Episode 70: Discussion with Ed Bolen – Trends and Challenges in Business Aviation

Join us as we sit down with Ed Bolen, President and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, to dive into the exciting world of business aviation. From cutting-edge technology to safety enhancements, we explore what’s shaping the industry’s future. Listen now for insights on aviation’s evolution and more! Don’t forget to like, share, and follow for more aviation-related content.

Welcome to the Aviation Insurance Podcast. The podcast that helps aircraft owners and aviation businesses learn and understand the complex world of aviation insurance and risk management. From the basic principles of aviation insurance to risk management techniques and updates on the aviation insurance market, the Aviation Insurance Podcast is your guide to traverse the world of aviation insurance. Now, here’s your host, Tim Bonnell. Well, welcome to the Aviation Insurance Podcast. And today, I’m really pleased to have a very special guest joining us. Most of you probably already know who he is, but I’m going to go ahead and read a short version of his bio. It could go on, I’m sure, for days with all that he’s done. But Ed Bolin is here, who is the president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, which is located in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, he was the President and CEO of GAMA, the General Aviation Manufacturing Association, for eight years. And before that, he was the Senior VP and General Counsel. So he’s been in the aviation industry for many years. In 2001, President Bush appointed him to the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry. He was also nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the Management Advisory Council to the FAA and other organizations. So a lot of organizations. Prior to his association career, he was a Majority General Counsel to what is now the Senate Committee on Health, Education and Labor and Pensions. And he also served as a Legislative Director for the U.S. Senator Nancy Kassbaum of the great state of Kansas, where I am, and played a key role in passing the GARA, the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, which was very important to our industry and had a number of impacts for our insurance industry as well. Ed Bolin has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Kansas, just down the street from me, a law degree from Tulane University and a Master of Laws degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He’s also a recreational pilot and former captain of the University of Kansas varsity tennis team. And that’s one fact I didn’t know, Ed, but Ed, welcome to the show. We’re so glad to have you here. Well, Tim, thanks for having me.

It’s really an honor to be part of this.


Well, so many of us in the, uh, in the entire, uh, aviation insurance industry are a part of and attend the national business aviation association and the conference. Obviously it’s, it’s much more than the conference, but we’re recording this, uh, just a little advance of the conference and this will be coming out right around the conference time. So we hope to see everyone in Las Vegas here in mid-October. So Ed, today to get to the point, what are you most excited about right now in the business aviation industry?

Well this is an enormously exciting time in all of aviation. When you look at the technologies that are coming to the market, what’s going on with unmanned aerial systems, what’s going on with advanced air mobility, commercial space launch, the new technologies including auto land where planes are able to effectively land themselves at the push of a button or even recognize when there’s an incapacitated pilot flying single pilot and land itself. So enormous technologies coming forward, lots of things that are going on that are really firing people’s imagination and bringing new people into the industry. And so I’m sensing as much excitement and forward-looking feeling about the industry as I’ve ever felt in my 30-plus years as part of the industry.

Yeah, there’s a lot going on and you highlighted a few there, but of that kind of list of things, what innovations or enhancements to the business aviation

operations or technology do you feel have the biggest impact positively on the safety of the aviation industry? Well I think we’ve seen tremendous advances in enhancing situational awareness and that’s really key. It is frustrating you to be a major cause of the accidents. I think there are lots of things, some of them new, some of them around angle of attack indicators, for example, great low cost technology that you know helps people understand energy management in A lot of the new avionics are really advanced, but I think the important thing that we understand that technology has a huge role to play, but so does training. I think a lot of effort is going on trying to enhance training. I know from an NBA perspective, we’re very excited about efforts that are being made to kind of standard, have a training standard curriculum. You know, part 135 operators today need to have individualized programs approved by the FAA. Then they take them to the part 142 training centers. We’re working on kind of an industry led effort working with the FAA to standardize that. And we believe that having more standard curriculum will not only help all Part 135 operators, but will inevitably enhance Part 91 operations as well. We’re also very focused on scenario-based. And so, I think it’s a multitude of things, Tim, but certainly technologies and training coming together are how we really work to advance the safety of the system. I think another thing is using the data to really advance what we know. And that’s part of the standardized training curriculum, but it’s also part of the programs. You know, FOCWA is is really important because it helps us see trends that allow us to have interventions before they become accidents. So FOCWA has always been a huge FOCWA, by the way, flight ops quality assurance. So that type of data is really important and we’re seeing really relatively inexpensive Programs like cloud ahoy that are allowing people to see in real time You know, are they doing stable approaches do they have a good descent rate? Are they hitting the touchdown zones? And and what we found is this kind of real-time information data is providing usable feedback. So it’s a combination, technology, data, training, putting it all together to make sure that at every flight we’re bringing our A-game, we’re leveraging every opportunity we have and being able to fly safely.

Yeah, and I think those terms are music to the aviation insurers ears, the safety and training. I think that’s, you know, on the aviation insurance industry side, that’s one of the challenges we have to embrace is how do we process and collect and gather all this, the flight data recording, the FOCWA information into the underwriting systems, into what we as brokers get from the customers in order to, you know, put that empirical data to use in the rating and evaluation of risks and those type of things. So there is, there’s a lot of exciting things. And I think on the insurance side, like I said, it’s just, we have to do our part and taking those inputs and putting them to work. But it is exciting, obviously safety and training, everyone wins across the board. And so it’s exciting to hear of NBA’s initiatives and really taking the lead on that from that perspective.

Yeah, and you know, Tim, it’s really part of a culture as well. And so, NBAA has long been a proponent of safety management systems. As you’re aware, NBAA has had ISBAO, or International Standards for Business Aviation Operations. As we all know, the FAA has come forward with a notice of proposed rule related to SMS for our industry. I think we believe strongly in having a safety culture that SMS is a great tool for that. But in working with the FAA, we want to make sure that the tool that they come forward with is scalable to business aviation operations. I was on a program recently and I said, you know, a scalpel is a great cutting tool and a chainsaw is a great cutting tool, but they’re not interchangeable. It depends on what it is that you’re working on, on which is the right cutting tool to use. And so SMS is part of a culture. The data is something that’s becoming increasingly available, scenario-based training, the technology enhancements, that’s really how we go forward together.

Absolutely. That’s really good. And yeah, SMSs are undoubtedly very much a loved thing in the insurance side of it, and I agree completely. Something scalable right into the business aviation community, not just the larger corporate operators, but the individual, you know, owner flown, single pilot, part 91. So hopefully the government keeps that in mind. So we’re glad we have groups like you that lobby on behalf of all of our operators and our constituency, I should say. And we really appreciate the work that you guys do along that front as well. But we’ll get into that another day. But what are the biggest concerns then? We’ve talked about all this exciting technology, all these great developments that are coming, NBA is doing, that are happening in the industry in general. What are your biggest concerns or potential obstacles you see facing the business aviation industry in the near or even longer term future?

Well, NBA was founded almost 80 years ago now. And when it was founded, it was recognized that in order for business aviation to thrive, we would have to be safe and have to be perceived to be safe. We would have to have access to airports and to airspace. We would have to be seen to be fundamental to the future of business aviation. I think sometimes the challenges of keeping airports open, keeping our access to airspace constantly evolving and adapting to new technologies and safety security challenges is really important. And of course we need to constantly promote who business aviation is. We know we’re an industry that creates a lot of jobs, that provides a lot of economic development, helps companies be very efficient and productive, a lot of humanitarian flights, but also we’re an industry that has a strong focus on sustainability. at promoting efficiency, whether it’s flying GPS routes, we were early adopters, composite technologies, winglets, we’re currently champions of sustainable aviation fuel, electric propulsion, hybrid propulsion, maybe even hydrogen propulsion. So I think that getting our image articulated and accurate image is gonna be key to us going forward. And of course, another thing is, of course, affordability. And, you know, we believe that a lot of people are coming into our industry. There’s a lot of excitement about it. But candidly, Tim, insurance has provided a headwind. We enjoyed very stable rates for 15 years. More recently, the cost have gone up and potentially more to come. And I think that’s a concern for a lot of operators. I think, you know, the whole is one thing, the liability is a real concern. So that’s something that people are focused on. There’s also a concern about arbitrary age requirements. There’s a sense that potentially older pilots could be discriminated against. And so here again, I think the data, the training, all of that hopefully can come together and allow us to make really good decisions. You know, I think the insurance industry in some ways plays a big role, just maybe as much as the FAA sometimes, in training safety equipment and making sure what we’re doing is thoughtful, tailored, and effective is really key going forward. That’s good, and that really kind of leads into what

I was gonna ask, Nesk, just what are some of the ways that the aviation insurance industry can continue to serve the business aviation community. And obviously, rates are always going to be a factor. And I agree. I mean, as you know, losses have been up for the insurers, and that’s led to the rates going up. And some of that’s the industry’s own fault for pricing issues before. But at the same time, I think that mutual interest in getting the data, the mutual effort towards safety, underwriting based on actual performance, not based on arbitrary information are all good things. I mean, is that kind of the key? I mean, if you were to say, how can the aviation insurance industry continue to or better support the business aviation community, would it kind of be the same message?

Yeah, I think so. I think transparency is really important. I think a lot of people in the community, particularly as they are getting older, are cognizant about the importance of training data. They want to be safe and they want to be able to demonstrate that so that their safety practices are reflected in their insurance rates. So a lot of people flying single pilot or as part of organizations, it would be impossible to overstate their commitment to safety. And being able to have clear, objective, empirical data is something that I think all of us welcome. And so I think that’s a big part. And then other ways that I think the insurance community can and does help us is when organizations like NBAA submit comments on safety management systems. We often go out and ask the community to be involved and make their voices heard as well. So I think that’s another opportunity whether it’s on Capitol Hill if we have FAA reauthorization bills, notice of proposed rulemakings coming from the FAA or TSA, all of those things help us have a strong, safe and efficient operations and that’s good for everybody.

Yeah, you bet.

And I don’t want to put you on the spot, but if you could leave one message with the aviation insurance community, because a large part of our listening base are people in the aviation insurance community, what would that key thing be? What would be the key message that you would share with the industry if you were to pick one thing? well, I think the

The need to understand the total commitment to safety That you know, this has always been the pillar the cornerstone of our industry Operators want to be safe manufacturers want to be safe the insurance companies want us to be safe. And doing that in a thoughtful way is really important. So embracing some of these things like the technology, the more standardized training curriculum, scenario-based training, scalable, appropriate, SMS, data, FOCWAS systems, all of those things coming together. And it’s just all of us working collectively to embrace the safety enhancement opportunities that we have. That’s where we all with.

Yeah, I agree. And it’s really, it is an exciting time as you started out with all the technologies, all the potential safety tools and information, and it will change the face of underwriting and aviation insurance. Although I’m on the other side of the fence, I’m working with underwriters on the customer’s behalf, but I believe in the coming years it will definitely change how aviation insurance is underwritten, the way it’s been underwritten for 110 years now. And so it’s exciting to be a part of that. I mentioned earlier on, as we’re recording this, we’re just about ready to head to Las Vegas for the NBAA annual convention in the U.S. Anything along those lines that you’re excited about with the convention or that the listeners want to pay attention to and may want to not miss during that

upcoming convention? Well, we’ve got so much going on. This is really going to be a really great NBAA base. We’ve got a lot of new stuff, including a new career fair, something we haven’t done before. We are going to have an AAM demonstration flight that’s going to be enormously exciting. Of course, we’ll have Blade going between the convention center and Henderson Aircraft Display. Terrific line speakers including Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. We’re going to honor Jared Isaacman who flew the Inspiration4 out and orbited the earth. So just a real celebration of all that is business aviation and that includes our commitment to safety, our commitment to sustainability, workforce development, security, all of that is going to be writ large. And so very excited to have all of that on display and being celebrated and looking forward to welcoming the international business aviation community to Las Vegas. Yeah, it’s always good and it’s clearly an exciting lineup this year, so I know I

look forward to being there and being a part of all this going on. And so thank you for you and your team and your work to put on such a great program. And for all these initiatives, I know you’re a very busy guy and have a lot going today. So I’d just like to ask, is there anything that you that we might I might have missed asking or any closing thoughts you might have as we bring this conversation to an end?

Well, I just think it’s really important for all of us in business aviation to be out and about and celebrating our industry. You know, in order for business aviation to really thrive and succeed, it’s important for us to attract, develop, retain the best and the brightest. And so going out and making sure young people understand that this is a great industry, one that offers an opportunity to be part of a great community, have a lot of great experiences, work with the latest technologies, grow as an individual. All of that is who we are. And I think as we move forward being safe, being secure, being able to operate our aircraft where aircraft, where we need to go, when we need to get there, but also making sure we’re bringing in the best and the brightest and giving them the tools they need to succeed. And I think all of these things are all of our


Absolutely, that’s really good stuff. So Ed, just thank you so much again. I know you’ve got a lot going on today and always. And so just thank you for carving out this time to share with, with myself and then obviously our audience in the business aviation and the aviation insurance industry. And just thank you for your time. Thank you for leading your team to accomplish all these safety initiatives and bring that to the forefront because we all win when we work together, as you said, with all these initiatives. So thank you again for being here today.

All right, Tim, thank you. And thanks to everybody. We’ll look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas.

Well, that sounds great. Well, that’s all folks for this episode. Join us again next time as we continue navigating the waypoints in aviation insurance. Until then, enjoy clear skies and unlimited visibility.

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