In our current series, Business Airport International speaks with some of the recipients of NBAA’s 40 Under 40 awards for 2018. This week, Erin Croop, marketing coordinator for base operations at Page Field Airport in Florida, discusses her move from commercial to private aviation, the community spirit of the industry and encouraging students to study STEM subjects.
What was your first job in the business aviation industry?
This is my first job in business aviation! I’ve been at it for almost five years.
How has your career progressed since then?
I previously worked in airports, so had some general knowledge of aviation – especially commercial – but needed education on how private aviation operates. After five years, I am still learning every day but have become more comfortable in my experience. I’m thankful to have an amazing network of professionals who have given me insight along the way.
Why do you enjoy working in the business aviation industry?
Being around beautiful aircraft is the obvious answer! Honestly, I enjoy the people. It’s a pleasure to get to know our customers and hear about their travels, families and hobbies. On top of that, everyone in this industry is always willing to help each other out. It’s a great feeling of interconnectedness in business aviation.
What is one of your fondest memories from your business aviation career so far?
Being part of the NBAA’s 40 Under 40 is one of them! Aside from that, I have organized a number of STEM tours for high school students in our community to visit the airport and learn about aviation from several businesses and clubs on the field.
During one of their visits, a Challenger 300 pilot invited the students to step aboard and see the jet. They were all over the moon about that experience. Their excitement and wonder is apparent when they visit, and it’s very rewarding to share with them how many amazing career opportunities there are in this industry.
What is one of your most challenging times in this industry?
Just starting out was a challenge in itself! I had only been on the job for a couple weeks when I was sent to represent my company at NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference. Imagine having to talk to hundreds of strangers on a topic about which you knew relatively little! But, it really turned out to be a positive thing because asking questions of our visitors served as a great opportunity to find out what people really want and need from an FBO.
What do you believe makes a great FBO or business aviation facility?
There are a number of things that seem to be common denominators signifying excellence in the FBO industry: exemplary customer service, accessibility to amenities, comfortable guest spaces and value for price paid.
How do you believe advances in technology will change the business aviation facility in the future?
I believe that eventually we will utilize technology to streamline the fueling and billing process while capturing customer data and preferences for a fully personalized experience.
What one piece of technology will have the biggest impact?
I think we already understand that wireless devices play a major role in the future of our industry. From flight planning to fueling, they are essential to our everyday operations.
What do you believe are the key challenges that need to be addressed?
While we’re seeing great innovation in aircraft manufacturing and fuel planning/efficiency, many segments of the industry are utilizing outdated technology as niche markets have little ability to drive sufficient demand for updates. That concerns me, but so does the lack of understanding of the industry. When working in the community, it’s my goal to shed light on how general aviation works and why it is an important component of our transportation system.
What are the key challenges and opportunities in your region?
Southwest Florida is one of the fastest-growing areas in the USA and we rely heavily on the tourism industry for our livelihood. The challenge is keeping up with demand on our facilities and services, especially during the busy winter months when people flock to Florida to escape the snow and cold.
At Page Field, we recently completed a US$30m airfield rehabilitation project and are currently under construction for a new 24,000ft² bulk hangar. It is our goal to constantly improve our facilities and amenities to provide an outstanding user experience.
What do you think the business aviation industry will look like in 10 years’ time?
Being able to do business ‘on-demand’ has become increasingly important and business aviation will serve that demand. The ability to quickly and directly travel to thousands of communities while staying connected in the air is invaluable to overall productivity.
Flight sharing and empty leg availability is increasing access to business aviation for those who have never had the opportunity. Mobile technology and innovative communication tactics have largely made this possible.
We’ll also be working on ways to navigate the changing landscape of aviation with the introduction of vertical take-off and landing technologies and unmanned aircraft systems.