Meet the National Air Transportation Association's Managing Director of Safety and Training

May 31, 2023
Get to know the National Air Transportation Association's managing director of safety and training.
Steve Berry
Steve Berry

Job Title: Managing Director, Safety and Training  

Company: National Air Transportation Association  (NATA)

Location: Washington, DC 

Years of Experience in Ground Support: 21 

Years with Current Company: 6 

Previous Employers in the Industry: Eastern Aviation Fuels, Stuart Jet Center, Fort Pierce Jet Center 


Industry committees, associations, working groups served on

NATA Safety Committee 2017-Current 

NATA GA Fuel Handling Subcommittee 2019-Current 

EI Aviation Committee (AvCom) 2020-Current 

ATA 103 Working Group 2021- Current 

NFPA 407 2021-Current  

NFPA 418 2021- Current  

SAE 5-C Aviation Ground Fueling 2022-Current  

Aviation Insurance Association Safety Committee 2022- Current  


Ground Support Worldwide: What attracted you to a career in the ground support industry?  

Steve Berry: My origin story is simple and began on the recommendation of a friend instead of an existing love and passion for aviation. I was a junior in high school, busing tables at a local restaurant when a friend told me the local airport was hiring. Since I also didn’t have a passion for clearing dishes, I went to the airport and filled out an application. Within a week or so I’d entered my decades-long career in the general aviation industry as a line service technician.  

GSW: What has kept you engaged in the industry? 

SB: When I was working the line, I was drawn to the “cool factor” of working around airplanes. I enjoyed both the responsibility that comes with working with aircraft and the satisfaction of knowing what I did mattered. None of my buddies at the time could say they spent their weekend handling multi-million-dollar jets. After my time working the line, I left the ground handling world for a few years but came back because of the potential for job security. In 2009 I took a job with Eastern Aviation Fuels (now Titan Aviation Fuels) and never looked back. I thought then, and still do now, that any company hiring in the midst of a recession is a pretty good indicator of the industry’s long-term prospects.  


GSW: What’s the best advice you’ve been given while working in this field?  

SB: “You know more than you think you do.” When I first started teaching seminars and workshops, I’d get so anxious and nervous about presenting. I wasn’t worried about the public speaking part but more so about imposter syndrome. I imagined that someone in the audience would tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about or that I didn’t belong leading a class. Michael Mattern, my boss and mentor at the time, reassured me that I knew more than I thought I did, the audience was there to learn from me, and I wouldn’t be at the table if I didn’t belong there. Sound advice that I still follow and communicate to others as needed. 


GSW: How have you seen the ground support industry change the most during your career? 

SB: I’d have to say the maturity of the industry when it comes to training and safety has changed the most. When I first started on the ramp, training was basically on-the-job – following the senior guys and doing what they did. There was no formal process around training. Much of the move toward standardization has been led by NATA through our Safety 1st training program and company leaders who understand the value of investing in a robust training program. Also, the adoption of safety management systems (SMS) in the ground space is another indicator of the maturity we’re now seeing.  


GSW: What’s the next big thing coming to the ground support industry?  

SB: The move to fully embrace tech to make smarter, safer ramps. The GA ramp has been an analog place for much longer than the rest of the world. Now, that old-fashioned way of thinking is changing rapidly with NATA member companies leading the way. Our partners at NDX, for example, have pioneered some incredible solutions using proximity-based technology for managing fuel quality, ground operations and collision prevention on the ramp. I encourage you to check them out.  


GSW: What type of an impact will it make? 

SB: It’s all about being proactive rather than reactive. The integration of smart tech allows for the benefits of real-time observations, analytics, alerting and reporting to be realized on the ramp in ways never before possible. By increasing the level of insight into ramp operations, we can identify trends and issues before they develop into incidents and accidents. 


GSW: What would you say to encourage someone to join the ground support industry?  

SB: Jump in – the opportunity for growth and advancement is wide open. When I first started working the line back in 2002, I never imagined then that I would be where I am today. I am proud to be a part of a fantastic industry full of great, supportive people.