Another Successful UAA Conference for the Books

UAA’s Annual Collegiate Aviation Education Conference was a great success. The conference was held September 27-29, at the Hilton Bayfront in St. Petersburg, Florida. The city that is the home to the first commercial airline flight in the country did not disappoint. It was a perfect match for our education conference. 

Before the conference officially began, UAA was please to host the Association of College Training Institutions (ACTI) meeting, as well as a meeting of the FAA Center of Excellence for Technical Training and Human Performance, the Federal Aviation Administration’s research consortium for air traffic controllers, safety inspectors, engineers, technicians, and pilots.

The UAA Board of Trustees also met to confirm the election results for the 2024 Trustees. A review of the solid financial management and growth of the association allowed for plans to increase managed scholarships for other aviation associations, double scholarships available through UAA, double research poster awards, and increase faculty support to attend both the annual education conference and our Aviation Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. 

Contributing to a hallmark financial year was the highlight of the week -- the conference itself. Hitting record numbers of attendees, exhibitors, and sponsor support. More than 400 collegiate aviation educators filled the halls and meeting rooms of the Hilton hotel to hear world-class speakers and research presentations, and participate in leadership sessions and workshops. 

Among the well-received offerings were the expanded three days of keynote speakers. Contributing their time and unique perspectives on aviation were representatives from two huge corporations headquartered in Florida: Jordan Wareham, Senior Director Operational Safety Spirit Airlines, and Savanthi Syth, Managing Director of Global Airlines & Advanced Air Mobility at Raymond James & Associates. They were joined by Steve Swauger, Aviation Human Factors Consultant with Human Factors Excellence in Aviation. The speakers set the tone for an excellent and informative conference.

UAA Safety Infoshare saw standing room only in its meeting space. Workshops on publishing and reviewing academic articles and safety management systems for both the general collegiate environment and unmanned aerial systems provided valuable information to UAA members. More than 50 education sessions gave thorough and captivating talks on issues concerning mental health, diversity and equity, aviation maintenance, and training performance. Along the way there were an additional ten professional paper presentations and two research roundtables for fifteen proposals. 

Additionally, various UAA committees met throughout the conference to address a broad range of issues and concerns affecting collegiate aviation. Many first time attendees took advantage of the opportunity to audit committee meetings, become committee members, and begin making a difference in UAA. 

Networking events were peppered throughout the conference to aide attendees in making every minute of the conference productive. A record number of 228 attendees squeezed into the Albert Whitted Field terminal for the Welcome to St. Petersburg reception hosted by Alsim, Cirrus, Diamond, Piper, Textron, and Vulcanair; most of whom turned the tarmac into an incredibly informative tour of the newest generation of collegiate aircraft.

The conference once again closed with a wonderful awards banquet. Five Awards of Excellence were presented and twenty-five thousand dollars in scholarships were awarded. (Please see the next page in this newsletter for winners). Awards of note were the first President’s Award given to a couple for their volunteer service and commitment to UAA – presented to Scott Keirl and Samuel Pavel, PhD, of Central Washington University.

Our annual conference could not occur without the generous support of our conference sponsors as well as the continuing support of UAA’s Industry Members. They not only filled the exhibit hall at our conference and overflowed into the foyers, they contribute tens of thousands of dollars to provide refreshment breaks, meals, and banquet services. They also provide funding and support for our education and outreach efforts throughout the year. Please take an opportunity to convey our thanks; we could not continue to operate without their continued participation and support and are truly grateful that they are with us to help make every event a success. 

Next year the 77th Annual Collegiate Aviation Education Conference & Expo will return to Memphis. We look forward to a conference format with more opportunity for UAA members to present their work and share best practices with their colleagues – assisting colleges and universities internationally with producing the best aviation professionals in the world. Mark your calendars for September 25-27 and plan now to attend. On behalf of myself and the Board, I’d like to thank you for being such valued members of the academic aviation community.