AllianceJet brought Hervé Laitat on board as CEO. Laitat, who has 20 years of aviation experience, most recently was group chief strategy officer as well as CEO of Luxavation Belgium and also has served as a board member and treasurer of the European Business Aviation Association for 15 years.
Wheels Up promoted Vinayak Hegde to president. Hegde, who came to Wheels Up in May as chief marketplace officer, has more than 20 years of experience in technology, marketing, and product development with companies such as Amazon and Airbnb
Inmarsat named Philippe Carette to head up its aviation business unit as president. Carette, who has 30 years of technology and aerospace experience, joined Inmarsat after spending the past eight years with Thales, including as CEO of the electronics specialist’s InFlyt Experience business.
JetHQ promoted Chris Morales to president of its Latin America region, overseeing territories including Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and South America. Morales, who has more than 25 years of aviation sales and management experience, has served with the company since 2016 and previously was v-p of sales.
Jet Linx promoted Jay Vidlak to the newly created position of senior v-p aircraft. Vidlak, who began his career with Mayo Aviation, joined Jet Linx in 2002 as a flight scheduling coordinator and has held positions of increasing responsibility since, most recently as senior v-p.
Cadence Aerospace appointed Jeff Capponi senior v-p of sales and marketing. Capponi joins Cadence with more than 20 years of aerospace business development experience, most recently with the structures division of engineering services provider Senior PLC and also with Synchronous Aerospace (later acquired by PCC Aerostructures).
Mente Group appointed Chris Prokopeas to the newly created position of v-p of marketing. Prokopeas brings 25 years of experience to the position, holding marketing roles with DFW International Airport, Dickies, Capital One, Dean Foods, Kraft Foods, and most recently Gesa Credit Union.
Jet Support Services, Inc. (JSSI) named Trevor Merszei v-p of business development for the Asia-Pacific region. Merszei has more than 14 years of international business jet sales, marketing, and executive leadership experience, most recently as CEO at Bangkok-based charter company OrientSKYs.
ACC Aviation named Julian Aldana to lead up its newly formed technical services division as v-p of technical sales. Aldana has 16 years of aviation technical experience, most recently as technical manager Americas for IBA Group and also including technical roles with airlines including Etihad, Air Berlin, and Swiss.
Ron Smith joined Omni Aircraft Sales as v-p of sales for the Southeast region. Smith has a background in both domestic and international flight operations, aircraft management, government support operations, and aviation acquisition.
Jet East hired Dwayne Chandler to serve as senior director of avionics sales and business development with oversight of all avionics and avionics upgrade sales. Chandler, who served as a tactical data repair technician in the U.S. Marine Corps, has served as an avionics technician for Timco and Landmark Aviation and later held avionics sales roles with Constant Aviation and Stevens Aerospace.
Panasonic Avionics appointed Kent Craver senior director of marketing, leading brand, marketing, digital marketing, and market analysis. Craver has 25 years of aviation industry experience, including 12 years as regional director of cabin experience and revenue analysis at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
The International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) named Andrew Karas IS-BAO program director. Karas has 20 years of business aviation and U.S. Air Force experience, most recently as a Gulfstream GV captain for an IS-BAO Stage 3-registered Part 91 and 135 operator in Florida where he was responsible for safety management, system administration, and standard procedure adherence.
Aero Asset hired Vincent Dulbecco to serve as senior sales director and François Millian as senior director of mission-critical markets. Dulbecco, who began his aviation career in the French Gendarmerie Air Support Unit in 1998, spent 13 years in different roles with Leonardo Helicopters, from flight test engineering to new helicopter sales manager Africa and manager of the preowned civil and military helicopter sales division. Millian, who most recently was head of operations for the French-based HEMS operator SAF Helicopters, has served in the helicopter industry since 1999, also including as a French Army pilot, flight instructor, and training captain.
Cutter Aviation appointed Mark Herzog as flight department director. Herzog has more than 20 years of aircraft management, maintenance, charter, and client relations experience and has managed aviation assets and global operations.
Bill Darbe joined L2 Aviation as director of business development. Darbe has more than 30 years of avionics-related sales experience, including as v-p of sales for Satcom Direct and director of aftermarket sales for Gogo.
Dave Dimmock was named engineering director and Part 145 accountable manager for Harrods Aviation. Dimmock first joined Harrods in 1994 as an avionics engineer and returned to the company 11 years ago. Dan Holian, meanwhile, was promoted to head of operations and service delivery. Holian, who returned to Harrods Aviation in 2012 after holding charter and ground handling positions elsewhere, has since been serving within the operations management team. In addition, Gavin Kelly joined the company as compliance monitoring manager. Kelly has 30 years of industry experience, most recently with the Bombardier service center at London Biggin Hill.
Air Culinaire Worldwide (ACW) brought Wilfried Pinecki on board to serve as director of sales for Europe and promoted Mehdi Senni to client services manager. Wilfried has more than 20 years of inflight catering experience, including as head of customer service and sales with a company in Paris. Mehdi, who had worked with various in-flight catering teams in Paris since 2005, joined ACW in May 2014 and has worked in client relations and sales.
Western Aircraft appointed Elise Wheelock as regional sales director for Piper aircraft. Pat Belokas, previously the company’s Piper regional sales director, was promoted to regional director for Pilatus turboprop sales. Wheelock most recently was a fleet sales representative for Piper Aircraft and also held marketing positions for the airframer after beginning her career as a customer service representative with Aviation Adventures.
Meridian named Nehemias Camacho director of ground operations. Camacho formerly had spent 21 years with Meridian, primarily as line service manager, but joined United Airlines in early 2020 to serve as manager of ramp services.
Aerometals named Erik Blanck director of sales and marketing. A U.S. Navy veteran, Blanck has more than 25 years of military and commercial MRO, marketing, and sales experience, most recently with Heli-One.
Aero Asset added Jim Morford as director of market research and Holly Gilewski to its aircraft sales support team, both based in the U.S. Morford began his aviation career in 2007 as a customer service manager for Amstat and worked with OEMs, operators, financiers, and maintenance organizations. Gilewski worked for Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance before joining Aero Asset.
Jet East hired Ozzy Torres to serve as regional sales director covering the Florida region and Brian Leitschuck as regional sales director covering the Midwest region. Torres has nearly 20 years with Starport Aviation, which was acquired by Constant Aviation in 2017, and most recently was a regional sales manager. Leitschuck began his career with Duncan Aviation in 1999 as a technician and in 2012 joined Gulfstream in a variety of roles including as a design engineer and in sales.
AOne Parts & Logistics named Nathan Anderson as a buyer/trader. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a current Air Force reservist, Anderson brings a background in customer support and procurement procedures to his new role.
West Star appointed Brian Decker Citation project manager at its East Alton, Illinois facility. Decker brings 30 years of aviation experience to his new role, serving 15 years at Jet Aviation along with Windwalker, Solarius, Cessna, and Dallas Airmotive.
Elliott Aviation promoted Josh Oestern to avionics sales manager. Oestern has served with Elliott since 2008, beginning as an avionics technician and holding positions of increasing responsibility including most recently as a project manager for its MRO services in Moline, Illinois.
West Star Aviation promoted Jeremy Camren to Gulfstream avionics supervisor at its East Alton, Illinois facility. A U.S. Army veteran, Camren has more than 17 years of aviation experience, previously serving in the avionics departments at Gulfstream and Jet Aviation.
West Star Aviation appointed Alan Schaake as director of accounting at its facility in East Alton, Illinois. Schaake has more than 35 years of experience in accounting, finance, and operations in a range of industries from health care to logistics including 14 years with U.S. Steel.
Western Aircraft hired Doug Wendt to serve as regional sales manager. Wendt spent 20 years in various roles at Gulfstream, including as regional sales manager of product support, and also has served with Honeywell and most recently with Western Jet.
Robert Suarez joined Duncan Aviation’s Aircraft Sales & Acquisitions team as a market research analyst. Suarez has served with Duncan Aviation since 2016 in a number of roles and obtained his pilot’s license in 2019.
Elliott Aviation hired Nathan Moran to serve as regional sales manager for the Midwest region. Moran has more than 20 years of technical aviation experience holding aircraft structural repair, avionics installation, avionics management, and quality control positions, and most recently was avionics supervisor for Avmats.
Tom Waitkus has joined Aviation Performance Solutions as senior sales manager. Waitkus brings more than 20 years of aviation and business experience to his new role, including serving as a pilot for corporate, freight, air ambulance, and air carrier operations, as well as holding business development and marketing roles for aviation and financial firms.
Elite Jets added seven aviation professionals to its growing team. Jhon Arias, who joined Elite as a Phenom 300 first officer, previously was a pilot-on-call for business executives in Naples and has experience as a mission pilot, maintenance officer, and IT officer for the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary. Rick Castellon, a Phenom 300 first officer, is a former commercial and cargo pilot and also has experience flying the Piaggio P.180 Avanti and Citation II. David Shnipes, Legacy 500 and Hawker 850XP captain, has 8,000 hours total time, most recently as a captain for a Florida-based private aviation company. Teresa Parry, manager of client services, spent 25 years with Procter & Gamble in travel services and most recently was a corporate and leisure air specialist in Naples. Dave Smith, director of quality assurance, previously was general manager for a company specializing in helicopter and engine parts. John Westbrook, executive charter consultant, has 20 years of private aviation experience in sales, operations, owner services, and client services. And, Chad Yarnell, line crew technician, is a former lead mechanic at a flight school.
West Star Aviation promoted Toliver Lasswell to Embraer project manager at its East Alton, Illinois facility. Lasswell has more than 10 years of aviation experience, including seven with West Star beginning in line services and then as an aviation maintenance technician.
West Star Aviation named Jim Ellis avionics technical sales manager at its East Alton, Illinois facility. Ellis brings more than 26 years of avionics experience to his new role, formerly holding the role of avionics senior crew chief with StandardAero and serving in the U.S. Air Force and Illinois National Guard.
Elliott Aviation hired Rick McCormack to serve as a project manager at its headquarters in Moline, Illinois. McCormack brings nearly 25 years of aviation experience to his new role, most recently as an interior supervisor for Flying Colours but also holding roles with Midcoast Aviation, Premier Air Center, McKinney Aerospace, and King Aerospace.
Western Aircraft named Shannon Edick regional sales manager for Pilatus Aircraft maintenance sales. Edick, formerly an accounts payable specialist for Xtra Airways, joined Western Aircraft in 2015 and has a range of roles, from work order coordinator and planner to an MRO quoter.
C&L Aviation Services appointed David Kay as regional sales manager of corporate MRO for the Midwestern U.S., Kay, who has two decades of corporate aviation experience, previously as aircraft sales director for Exclusive Aircraft Sales.
Anthony Gaal joined West Star Aviation as a financial operations analyst at its Grand Junction, Colorado facility. Gaal has seven years of financial analysis experience in healthcare and IT fields.
West Star Aviation promoted Bobby Price to project manager at its East Alton, Illinois facility. Price joined West Star in 2016 as an avionics technician and lead and later was promoted to supervisor.
London Biggin Hill Airport appointed Steven Thorne-Farrar general manager of its new on-site hotel, The Landing. Thorne-Farrar has a background in the hospitality industry, most recently serving as general manager of the East Sussex National hotel resort.
Laura Pogue joined Eaton Aerospace’s Cobham Mission Systems Division as business development manager for NAVAiR and the U.S. Navy. Most recently senior account manager at Honeywell Aerospace, Pogue holds MBA and doctor of management degrees and is a licensed drone pilot and commercial pilot with jet type rating.
Awards and Honors
The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) named Shelly Simi, a long-time industry executive and advocate, as the recipient of the 2021 Frank G. Brewer Trophy, which honors “significant contributions of enduring value to aerospace education in the U.S.”
NAA said she is being recognized for “her professional leadership and unwavering dedication in promoting aviation and aerospace education through industry partnerships, workforce initiatives, and organizations dedicated to aviation across the U.S."
Simi has had a career spanning more than three decades, including roles with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Adam Aircraft, Jeppesen, Boeing, and Aurora Flight Sciences. She also formerly led the National Association of State Aviation Officials.
During her career, NAA said, “Simi is known for going above and beyond to expand and promote aviation education outreach efforts that encourage students to choose aviation as a career.” She is a co-founder of the National Coalition for Aviation and Space Education, which is a clearinghouse of resources for teachers through a partnership with the FAA and other organizations. In addition, she helped establish the GAMA “Be a Pilot” learn-to-fly program and is a founding board member of Women in Aviation International.
“Shelly throughout her career, in a variety of roles, has made the promotion of aviation education a high priority. Whether attracting and training new pilots, helping start Women in Aviation International and her participation in Girls in Aviation Day, or a variety of other roles, Shelly’s passion and energy have left a lasting impact,” said NAA president Greg Principato
Scott Miller, who spent 47 years as a pilot and 26 years with the Electronic Data Systems (EDS) flight department, eventually becoming its manager, has died at age 72 after being diagnosed with incurable cancer.
“He so loved to fly,” recalled his partner, Nancie Kathrens. Miller’s last flight on July 30 was one of his regular contract flights in a Gulfstream for Cook Canyon Ranch, and after he landed at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport he wasn’t feeling well and went straight to the hospital, she explained. After 10 days there and a lengthy chemotherapy treatment, he elected to go home. “It was brutal on him, and he said, ‘no more,’” she told AIN. He died on September 27.
Born in Corvallis, Oregon, Miller served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, finding inspiration to pursue an aviation career while working on the flight deck of the USS Midway aircraft carrier. He returned to Oregon and, after learning to fly and earning advanced certificates, got his first flying job with Western Skyways in Troutdale.
Miller then switched to corporate flying after moving to Texas, where he signed on with Sabine Oil & Gas, met and married Glynda Sue Sanders, and then joined EDS, the pioneering computer outsourcing company founded by Ross Perot. Under Miller’s leadership, the EDS operation grew into one of the largest corporate flight departments operating Learjets. Miller’s 26-year career at EDS spanned Perot’s sale of the company to General Motors, then EDS’s spinoff as an independent company in 1996, followed by its sale to Hewlett-Packard in 2008, after which Miller left the company.
Pursuing his love of flying, Miller then combined flying for General Data Tech with teaching at CAE, finally retiring from the General Data Tech job. He continued to fly as a contract pilot when a former EDS pilot and friend hired him to fly for Cook Canyon Ranch.
According to Kathrens, “He lived in Millsap, Texas, on a small ranch with me. He loved it. It was peaceful and quiet. We sat out on the porch in the evenings and watched the horses. He enjoyed all the farm equipment...the tractors, the arena plows. He was always busy doing ranch work. Everyone Scott met enjoyed him immensely. He found a whole new group of 'horse friends’ to add to the plethora of great folks he already knew.”
Miller is survived by Kathrens; his sister, Macie Brightman; stepdaughters Michelle Sandlin and Deana Demoret; and six granddaughters.
M. Johanna O’Toole, who spent nearly 30 years providing administration and accounting support with the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and NBAA, passed away.
“We are deeply saddened by Johanna O’Toole’s passing. Johanna cared deeply for the association and its members, treating those close to her and their loved ones like an extended part of her family,” said NATA president and CEO Timothy Obitts. “Over time she became association historian and industry cheerleader, always mindful of preserving and sharing the rich history of NATA and its members. Johanna could always be counted on for her sage advice, stellar member service, and sharp wit. If you were lucky enough to spend time with Johanna and hear her laugh, it is something that you will always remember.”
O’Toole joined NATA in 1998 initially as director of administration and financial services. In 2012 she was named comptroller, leading the administrative/financial team and overseeing day-to-day association operations. She departed the association in 2017 to launch her own venture, Business Solution Tooles, to assist small businesses with their accounting and administrative needs. She also spent more than five years as the vice mayor of the town of Toms Brook in Virginia.
“Johanna was an important part of NATA’s senior management team. Her hard work and dedication to the association were integral in building a solid foundation for the association’s success today,” Obitts added.
Before serving with NATA, O’Toole was an account manager for association management firm Degnon and Associates and spent more than 10 years with NBAA as manager of membership, joining that association in 1979.
Harold “Hal” Summers, who served as director of flight operations for Helicopter Association International and had an aviation industry career spanning six decades, died on October 20. He was 83.
“Hal was an icon in the industry, a subject-matter expert on everything involving helicopter maintenance, and he felt it was an honor and obligation to share his wisdom and experience with the rest of us,” said HAI president and CEO James Viola. “We are a better industry because of his passionate contributions, and he will be profoundly missed.”
Born on Feb. 23, 1938, in Newport, Oregon, Summers achieved his A&P license and began his career working in Alaska in the early 1960s. In 1964, he joined Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (PHI), eventually becoming vice president with responsibility for maintenance and support for a global fleet of more than 400 helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico alone.
Summers also had served as acting chief engineer for a joint venture that PHI had formed with China Southern Helicopter Company in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China.
He joined HAI in 2004 and steered the fly-in and fly-out each year for Heli-Expo, coordinating with local airports on staging and fueling sites. In addition, he worked with other HAI staff, regulators, and industry stakeholders on a number of issues confronting the association’s members.
This included serving as the staff liaison to the HAI Technical and Maintenance working group and the Utilities, Patrol, and Construction working group and representing the rotorcraft industry on a number of FAA advisory working groups covering issues including bird strikes, rotorcraft occupant protection, and health and usage monitoring. He further was part of the FAA International Vertical Aviation Safety Conference Planning Team, NASA’s Rotorcraft Issue Analysis Team, Rotorcraft Maintenance Programs Industry Group, and RTCA's Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems committee, among others.
“Harold’s career was massive in breadth,” said Viola. “He received the FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award, which recognizes 50 years of working in aircraft maintenance. I expect many people receive that award at the end of a long and illustrious career. Not Harold. He received his plaque and pin in 2011 and continued to serve for 10 more years.”
Noting Summers sent his final email on behalf of HAI just hours before his passing, Viola noted. “He will be greatly missed as a colleague and friend by many.”