When Kenny Gibson sets out to do something, he sees to it that the task is completed and done to the best of his ability. He’s applied that attitude to the safety initiatives being undertaken at Banyan Air Service.
He has risen into a leadership position quickly. Since beginning with Banyan at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE) in 2007, Gibson has been promoted to third shift supervisor, second shift supervisor and training manager.
Now serving as training and safety manager – a role which he has held since 2016 – and vice chairman of Banyan’s Safety Committee, Gibson manages five on-the-job trainers and works alongside the line service manager to help lead a team of 42 employees in the line service department
What’s more, Gibson has been instrumental in implementing a new training manual with a complete emergency response plan (ERP) and a safety management system (SMS). Most recently, he guided Banyan Air Service through the International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH) process, and documented safety procedures to secure Stage 2 registration in the IS-BAH program.
For his dedication to improving operations and ensuring the safety for his colleagues, Gibson has been named Ground Support Worldwide’s 2022 Team Leader of the Year.
Gibson’s aviation career began in 1999 when he took a job as a line service technician for Miami Aviation Corporation. During a change with Miami Aviation Corporation ownership, Gibson took the opportunity to work for the new management at Landmark Aviation, which transferred him to F45 North Palm Beach County General Aviation Airport.
“After five years in Miami, I moved to work for Sheltair at FLL as their traveling supervisor, where I was in charge of the teams at all Florida locations. I gained profound experience in line service and can tow aircraft ranging from a Cessna 152 to a Boeing 747,” Gibson says.
He joined Banyan Air Service in 2007 and continued to grow his career through a multitude of training courses. Gibson completed the NATA Safety 1st Line Service Training and Supervisor Training courses; the Avfuel Professional Fuel Handling Training Course; and the American Safety Council Class A/B Operator Storage Tank Training Course.
“I completed the Foster Learning Leadership course and it focused on how to engage in difficult conversation topics, best managerial leadership practices, how to properly delegate and really hone in on my decision-making, team building and planning skills,” Gibson says.
He earned the Aviation Maintenance Never Events Certification and received the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport Recognition Award. Gibson also completed the OSHA 10-Hour General Industry Outreach Training Program and AEA Safety Management Systems Employee Initial Training.
Gibson says he strives to keep his management style straightforward and to the point, which helps him manage a variety of personalities and adapt to each person as needed. He maintains an open-door policy. But while approachable, he prefers not to “sugarcoat” his communications because safety is the top priority for his team and customers.
“With frequent and ongoing changes in policies and procedures at Banyan and on a national level, it is challenging to keep the whole team updated,” Gibson says.
Drafting a new training manual with a complete ERP helped him develop communications skills, he says.
Because Gibson manages five on-the-job trainers, he has to ensure that communication is flowing through those team members to other personnel in the line service department.
“I try to meet with them, usually, on a daily basis. We go over what they train, and then we can go back and forth on new industry practices that we have,” Gibson says.
“Usually at 2 p.m., we have a line service huddle. We talk about the hot topics we have for today,” he continues. “Every other week, I have a one-on-one with that trainer. Then every month I have an on-the-job trainers sessions with those five individuals.”
Gibson relies on his trainers to help onboarding new hires but is also closely involved in bringing a new person on staff.
“When we receive a new hire, they will spend one week with me going through training modules, a tour of the entire company, a ride-along to familiarize themselves with proper procedure and then they are sent to the trainer to learn about frontline protocol – avgas and jet fueling, towing and safety precautions,” Gibson explains. “After the new hire completes the entire training process, they are sent back to me to sign off on each action item they were trained on.”
To further ensure his entire team conducts operations safely, Gibson hosts annual towing classes and aircraft marshalling sessions to refresh his teammates’ proficiency and knowledge.
In addition to his safety-related work, Gibson works alongside line service manager Ryan Bartman, to oversee the department.
“On a daily basis, me and Ryan are in charge of all our admin stuff,” Gibson says. “We work side-by-side when it comes to that."
A routine day begins with analyzing the SMS. Gibson checks for any pending requests and reviews everything that was inputted. He checks in with all departments and addresses duties related to disaster preparedness, training courses and inventory needs, among others.
While his daily duties expand beyond safety, Gibson’s dedication to safe working practices has had a profound impact on Banyan Air Service.
“Kenny is one of the most knowledgeable people in the aviation industry. He’s our go-to guy for all questions about safety,” says Bartman.
“I believe a business can only run efficiently when all procedures are following the proper safety protocols,” Gibson adds. “I make sure all policies, procedures and training manuals are up to date, have bi-weekly meetings with my trainers and monthly meetings with the entire team.”
Banyan leadership recognized the IS-BAH program was becoming an industry standard and made the decision to pursue Stage 1 registration in 2018.
Banyan wanted to maintain its reputation of being a leader in business aviation and began the process of completing Stage 1 in 2018, spearheaded by Gibson. To achieve this goal, Gibson recognized that the FBO would need a new training manual to ensure policy and procedures were properly implemented. To ensure compliance with IS-BAH standards, he opted to write the new training manual from scratch. He based the manual off the FBO’s policy and procedures and documented standard operating procedures (SOPs)
“I started writing it all down. When I was done, I had 400 pages of stuff that I wrote, and it was all in the mix of everything,” Gibson says. “Then I had to take all those 400 pages and kind of combine what section it needed to go to.
“It took over a year to write that. It was very extensive. Even our IS-BAH auditor said it was very extensive,” Gibson says. “But I’m the type of person that if I start something, I need to finish it. And I need to finish it to the best of my abilities.
“Now, it’s an actual manual.”
The new training manual, which included an overhauled emergency response plan for the FBO, was a great way to start IS-BAH preparations, Gibson says.
“The biggest challenge I had was actually training the new manual,” he says. “Everybody that knew our old manual and looked at and saw it, now had to go through initial training. We had a class where we went through every single portion of that manual. It took about three hours each class, so we had to break it into two classes.
“Implementing an SMS system and creating a new training manual has truly helped Banyan become more efficient and work at a higher level of maintaining safety protocol.”
Banyan began seeking Stage 2 IS-BAH certification in 2020 after its ground ops team was comfortable with the new SMS system.
“Everything we’ve implemented since Stage 1 had to be specifically documented in great detail,” Gibson says. “I was focused and dedicated on making sure nothing was lost in the process.”
The documentation habits developed during the IS-BAH process have also translated to comprehensive documentation for additional topics.
To avoid diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) contamination of fuel, Gibson outlined a comprehensive safety procedure.
“The State of Florida requires all FBOs to have a DEF plan in place. That was right as we were doing Stage 2, so I had to create that as we were doing Stage 2,” Gibson says. “I had our IS-BAH auditor take a copy of that as a baseline for all the FBOs for the State of Florida.”
Banyan’s IS-BAH auditor also took a copy of Gibson’s extensive catering audit checklist to use as an example.
This past year, Gibson added the role of vice chairman of Banyan’s Safety Committee, which was critical during the pandemic.
“Kenny performed an excellent job in keeping teammates and customers safe while following all CDC guidelines and making sure Banyan was setting the highest standard in the industry,” said Jon Tonko, Banyan’s vice president of FBO services.
To further enhance his team’s safety, Gibson recently led the first-ever safety standdown event with plans to continue this program quarterly. He also runs spotting procedure classes monthly.
Gibson’s choice of career was influenced by his father, who worked as general manager of airline services for Signature Flight Support. Gibson found himself immersed in the aviation industry at a young age.
“I grew up with a passion for aviation as my father was a GM for an aviation company and always brought me around airplanes. I was only 3 years old when I first rode on a tug on the ramp,” he recalls.
In an effort to give today’s youth the same exposure to aviation, Gibson participates in a number of events focused on children.
“We try to promote it as best we can,” he says.
Gibson volunteers during the annual Challenge Air Fly Day event at FXE as well as the airport's annual Safety Day and STEM Fest for local students.
“I also contact local schools to allow their students interested in aviation to come and tour the Banyan complex and the airport. I am the head of the committee for Take Your Child to Work Day, and I enjoy creating a fun and safe itinerary of events for teammates' children to follow through the day,” Gibson says. “It is a pleasure and honor to work at Banyan where the CEO truly cares about each teammate and actively participates in the growth of our industry.”