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Business aviation in Canada has a new advocate in Jim Facette, the incoming president and CEO of the Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA). Facette succeeds Rudy Toering, who is retiring after serving in the role since 2013. We spoke with Facette about his vision for the future of the organization.
Skies: What enticed you to join the CBAA as its new president and CEO?
Jim Facette: For me, it was really opportunity to return to aviation. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and the people I had a chance to interact with when I was the CEO of the Canadian Airports Council (CAC).
Skies: What was it about the aviation community that drew you back?
JF: I think you’re looking at the people who are involved. There’s a lot of different moving parts to it, whether it’s the airport, whether it’s the FBOs [fixed-base operators], whether it’s commercial aviation, business aviation, or private aviation. These are all parts that make up this country, and they make up the social and economic fabric of it.
Skies: How did your previous experience prepare you for your new role with the CBAA?
JF: Just to narrow in on CAC: I got to know the many parts of aviation in Canada, from the regulatory and policy makers, to all the stakeholders, including business aviation, that make up the broader industry. I’ve always had to work with regulatory bodies, and both elected and unelected officials. I’ve always had to ensure that organizations and industries are getting the message out there and being proactive in doing so, so that they’re controlling their own narrative.
Skies: What are your main goals for your time with the CBAA? What kind of impact would you like to have on business aviation in Canada?
JF: I want to have a positive impact on business aviation in Canada. That comes back to where business operators know they can conduct business with a policy and regulatory environment that is business-friendly. Where it pertains to the CBAA, I look at membership growth, increasing public and government awareness on the importance of business aviation, and more generally just building on past successes. It’s important we build and maintain strong relationships with elected and unelected government officials.
Skies: Are there specific issues facing the CBAA that you would like to address during your term?
JF: In the short term: coming to some resolution on flight and duty times, the CRA [Canada Revenue Agency] tax issue as it relates to personal use of aircraft. And over the long term: the shortage of pilots. The balance between the regulatory environment and the business one broadly capture many issues.
Skies: As you know, there have been several ongoing issues facing the CBAA. How optimistic are you that you can make meaningful change on some of those files during your term as president and CEO?
JF: I always remain confident. I think you have to keep a positive outlook; you have to keep the doors of communication always open with anyone you’re working with.
Skies: Are there other pressing issues you hope to address?
JF: I think one of the things you really want to look at is positioning the industry as a major player in the overall economy. The research shows we have over 47,000 full-time equivalents across Canada adding up to $3.5 billion in wages, a GDP [Gross Domestic Product] impact of $5.8 billion. [It] all adds up to over $12 billion in economic output. In Canada, that’s a pretty significant message.
Skies: Do you believe that’s a message that’s being heard among policy makers and the public?
JF: At this point it’s hard for me to put myself in their shoes. Having said that, the fact of the matter is we have the data. It’s important to have the basic fundamental research done, and done well. Once you have that done, it becomes the foundation of your narrative, of your message.
Skies: Do you anticipate making any major changes to the way the organization runs on a daily basis?
JF: At this time it’s a little premature to make any assumptions about operations. Thus far I’ve seen a lot of positive things. I think we’re going to build on what we have going forward.
Skies: The CBAA is planning to be more active on social media over the next year or so, with a larger presence on YouTube and possibly launching a podcast. Can you talk a bit about why using those types of media is part of your outreach strategy?
JF: You really want to be where people are drawing their information from. I’m sure our members are drawing their information from and using technology a great deal. I think an industry association needs to be very strategic about how it does that, and be there in many different forms.
Skies: When you look back on your term as president and CEO, how will you measure your success? What’s going to be the main metric for you?
JF: Success for me has always been defined by the extent to which I have made a positive difference. It really is that simple.
Skies: As you prepare to begin your term on Dec. 1, what’s your bottom-line message to the business aviation community in Canada?
JF: My bottom-line message is a simple one: I and my team are here for you.
Skies: Is there anything else you want to say?
JF: I’m looking forward to working with the industry. I’m looking forward to working with the board, with the members. I think there’s a great deal of positive energy and good foundation that Rudy and others before him have built–and some walls, and a roof, and all the rest of it–that we can move forward with.