BizAv’s next generation

Soon after she graduated from Western University’s four-year Commercial Aviation Management program, Kate Latis saw a Facebook post about a job opening at Aurora Jet Partners, an Edmonton-based private jet management company.

Kate Latis, an administrative assistant for Aurora Jet Partners, is a co-founder of the BizAv Young Talent Initiative. BizAv YTI Photo
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Her dream at the time, based on her understanding of available careers in aviation, was to work in crew scheduling and flight operations at an airline. She didn’t even know business aviation was an option. But she applied, got the job, and quickly fell in love with the industry.

“I am incredibly passionate about what I do,” said Latis, 25, an administrative assistant with Aurora Jet Partners. “It’s a merit-based industry, so your ambition sets the pace for your career.

“You don’t have to work through seniority ranks. If you’ve got the drive and the determination, business aviation is the place for you to excel.”

Business aviation’s relatively low profile, along with a shortage of pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers and other professionals, prompted Latis and two colleagues to spread the word.

Along with Gray Norman, a regional sales associate with Textron Aviation, and Donald Wheaton, aviation finance director for the General Bank of Canada, she co-founded the BizAv Young Talent Initiative (BizAv YTI) to attract more young people to the industry and help them network.

“What a lot of us have noticed–young professionals in the industry–is that we stumbled upon our jobs by complete chance,” said Latis. “We didn’t know this side of the industry existed.”

Within a few months, the team of three grew to a team of six, with the addition of Alex Hummer, a sales and marketing executive for Edmonton Shell Aerocentre; Taylor Davis, an associate at the Bennett Jones law firm; and Alethia Forsberg, a first officer on the Embraer Phenom 100 at Aurora Jet Partners.

Latis stands with her fellow co-founders Donald Wheaton, left, and Gray Norman. BizAv YTI Photo

The BizAv YTI is officially backed by the Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) and launched June 14, 2018, at the CBAA Convention and Exhibition in Waterloo, Ont. The group is inspired in part by Young Professionals in Business Aviation (YoPro), a similar organization from the U.S. National Business Aviation Association.

“We want to raise awareness in flight schools and post-secondary institutions,” said Latis. “And we’re not just limited to pilots. We want to reach out to maintenance engineers, even business schools, marketing, communications. There are needs for everything–even lawyers and accountants–in our industry.”

BizAv YTI’s six-member executive is based in Alberta and is planning presentations in Edmonton and Calgary this fall, she said. Networking events will follow, along with more presentations in other provinces as early as the spring of 2019.

“This is run entirely by volunteers who do have full-time jobs in the industry,” said Latis. “So the expansion and the rate at which we grow is kind of dependent on the help we can get. But the team of young professionals in business aviation is fantastic. Everyone’s very supportive.”

Business aviation is feeling the effects of an industry-wide labour shortage that sees many employees leave for airlines grappling with their own staffing issues, according to Latis.

“Airlines are going through the same personnel shortage and they’re working very hard on attracting the new generation,” she said. “It’s a bit tougher for our side of the industry because nobody really knows about us.”

Variety, camaraderie, upward mobility and a relatively open management structure are all part of the pitch for business aviation.

“A lot of young professionals don’t really like monotone, stale jobs,” said Latis. “If you do the same thing over and over again, it gets kind of boring.

“With business aviation, I like to say you have no time to get bored. One day you’re working on getting landing slots in, say, Toronto. The next day you’re working with Saskatoon, and then a week later you’re working with Paris.

Canadian Business Aviation Association interim president and CEO Rudy Toering, left, helps cut the cake at the BizAv YTI launch at the 2018 CBAA Convention and Exhibition in Waterloo, Ont. BizAv YTI Photo

“No two days look the same. If you ask me to predict what tomorrow’s going to look like … I have no idea what’s waiting for me. And I think that a lot young people would find that exciting.

“It’s challenging. It’s not for everyone, I’ve got to say. But if you’re in for challenge, and if you’re in for every day being a new adventure, then business aviation’s the career for you.”

Latis knew working for an airline might be an option when she graduated university. She knew there might be jobs in airport operations and at Nav Canada. But she knew very little about business aviation, and never imagined she’d end up where she is today.

“I adore it,” she said with a laugh. “I am just grateful that I stumbled upon that Facebook post.

“I’m very ambitious and I like change a lot, so that’s why this was so great for me … I fell in love with the industry, and I’m pretty sure if you were to ask some more of the established professionals … they’ve been in it for quite some time because they have very similar feelings.”

In an attempt to promote this side of the industry and the career opportunities available for young professionals, the BizAv YTI team will be starting two projects on its social media accounts over the summer.

Talent Tuesdays will feature weekly interviews with young professionals in business aviation, sharing more about their careers on the business/operations side of the industry.

Flight Crew Fridays will feature similar interviews with young business aviation captains and first officers across Canada.

Follow the group on Twitter and Instagram @BizAvYTI, find them on Facebook, or contact them by email for more information.

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