Keynote speakers include a former Thunderbirds pilot, Shark Tank investor Daymond John, and a panel on advanced air mobility (AAM).
The second day of the 2023 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE), Oct. 18, provided valuable insights about how aviation leaders can transcend personal and professional difficulties through creativity, intelligence, and determination. Later in the day, NBAA recognized HAI 2023–24 Chair Nicole Battjes with a Business Aviation Top 40 Under 40 award for her business management skills and dedication to her community.
The day started with HAI President and CEO James Viola joining other general aviation leaders in responding to a recent US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision on leaded avgas. To read HAI’s statement, click here.
Keynote presenters included retired US Air Force (USAF) Col. Nicole Malachowski, the first female pilot selected for the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Thunderbirds; a panel on integrating advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft into US airspace; and an appearance from Shark Tank investor and FUBU founder and CEO Daymond John.
Malachowski inspired the audience with her aviation exploits and how she “harnessed headwinds” to overcome self-doubt and the unexpected. The colonel was inspired to join the military and pursue her dream of flying with the USAF Thunderbirds while watching them as a high school student in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Even after joining the Air Force and becoming an accomplished F-15 Eagle pilot, Malachowski found self-doubt held her back from applying to become a member of one of the world’s premier flight demonstration teams. In 2005, she mustered the courage to submit her application after Gen. Mark Matthews told her, “Nobody wants to live a scripted life.”
Soon after her stint with the Thunderbirds, Malachowski faced a devastating brain infection that ended her flying career. She drew an analogy from aviation, emphasizing that while life may present headwinds and challenges, aviators turn into headwinds during takeoff and landing to ensure a smoother and safer flight.
Panel on Advanced Air Mobility
A panel of influential AAM leaders followed Col. Malachowski’s keynote. Hillwood Aviation President and CEO Matt Byrd led a group of speakers that included Shannetta R. Griffin, FAA associate administrator of airports. Griffin stressed that for the next generation of advanced aircraft to take hold, they must earn acceptance from local communities, and ongoing efforts to close airports and heliports need to be addressed. Panelist and Blade Urban Air Mobility President and General Counsel Melissa Tomkiel added that it’s critical for the industry to fight to preserve and grow the infrastructure needed for new technologies such as electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
Lessons from a Shark
Shark Tank investor Daymond John rounded out the Day 2 presentations, taking the audience on a journey from his early days growing up in Queens, New York, distributing mall flyers for $2.25 an hour to becoming the head of FUBU, a multibillion-dollar clothing brand.
Even with all his remarkable fame and success, John reminded the audience, “Many people equate money to success. Money often just drives—or flies—you into more problems and brand-new challenges. Responsibility is something that must be taken and can’t be given. As long as you understand that, you will be successful.”
John stressed the importance of setting personal goals, staying true to one’s values, and taking responsibility on the path to success.
NBAA also recognized HAI 2023–24 Chair Nicole Battjes with a Business Aviation Top 40 Under 40 award. The award honors rising leaders who are driving innovation within the industry. In addition to being recognized for her business management skills, Battjes was acknowledged for her service to the Hawaiian community by flying much-needed supplies for babies and new mothers when wildfires ravaged Maui in August. She was selected as 1 of 40 winners from a slate of almost 550 applicants.