While 2020 has been a year of constant change and upheaval, it has also brought together leaders in the aviation industry to address current issues, creating an unprecedented opportunity to work together to innovate for a brighter future. As the facilitator of many of these discussions, the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) has enabled free programing and virtual events, including ATCA Annual, as a way for its members, industry, and the Federal Aviation Administration, to map out a recovery plan and understand how to evolve to become even stronger in the future.

With the 65th ATCA Annual Conference quickly approaching, we had the opportunity to meet with ATCA’s President and CEO, Peter F. Dumont (virtually) to get a preview of the event and how the organization is continuing to connect with members, young aviation professionals, and leadership on the industry’s most pressing issues. Here is what Dumont shared with us:

Connected Aviation Today (CAT) Editors: ATCA has been at the forefront as the industry has come together to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the industry. After so many conversations and fireside chats, can you sum up 2020 and how we move forward?

ATCA Annual
Peter F. Dumont,
ATCA President & CEO

Peter F. Dumont: 2020 has been a challenging year all around— for aviation and for each of us as individuals. There are silver linings though in that virtual programming is so accessible to our workforce and we have taken full advantage of it. Our Young Aviation Professionals (YAPs) can watch and learn from the same content that their CEOs are tuning into.

We made a conscious decision this spring and summer to offer as much free programming as we could. It was our way to keep the volume turned up on air traffic management issues, the industry engaged through conversations when we could have all easily found ourselves disconnected, and learn new technologies and strategies to move the needle for our industry and our own personal development.

The most important thing we can do as an industry and as a community now is to make sure that we recover forward. There’s no going back to the way it used to be, nor should that be our goal.

CAT Editors: What can attendees expect from this year’s virtual ATCA Annual event?

Dumont: They can expect the same level of education and exposure they’ve come to expect at in-person ATCA Annual events, though with a little more imagination and a whole lot more technology. Webinars and constant Zooms can get so stale. We’ve tried to re-envision how we present and what we present.

There’s a fully virtual exhibit hall with 3D booths, a networking pavilion that brings you face to face with your colleagues, clients, and friends, and, if you’re an FAA employee, a chance to earn CEU credits. Behind the registration paywall, there are general sessions focusing on each of FAA Administrator Dickson’s five strategic focus areas, a Blue Skies Initiative conversation with preeminent leaders in our field, as well as great keynotes and tech talks. We are featuring international leaders and even an analog astronaut. Don’t know what an analog astronaut is? You’ll just have to tune in!

CAT Editors: As we look forward to the next phase of recovery, where do you believe we will see the most change in 2021?

Dumont: The answer to that question changes every day. Recovery will be slow I think, but traffic, especially cargo traffic, will keep the NAS a very busy place. Vaccines won’t ship themselves!

Personally, I hope we’ll focus on the workforce. We’re having a lot of conversations about how to engage the current workforce, enhance hiring and retention practices, and embrace diversity as critical to our industry and U.S. competitiveness overall.

I also hope we’ll have more in-depth conversations about infrastructure. I’m not talking just about runways and airport improvement. I’m talking about the tech infrastructure that enables our national aerospace system and transforms it into a truly dynamic airspace.

CAT Editors: What are the most pressing challenges that you see on the horizon that could hinder progress if not addressed?

Again, I’d say infrastructure. I think there’s a rift going on that no one is really addressing. Who pays for it? Who builds it? Who owns it?

Politically, as a new administration comes in, I think we need to re-emphasize the complexity of the NAS and ensure that funding it isn’t a partisan issue.

Integration is also a continuing challenge. There’s been a surge in interest in urban and advanced mobility. I’m excited to see how this issue plays out over the next few years.

CAT Editors: We want to hear your prediction! “2021 will be the year of _______________.” 

Dumont: Reinvention. Reinventing how we approach workforce issues, how we interact with the government, how we view and operate in the airspace, how we integrate new entrants, and, perhaps most importantly, how we connect with one another.

Shany Seawright

About Shany Seawright

A senior executive at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of Connected Aviation Today, as well as other publications, Seawright oversees the editorial direction of the publication and managed the editorial staff.