BCA presented the inaugural BCA Readership Awards to 10 people and organizations in 13 categories on Tuesday, Oct. 2, in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Learn more about the recipients nominated and selected by BCA readers:


Volunteer of the Year: David Ryan, Director of Flight Operations for MedImpact Healthcare Systems in San Diego and chairman, NBAA Safety Committee. 

Ensuring the safety of business aviation operations has been a key driver throughout Dave Ryan’s 30+ year career.

He was an accident investigator at Cessna Aircraft before moving to Bombardier LearJet as that organization’s safety captain. And was soon promoted to chief pilot, remaining so until moving to his current position in 2008.

Notably, shortly after joining Learjet he became a key participant in its internal SafetyStanddown program, then helped take it public two years later and it continues to this day. The popularity of the Standdown inspired a similar program which is now part of NBAA’s Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition and scheduled in Orlando later this month.

Ryan was chairman of the Southern California Aviation Association and is the current and very active chairman of the NBAA Safety Committee, a group whose work is regarded as a key contributor to business aviation’s exemplary safety record.


Drone Manufacturer of the Year: DJI​

DJI’s innovation in unmanned air vehicles — or drones — for the amateur and professional markets is unmatched. The company continues to improve hardware and software in all drone categories and lines.

Its 2018 developments include new cameras in its popular Mavic, Phantom and Inspire models as well as improved batteries, geofencing and obstacle avoidance capability.  Hard to believe, but the new $1,600 Mavic 2 now has a 1-inch sensor providing 20-megapixal images. In effect, it’s a high-end digital camera that flies. Many public safety and commercial operators have equipped Inspire drones with special-purpose cameras and sensors including infrared devices.  

Arguably, DJI is responsible for changing the world of aerial photography and mapping.  In the U.S., FAA has certificated over 100,000 commercial drone pilots, most of whom fly DJI products.  This year FAA reports over 1-million drones will have been registered and of those more than 70% are DJI drones. Two BCA contributors operate DJI drones — Bob Howie for a side video business and Richard N. Aarons for assisting a local police force — and both give their drones high marks.


Avionics Innovation Award: Garmin International

Garmin’s gone from Gary Burrell’s and Min Kao’s modest start with the ProNav GPS 100 in 1990, the first GPS navigator, to a $3-billion business today.

Innovation has been key to the Kansas company’s remarkable growth — that along with a willingness to invest generously in R&D. Last year, for instance, Garmin spent more than half a billion dollars developing new technologies and products. And last year, Garmin celebrated the delivery of its millionth certified avionics product.

Garmin innovation has included being first to earn GPS non-precision approach approval; the first integrated GPS, moving map and NAV/COM radio; first touchscreen displays, fully integrated panels, and on and on including a whole range of ADS-B equipment.


Best New Training System or Curriculum: FlightSafety’s Gulfstream G650 Program

What follows are observations from one BCA reader, a manager whose flight department operates a pair of G650s:

“FlightSafety should be commended for the outstanding effort and quality of training G650 crews are receiving. I was in class two — actually, class 1 point 5 since the first class was still in training — so the program was brand new. And yet, the quality of instruction for those initial classes was remarkably mature.

“The team in Savannah was more prepared for the G650 than any training program I had ever experienced — which is saying a lot since over my career I’ve earned 14 type ratings and logged 23,000+ hours of flying.

“Two gentlemen who deserve much of the credit for the high quality of the program from its very first day are then G650 program manager Brad Ramspott and center manager David Davenport. FlightSafety continues to add value to the G650 program by the development of the G650 master pilot course. All of our pilots have completed this program and found it to be of real value.”


Best New Business Aviation Product: Foreflight

In just over decade, Foreflight has gone from a small, three-person start-up to a company with well over $40 million sales. It now dominates the flight planning and electronic flight bag market.

In 2010 the company bet its future on Apple’s then-new iPad — a gamble that paid off handsomely. Foreflight Mobile running on iPads is so widely accepted by pilots, that paper en route and approach charts could disappear altogether. BCA readers selected Foreflight Mobile as the Best New Business Aviation Product because it’s always being updated and improved. It’s also something that helps pilots share the flight with their passengers, showing them the planned route, en route weather and points of interest.

The next frontier for Foreflight will be interactive electronic charts that use colors, graphics and symbols to show the status of runways, taxiways and airport lighting systems, among other vital information.


Outstanding Airframe Support Award: Gulfstream Aerospace

One BCA reader, a flight department manager with nearly 30 years flying Gulfstreams, remembers that back in the early ’90s, the Savannah service center had the feel of a Mom and Pop garage. He watched that change steadily for the better, and then leap to the fore with the introduction of the GV.

At that point, he says, tech manuals and procedures were standardized, and then the new field and airborne support teams took AOG response to a new level. He credits Gulfstream with steadily shedding systems that don’t work and retaining and improving those that do — which results in “set and forget” systems and fewer things to troubleshoot. And he and others report that when calling Gulfstream Technical Operations, chances are you are going to speak with a person who understands your problem and help resolve it.

Beyond that, the company is credited with developing a robust set of manuals, excellent website support and a growing number of useful apps. That BCA’s readers value that package is why they voted Gulfstream support as the best in the business.


Business Aviation Cabin Connectivity Award: Gogo

It began with an idea scrawled on a napkin at a Texas barbecue: Let general aviation pilots with mobile phones ping ground cell towers. And by gum it worked!

Born at Jones Family BBQ back in 1991, that was the start of what’s become Gogo, and more specifically, GoGo Biz. Within a few years, that analog-based system gave way to Iridium satcom technology, and the company went on to build its own nationwide network of dedicated cell towers. In the doing it became a favorite among business aviation crews and passengers.

In 2008 the company expanded into commercial airlines and furthered its offerings internationally. However, the domestic air-to-ground network remains a cost-effective favorite among BCA readers — so much so, they selected it for the Cabin Connectivity award.


International Operations Award: Universal Weather & Aviation, Inc.

Founded in 1959 by Tom Evans, a Dallas television weatherman and former Air Force meteorologist, Universal Weather & Aviation has since expanded greatly from delivering customized forecasts to a rich menu of services. Among other things, these include flight planning and trip coordination, a global network of third-party ground support providers and contracted agents.

Over the course of decades, the company opened offices internationally, created a branded FBO network and introduced UVair, a contract fuel program, to reduce operating costs for business aircraft users. With the internet’s emergence, Universal was quick to introduce web-based flight planning, data link, scheduling software and color weather graphs to its customers.

Today, its divisions also include Air Culinaire Worldwide, an aircraft caterer serving more than 1400 international airports; A2G Concierge, which provides upscale service to passengers and crews; and Universal Private Transport, which fields secure ground transportation on a global scale. Headquartered in Houston, the company now employs 1700 specialists around the globe.


Best Training Facility: FlightSafety Savannah Learning Center

FlightSafety’s Gulfstream training center in Savannah was the first such facility established outside its headquarters center at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Since the center’s inception, FlightSafety has made a special effort to ensure it is a leader in subject expertise, equipage and instructional innovation.

One veteran Gulfstream pilot notes that many Savannah instructors have experience in Gulfstream aircraft, and some are occasionally employed by the manufacturer to fly green aircraft. That close relationship between trainer and airframer includes developing manuals and procedures together and training curricula that complements the manufacturer’s intentions.

Moreover, Gulfstream sends its pilots for training there, which means FlightSafety instruction and instructors in Savannah get a unique kind of knowing oversight. Simply put, this symbiosis works wonderfully for all, which is why FlightSafety Savannah has been chosen as business aviation’s best training facility.


ADS-B Bravo Award: Garmin International

No avionics company has been more innovative than Garmin with ADS-B solutions, an equipment requirement that takes effect across the board as of Jan. 1, 2020.

For light aircraft, Garmin now offers a family of transponders that may be linked to a wide range of its legacy and current production nav systems. The real magic, however, is mix-and-match flexibility enabling aircraft owners to choose from dozens of combinations of other products.

And for Part 25 transport category jets, it offers units approved for use with pretty much all popular TCAS II/ACAS II units — that’s virtual plug-and-play perfection at less than half the cost of most ADS-B retrofit offerings. And those ADS-B Out solutions can be easily upgraded for ADS-B In, a capability offered by very few competitors.

Timing is everything, and with the deadline just 15 months out, Garmin is right on cue.


Aircraft Superstar: Gulfstream G650

Here’s a sampling of BCA reader assessments of the G650:

It “exceeded our reliability expectations.” Another, it embodies “cutting edge, not bleed edge technology.” A third, it provides “peace of mind” range. A fourth: “You can take the [performance] numbers to the bank.” And a fifth: It’s “the finest piece of aeronautical engineering I’ve ever had the pleasure of flying.”

Those comments were volunteered in 2014 when the Gulfstream G650 was still in its operational infancy. Yet it was awarded the Collier Trophy that same year. Since then another 250+ aircraft have been delivered and are in daily service around the globe and receiving high marks for crews and passengers alike.

It’s easy to understand why. The G650 can fly from Tokyo to Teterboro or Shanghai to San Diego at nine-tenths the speed of sound. It offers its passengers a wide, bright, three-section cabin that is luxurious as well as wired for business.

On any list, there is a name at the top. And while others may vie for that spot, the Gulfstream G650 has been there since 2012, and so BCA’s readers acknowledge that, voting it as this year’s Aircraft Superstar.


Business Aviation Leadership of the Year: Ed Bolen and NBAA

He has said many times that, in Washington, a bad idea never really goes away. Rather, it just rests in the shadows waiting to be discovered again.

And one of those perennial bad ideas is the privatization — or more correctly, the federal divestiture and commercialization — of our air traffic control system.

Since such a move would likely increase operational costs through user fees, give preferential treatment to air carriers and the airports they frequent, and marginalize business and general aviation operators, Ed Bolen thought it a good idea to object.

So, that’s exactly what he and his NBAA did. Early, often, with clarity and conviction. They refused to give ground — to opponents in congress, the White House, the airlines and the media. Other business and general aviation leaders and organizations also lent their weight to the fight.

And remarkably, for the time being at least, they’ve prevailed. Accordingly, and most appropriately, BCA’s readers chose Ed Bolen and the NBAA as recipients of this year’s Business Aviation Leadership award.


U.S. Charter Operator of the Year: Wheels Up

Once a disruptive start-up, Wheels Up has grown quickly with a membership of about 4,000 members.

Read more about Wheels Up in “New Concepts in Charter” and “Wheels Up: The Envelope, Please.”