where the future is going to take us and NBAA is as excited about working with our community to make sure we don’t just participate, but we lead.
Tony Kioussis (18:59):
This has been another Asset Insight podcast covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. Please visit our ever-growing podcasts library at AssetInsightPodcast.com and select from any number of topics discussed with business aviation industry experts. This is Tony Kioussis, and as always, thank you for listening.
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