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Anthony Norejko took the helm of the Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) on Aug. 20, 2018, replacing long-time industry champion and interim president Rudy Toering.
Skies caught up with Norejko to discuss his immediate and long-term goals in his new role, as well as the most pressing issues facing Canadian business aviation today.
Impressively, Norejko told us he has every week plotted out for the next three months, all filled with specific activities that will give him a “ground-level insight of what’s happening out there.”
He’ll start with CBAA chapter meetings; but this fall, he’s also planning a cross-country tour.
Suffice it to say that CBAA’s 403 operator, associate and affiliate members may soon be meeting Norejko in person.
In the meantime, here’s a brief introduction to the man who says his philosophy is quite simply “to leave the campsite better than I found it.”
Skies: Tell us about your aviation career and how your past experience applies to your new position at the CBAA.
Anthony Norejko: In terms of flying experience, I did everything from flight instruction to northwestern Ontario charter operations and business aviation, so I have a diverse background. In addition, I have entrepreneurial and business leadership experience, which has allowed me to learn and grow as a leader. I think my skill set–the ability to “talk the talk” as a pilot – along with navigating the boardroom will help ensure we’re listening to and acting for our members. The goal is to position business aviation as an enabler for industry.
Skies: What would you say are your biggest professional achievements so far?
AN: I think the first is leading an engaged team. Early in my career, I had the opportunity to create a team that knew its strengths and weaknesses, and knew how to get the job done. For a period of time, I left aviation and worked in the property management industry–and leaving something you know and succeeding at something else was both a challenge and an achievement. Coming back to business aviation as CBAA president and CEO allows me to play a role in promoting what happens here.
Skies: How about in your role on the CBAA board–what were your biggest achievements?
AN: When you first join the board, the opportunity is to understand where the association is going and how to get there. I played an active role in supporting Rudy Toering, helping to draft our strategy framework and association investment policy. As chair of the nominations committee, I enjoyed trying to identify folks who could play a bigger role to help the industry. Finally, I did quite a bit of work with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, setting up the technical working group dealing with business aviation needs at Pearson.
Skies: Generally speaking, what are your immediate and long-term goals in your new role?
AN: First, I want to engage, learn and connect with the staff and consultants. They are the subject matter experts about what goes into and out of the association. Where do they see the opportunities and the risks? Next, I will be connecting with and listening to our membership; the operators and associates, but also non-members. Longer term, it’s about developing a comprehensive and strategic plan so our association’s efforts are aligned with what matters to business aviation. Through this role, I want to be able to play a part in promoting an aircraft as a time machine that helps to build business in Canada. I want to engage the operators for the common good, and help our associates educate operators about their service offerings.
Skies: What do you think are the top three issues facing Canadian business aviation today?
AN: As I look at it, I’d say that regulatory change and compliance is first. Operators need to stay aware of it, while engaging the association to share best practices and influence change. Second, it’s the idea of business aviation being seen as an enabler. From my time leading the aviation team at Walmart Canada, I can help our flight department and business leaders understand the value of an aircraft. I can help them compare their aircraft as a tool versus the commercial aircraft. We must also help government to understand the importance of biz av to the economy. Third, it’s important to share the great career opportunities that exist in business aviation, compared to commercial alternatives. It’s about attracting top talent, whether they’re just getting into the industry or considering a move into it. What are our strengths? Let’s share that career story.
Skies: How, specifically, do you plan to tackle those issues?
AN: In terms of regulatory change and compliance, I think it’s important to share the stories of operators who have developed unique ideas and best practices. I want to help the association identify and promote those “gold wing” operators who go over and above the minimum. Maybe others will be encouraged to look at their programs and improve themselves. Second, I am interested in data, data, data! I want to gather the data that tells the compelling story of business aviation as an enabler. For example, what really moved the needle with Pearson during our committee work was enabling a true understanding of the business aviation movements at the airport. Finally, business aviation is a fairly small sector of the industry but it has so much opportunity in every area, from fractional to charter to wholly-owned aircraft. We need to share those stories, support the BizAv Young Talent Initiative, and take time to speak to others and explain careers.
Skies: How will you harness the power of technology to communicate with the membership?
AN: I want to modernize and match the communication methods with our membership. We’ll be looking at the website, forums, podcasts and chapter meetings. What are the avenues for communication and how can technology help us? I like the idea of exploring podcasts because they can educate many people at once. Or sharing information through webinars, for example. Let’s leverage technology.
Skies: What is your philosophy on the role CBAA plays between government, regulators and industry?
AN: We represent the interests of our 400-plus members. In the end, CBAA must work with government and agency partners to be the voice for business aviation.
Skies: In your opinion, what tangible value does CBAA membership bring to the business aviation operator?
AN: Here’s a good way to calculate the value of membership: Take your direct aircraft operational cost per hour and multiply that by the annual hours flown. Then, take our annual membership fee and divide it by that total. At its maximum, the membership represents one or two per cent of the yearly operating costs of that plane. So my commitment going forward is to make that membership decision a no-brainer. In the end, it’s about working creatively together to have our voices heard by the right audience. No one operator can do it alone. We can all share and promote business aviation in Canada.