The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) hosted its first regional forum Wednesday in Opa Locka, Florida. It was its first of such events since February 2020, before the pandemic disrupted events of all sorts.
Indeed, it is clearly a unique time in the industry, as global trends have caused travelers to flood to business travel either through purchasing airplanes, or tapping the charter market for rides.
“This is an exciting time for business aviation,” NBAA president Ed Bolen said. “Sales are strong; pre-owned inventory is less than 3 percent. An unimaginable amount of new people are coming into this industry in huge numbers.”
However, he pointed out that this accelerated growth would require sharp execution.
“Make no mistake about it,” Bolen said, “we’ve got challenges out there.”
The industry is clearly feeling the strain of trying to keep up with the demand while dealing with other forces at play. It seems there were five priorities on most people’s minds, and Bolen addressed them in his opening session, and later in an interview with FLYING.
Embracing Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Adopting sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has been a dominant theme for the association. In October 2021, business aviation leaders pledged to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
Bolen homed in on improving availability, which would come through working with Congress through the Build Back Better bill, which has a provision that provides assistance with increased production of SAF.
“It’s jet-A, it’s jet-A,” Bolen reminded council leaders, to quell any hesitancy some operators may have had about the fuel. “So, in terms of ‘is it a proven fuel? Is it a safe fuel? Is it something that we enthusiastically embrace?’ The answer is yes.”
After a series of advanced air mobility companies became publicly traded entities in 2021 and garnered billions of dollars in investment, the NBAA has put a lot of thought into accommodating this new platform.
Bolen highlighted the Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act introduced in Congress last fall. It will promote planning and construction initiatives to build out infrastructure air mobility capabilities, from workforce development to infrastructure in terms of appropriate ports.
Workforce Recruitment and Retention
Much has been made about how “The Great Reshuffle” has affected workforces across all industries, and it was evident Wednesday, as many new and independent companies aimed to take advantage of the increased activity in the aviation industry.
However, this has made it difficult for well-established players to attract or retain talent. Many companies have been forced to go back to the drawing board and reassess their strategies.
Bolen encouraged company leaders to be creative about improving their offerings so that the talent pipeline could remain robust.
“That will be the key to whether or not we take this opportunity to turn the new entrants into lifelong supporters of business aviation and to really seize the opportunity to pass on to future generations a growing, exciting, rising industry,” Bolen said.
One inspiring event from the opening ceremony was a graduation event that took place wherein 30 students from the Flying Classroom Bombardier Academy, a partnership between Barrington Irving’s Flying Classroom and Bombardier. The program aims to teach an array of students about careers in business aviation.
Students who completed the course now have an opportunity to work at Bombardier, which is opening a 300,000-square-foot MRO facility at the Opa-Locka Airport (KOPF) in 2022.
One of the jets featured on the static display was the Learjet 40XR that Bombardier provided to Irving to support his outreach efforts.
Irving congratulated the graduates and said, “You’re going to have a career here and be able to do amazing things as part of this industry.”
New Infrastructure and Tax Incentives
The NBAA has played a key role in the infrastructure bills that were passed in 2021, which made provisions towards updating the airports and facilities used by business aviation, as well as workforce development.
Separately, patrons were eager to hear updates about some of the favorable tax incentives that increasingly made it possible for businesses to buy jets, namely bonus depreciation.
Bonus depreciation is a tax incentive that allows a business to immediately deduct a large percentage of the purchase price of eligible assets, such as machinery, rather than write them off over the “useful life” of that asset.