What do you see when you picture a business jet? No matter what you conjure up in your mind’s eye – exclusivity, efficiency, or privacy – I bet you didn’t imagine a help wanted sign.
Yet, business aviation is one of the dozens of critical industries that are greying, and we are all on the hunt to replenish our staff with the “NextGen” of keen, passionate, and dedicated employees.
Business aviation has a compelling story. The world of business aviation is large enough to offer all kinds of career advancement opportunities, but small enough that you will never be treated as an interchangeable cog in the wheel.
Want a hefty paycheque? Business aviation’s average salary is almost twice the Canadian average wage at $95,900, compared to $49,700. Love mighty machines? Business aircraft are some of the most modern and high-functioning aircraft in the world, decades ahead of many planes in an average airline fleet. Do you want a meaningful career where you can both achieve your personal goals and make a difference? Business aviation offers you this, and more.
James Elian, president and chief operating officer of Calgary-based AirSprint, the first fractional aircraft ownership company in Canada, believes that business aviation is the hidden gem of the industry.
“Not only are the people involved amongst the most qualified and capable in the industry, but the aircraft technology is often right at the leading edge,” he says. “The safety record in business aviation is second to none, and the variability in operations provides for new experiences on a regular basis. For those who love working with aircraft, business aviation satisfies that need while also allowing for a contribution to the greater mission of the company using the aircraft. It really is the best of both worlds.”
Business aviation offers great opportunities, but the challenge is getting the word out. Commercial pilot and Canadian attorney Ehsan Monfared of YYZ Law explains, “When I was training as a commercial pilot, before becoming an aviation lawyer, there was little information out there about pursuing a career track leading into business aviation. Although pilots are in a unique situation due to minimum hour requirements, there is a general lack of awareness about this awesome industry across the board.”
Mark Van Berkel, the founder TrueNorth Avionics, and now president of Satcom Direct, believes that part of the problem is that business aviation isn’t an obvious choice. “Everybody knows about business aircraft, but it’s understated. When you realize the top companies in Canada all use business aviation, it means that you can be part of something great.”
The Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) has been working to increase that awareness in many different ways, to make a difference to people’s lives and to expose them to different career paths.
The Association, in collaboration with 10 sponsoring organizations, offers a $10,000 scholarship to Canadian schedulers and dispatchers. Shelby Schulte, manager, flight coordination at AirSprint, one of the first recipients, is proof that the right educational opportunity at the right time can make all the difference in a young person’s life. “I look forward to taking away business insight and management skills to expand my knowledge and further develop the role I am in today,” she says. “I know the education I receive will allow me to have more opportunities in the future.”
An aspiring young pilot, Alex Lebrun, got his start in aviation thanks to the Air Cadet scholarship offered by CBAA in 2009. Lebrun says the CBAA scholarship made all the difference to him, opening the door to an entire group of business aviation professionals. “Commercial aviation is so large. The CBAA introduced me to a whole new side of aviation I hadn’t seen before, which intrigued me as a potential career path.”
Now a pilot flying an Embraer 190 aircraft for Air Canada, Lebrun is very familiar with the factors that pull people away from business aviation.
“Pilots are in strong demand as more people are travelling than ever before and airlines are making more money now than ever before. There are hundreds of pilot vacancies at the major airlines today and the experience requirements have dropped significantly. Attracting talented pilots into business aviation careers will be more competitive as options for these pilots increase.”
He’s right, and in response, the CBAA is working to reverse that trend with a group spearheaded by young business aviation professionals Kate Latis, Gray Norman, and Donald Wheaton. All three share a similar story: finding themselves working in business aviation almost by chance, but once they were in, they quickly developed a passion for it and a drive to share their passion with others.
“We approached the CBAA to create a group within the Association to attract young professionals because we felt there was a need to promote this side of the industry,” Latis explains. “Gray and I graduated together from an aviation management program and throughout our four years of university, business aviation never came up as a possible career choice, although we were exposed to a multitude of jobs in commercial aviation and even military careers.”
The team of young professionals hopes to change all of that. “We plan to reach out to flight schools and post-secondary institutions, organizing presentations that explain what business aviation is and what career paths are available in the industry,” Latis says.
She emphasizes that it’s not only about pilots. “We want students to know that we also need marketing teams, dispatchers, customer service reps, accountants, engineers, and lawyers. We also want young pilots to know that there seems to be a misconception around age and business jets – yes, you can be under 30 and fly a private jet!”
Given Alberta’s entrepreneurial and forward-thinking spirit, it is no surprise that the trio are based in Calgary and Edmonton, and will start the initiative in their home province later this year before a Canada-wide roll out.
James Elian, Mark van Berkel, and Ehsan Monfared who, as well as being leaders in business aviation, are on the CBAA board, are committed to the success of this initiative.
Elian’s company, AirSprint, one of the sponsors of the schedulers and dispatchers’ scholarship, is also sponsoring the initiative. “This is an excellent initiative. It helps educate young people about business aviation in order to attract top talent to our rewarding sector, and also to increase the number of people entering aviation overall.”
Monfared and van Berkel have volunteered to work hand-in-hand with the group; van Berkel explains why. “I literally stumbled into a career that turned out to be very rewarding. When I heard about Kate, Gray and Don’s initiative and its mission to help Canada’s youth find business aviation, I thought ‘I wish that was available to me when I was trying to find my career’.”
Monafared adds, “Young people can add new perspective and vigor. The CBAA is placing itself at the leading edge of Canadian business aviation by exposing these career opportunities to young professionals.”
CBAA’s work in this area continues at its national convention, June 12 – 14, in Waterloo, Ontario, with a special panel discussion on finding ways to deal with labour shortages in business aviation.