An Intern(al) Perspective on Aviation Associations

NATA Intern, Michael Paul's reflection on his time in DC and his pathway to aviation.

I was surrounded by aviation growing up with family involved in the industry, but what really piqued my interest in aviation was my first flight on a turboprop from Johnson County Executive Airport to Colorado Springs Airport when I was eight years old. While many of my peers planned on being astronauts and doctors, I always knew I would become a marketing and communications intern for NATA. 

Not really. But since that short-but-exciting trip to Colorado over 12 years ago, my interest in general aviation continued to grow and I was thrilled to learn that I would be spending the summer of 2018 with NATA as an intern. Although I grew up close to general aviation businesses, I still had a lot to learn, and NATA’s Annual Meeting and Aviation Business Conference (ABC) was the perfect opportunity to begin my professional career in aviation. With the conference coming up just weeks after I began working, there was much to do. As a new intern at NATA and with the highest turnout rate recorded for the 2018 ABC, I was thrown right into the thick of things to make sure the conference ran smoothly and exceeded expectations. 

Prior to the conference, the NATA office was busy, to say the least. As an intern, I was in the middle of it all, creating presentations, writing scripts, contacting attendees, and assisting with other administrative duties in preparation. I learned a lot through this experience and my work had just begun! Working behind the scenes for most of the conference, it was easy not to notice just how valuable two days at the ABC can be, especially for young aviation professionals. Listening to speakers such as Ali Bahrami from the FAA and David Pekoske from the TSA talk about a variety of topics from environmental responsibility to issues affecting general aviation businesses, it is hard to imagine leaving the conference without having learned a significant amount of meaningful information. 

As beneficial as the speakers were to listen to, the countless opportunities to meet and network with individuals and companies from all facets of the general aviation industry, were equally as valuable. While I had the pleasure to meet many business leaders, one opportunity that stood out to me, in particular, was the Young Aviation Business Professionals Dinner. Sitting faceto-face with individuals not much older than I was and learning about successes, shortcomings and perspectives on aviation was, truly, an invaluable experience. 

I learned a great deal during the ABC, but the greatest lesson was the ability to participate in efforts that really make a difference. The Capitol Hill Meetings did just that, allowing conference attendees to meet with their elected representatives and advocate for aviation businesses. My ability to speak directly with office staff from Virginia’s senators was a great way to bring up topics such as FAA reauthorization and the aviation maintenance workforce shortage; and I left knowing that my voice made a difference. 

With continued growth of the ABC every year, I can only imagine what will be accomplished in the future. I never expected to gain as much as I did from the conference and I can confidently say that the ABC was beneficial not only to me, but also to all who attended. The ABC is a rewarding and advantageous event that can benefit interns, who are just starting out in aviation and may one day become the next aviation business leaders.

* This article was originally posted in the Aviation Business Journal. Read the full article here.