s&dc 2019 – sdc celebrated its 30th anniversary in san antonio

May 27, 2019

There’s no place like NBAA’s Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference to network and learn about the industry. This year, the event took place for the 30th time, but the attendees did not only look back into a glorious past but took a glimpse in the future, where some challenges wait for the industry. Volker K. Thomalla writes

This year, NBAA’s Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference (SDC) celebrated its 30th anniversary. The annual event took place in San Antonio, Texas, and drew nearly 3,000 participants from all 50 US states and from more than 40 countries. A record-breaking number of nearly 600 exhibit booths filled the floor in San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

SDC’s path started in 1989 in Montvale, New Jersey, with about 70 attendees and a dozen exhibitors. Over the years, the conference had added educational programs, presentations by keynote speakers as well as a humanitarian component of giving back to the local communities. “The significant growth of the show in past 30 years is a testament to this show’s importance to the industry, and the innovation and enthusiasm surrounding it. It positions SDC for continued future success,” said Tyler Austin, NBAA senior manager, certification and staff liaison to the Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee.

Ed Bolen, NBAA’s President and CEO, addressed the audience during the first day’s general session. He thanked all who have joined NBAA last year to fight privatization of ATC. He said: “A year ago, there were barbarians at the gate. The ATC systems was to be given to the airlines to use it for their own purposes. We knew we had to fight. Thank you for saving our industry. Last year taught us to work together.” He encouraged the attendees to promote the value of Business Aviation to the next generation of industry professionals. “We have a workforce issue here. There’s a shortage of maintenance technicians and pilots out there. We need to attract and keep the best. Business Aviation has generated over a million jobs in the US alone. We help companies being more efficient and more productive. Business Aviation has a huge humanitarian impact, too by transporting transplants, patients and veterans. America is better off with more airports and more pilots. We need to attract and retain pilots. Compensation matters, but Business Aviation is not just a career, it’s a home. People will leave here better connected and better informed. SDC19 is a magnificent event.”

SDC’s Advisory Council took a very concrete step to attract young people to the industry. The Council brought a group of 22 students to San Antonio’s International Airport to talk with various tenants about career opportunities within Business Aviation, as well as to hear from professionals in the industry about how their careers began.

The conference schedule was packed with 34 educational sessions ranging from topics like the impact of new technologies on Business Aviation, Human factors, flying to India, Africa and the Middle East, new regulations for Air Charter Operators and Dispatch Resource Management, just to name a few. Many of the sessions were approved by the NBAA Certified Aviation Manager (CAM) Governing Board for initial CAM application or recertification, adding value for attending these sessions.

The educational sessions and the presentations form an important part of SDC, but the event wouldn’t be complete without the wide array of exhibitors in the convention hall, presenting their products and services. Unlike NBAA-BACE which is centered around new aircraft models, equipment and hardware, SDC is centered around services.

Fuel companies, FBO’s, service providers and airports were among the exhibitors at SDC19. Avfuel Corporation has put a focus on sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF). Only two weeks prior to SDC, Avfuel had participated at a “flying green” day at the Van Nuys, California, airport. This was the first time SAJF became available to operators at a Business Aviation airport and the first time the fuel supplier launched the new SAJF product. During the event, the airport served approximately 250 arrival and departure turbine operations. Keith Sawyer, Avfuel’s manager of alternative fuels, said: “Our team was eager to help facilitate the supply needs for the day and make our new product available to operators for a limited time. We’ve worked extensively on the logistics of procuring SAJF, and how to properly blend it, test it and store it, so to see it put into use was a major milestone.”

The company had set up a dedicated booth at SDC19 to better educate flight departments on sustainable alternative jet fuel. Sawyer said: “Having a committed space to facilitate these important conversations on SAJF is imperative to continuing our progress on this effort.”

According to Avfuel, the main obstacle to the widespread adoption of the product is currently its availability. There isn’t enough SAJF being produced to serve the entire aviation industry. Through commitments, Avfuel is able to more accurately share product demand with producers, helping to encourage increased output of SAJF.

World Fuel Services, the Miami headquartered fuel provider, announced at SDC19 that it has won a five-year contract with London Oxford Airport and London Heliport in the United Kingdom to supply Jet-A and Avgas. The company will provide the airport with refueling equipment as well as training and maintenance support. London Oxford Airport wants to increase its share of transatlantic flights. World Fuel also announced at SDC that Platinum Business Aviation Centre (YBCG and YMEN), FBO Redwings (MMQT) and Kayan Jet (TKPK) are the four newest members of its Air Elite Network. According to World Fuel Services, the Air Elite brand continues to attract FBOs and ground handlers around the world with its unique programs to deliver service excellence, share member best-practices and earn the business of discerning flight departments.

Valcora, a Switzerland-based fueling service premiered at this year’s Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference. The company took the opportunity to promote its new North American office which expanded Valcora’s global presence. Since its launch in 2017, Valcora has opened bases in Switzerland, Ireland and Singapore. New locations in the US as well as in South Africa are planned to begin operations as early as mid-2019. Nigel Harris has been appointed as Director Americas. He said: “I am delighted to be part of the team. Valcora’s focus on customer service goes above and beyond, which is why we are one of the industry’s fastest growing aviation fueling companies.”

Daniel Coetzer, Valcora’s CEO, added: “Our global sales have risen dramatically over the last twelve months thanks to our excellent team, our easy-to-use online platform, fiscal VAT expertise and our transparent pricing. We know, the North American market is one of the most important Business Aviation sectors and look forward to delivering our service here.”

Satcom Direct took the opportunity to highlight SDC’s visitors the benefits of connectivity. At NBAA-BACE in October 2018, Satcom Direct had launched SD Xperience to improve Business Aviation connectivity and operations. Fast internet connections are not only useful and necessary for Business Aircraft passengers, but also for the operator’s flight department, the maintenance department, but also for schedulers and dispatchers to have real-time access to flight data for better planning and enhancing on-time services for passengers. SD Xperience is a new fully-synchronized, end-to-end solution that combines cabin and cockpit communications services, aircraft connectivity hardware, and flight operations software. According to satcom Direct, SD Xperience will deliver purpose-built technology that satisfies the evolving requirements of Business Aviation, allowing the company to create tailored solutions based on customer requirements. The new service has been undergoing in-flight validation with the company’s own Flight Operations since July 2018, delivering average speeds between 8-10 Mbps. The service has become available in the first quarter of 2019 for STC development with aircraft OEMs for applicable aftermarket airframes.

Collins Aerospace and Stellar Labs, Inc. showed SDC19 visitors in San Antonio their joint endeavor that went public in October last year. Both companies are jointly developing a suite of integrated, cloud-based applications as a successor to Rockwell Collins’ ARINCDirect Flight Operations System (FOS). The next generation FOS has a modern architecture and an intuitive and easy-to-use web interface with new features. The first set of cloud-based modules provides powerful capabilities for quoting, trip planning and reporting. The quoting tool allows charter operators to quickly create and send branded quotes that offer multiple aircraft and itinerary options. The trip planning tool offers trip planners an easy and convenient web-based portal (or alternatively a mobile device portal) to get estimated flight times, view scheduled flights and drill down for details on itinerary, passengers and services. It allows schedulers a continuous and real-time overview of their flight departments’ operations. The new FOS features also a reporting and analytics tool which helps sales and revenue managers understand quoted and scheduled flight volume, conversion rates, revenue and profit margin with preconfigured reports.

Universal Weather and Aviation celebrated not only SDC’s 30th anniversary in San Antonio but highlighted also that Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc. Chairman Greg Evans has been awarded the NBAA’s prestigious Silk Scarf Award for his contributions to the Business Aviation community throughout his career. The Silk Scarf represents diligence, industry, and persistence and was created to honor outstanding business aviation community members and inspire future aviators. The company was founded in 1959 and has today 1,700 employees around the globe. It operates 50+ ground support locations and 21 owned and operated in-flight catering kitchens.

The latest addition to the company network is Universal Aviation Maldives at Velana International Airport. It was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in mid-January. Universal Aviation Maldives will support local Business Aviation traffic but just as importantly will be a local advocate for the industry in the Maldives,” said Charlie Mularski, Senior Vice President, International, Universal. “Our team will work closely with the Maldives government to identify opportunities to drive traffic, and improve infrastructure and access while also benefiting the local economy.”

At SDC19, Paragon Network had for the first time ever their own row highlighting select member FBOs. At SDC, Paragon welcomed the Ohio State University Airport’s Executive Terminal at Don Scott Field (KOSU) in Columbus, Ohio, to their network.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with The Paragon Network’s elite group of FBOs,” stated Michael Eppley, the FBO’s General Manager. “Our airport is not only well positioned in the Columbus market, but in addition we offer a premier facility with a competitive price. We work hard to not only meet, but exceed each customer’s expectation every visit. Joining up with these exceptional FBOs will provide us the opportunity to take our great safety and service standards to an even higher level.”

Euro Jet was founded in 2008 and is dedicated to provide ground support services for Business Aviation throughout Europe and Asia. The company has amassed a unique experience in aircraft handling and servicing in Eastern Europe and Asia. They operate a 24/7 Operations Control Center with staff located in over 40 countries. At SDC19 Euro Jet’s team lead by Charlie Bodnar focused on providing information to visitors about their operations in Uzbekistan and other destinations in Central Asia which are located off beaten paths.

ABS Jets of Prague in the Czech Republic and Bratislava in Slovakia announced at SDC19 that it has recently been awarded the second stage of the International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH) certificate by IBAC (International Business Aviation Council. The company is the first and only holder of this certificate in the Czech Republic. IS-BAH is the global industry standard for handlers and operators around the world and meets the forthcoming SMS requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ABS Jets had received IS-BAH stage I only two years ago. In 2018, ABS Jet’s Prague handling achieved two significant milestones: it was ten years on the market and had handled 20,000 aircraft movements.

The next opportunity to take part in Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference will be in March 2020, when SDC is heading to Charlotte, North Carolina.