"40 Under 40" Doesn’t Include Me

This issue is devoted to “40 Under 40” — aviation up and comers under age 40. I am not included in this honored group, and rightly so. I don’t qualify from any standpoint. I turned 40 decades ago, at the annual NATA convention in San Antonio.

Aviation needs young leaders — but only if we want to survive. For one thing, we need young leaders today so we will have old leaders tomorrow. And don’t look now, but leadership in our industry is more important — and requires more capabilities — than ever before.

Our industry needs to seek out these young folks, encourage them, and help them down — or up — the proper path. But, isn’t that what good management means anyway?

My “big boss” for years was Bob Hudgens. He was an industry leader and member of the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame, and he knew how to make a profit in the FBO business. Helluva man. He got his sizable education in the school of hard knocks, but his son earned an MBA from Harvard.

How many of you have had the wonderful pleasure of having young folks give you more credit than you thought you deserved for helping them along the way? I have, and it’s a very pleasant surprise.

Those kind words from future leaders are easy to come by — just keep your eye on young folks who are doing a good job. Find them, nurture, support, guide, and help them. It’s that easy. Sometimes it means pulling them up a bit, maybe even chewing on them when you see them doing something dangerous or unwise, but mostly it involves giving them encouragement and challenges.

The results are often amazing. Some pilot someday will taxi into your airport in a corporate jet or airliner — or you will run into an industry mogul at a convention — and that person will say, “If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t even be in aviation.” You will probably be amazed to know that you were so important in his/her life.

Airport management has — perhaps more than any other branch of civil aviation — reaped the benefits of management that has and is improving greatly.

Thank you, and please keep it up.

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