ALPA Outreach at OBAP Annual Conference

By ALPA Staff
From left, Capt. Hans Reigle (United), a member of ALPA’s President’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI); Capt. Tomica Adams (United), vice chair of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP); F/O Kaori Paris (United), a member of ALPA’s Membership Committee; Capt. Kandy Bernskoetter (FedEx Express), chair of ALPA’s Membership Committee; Capt. Joel Webley (FedEx Express), chair of OBAP; and Capt. John Tabet (Spirit), a member of ALPA’s Membership Committee, gather at ALPA’s booth during the conference.

After a three-year hiatus, aviation professionals and aspiring aviators gathered at the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) annual conference held August 11–13 in Phoenix, Ariz. ALPA, as both an event sponsor and exhibitor, had members of the Membership Committee and the President’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI) on hand to greet attendees, share information about ALPA, and discuss career options for those looking to start or advance their airline piloting career.

With a membership that’s doubled to nearly 4,000 since 2020, OBAP convened the three-day event with a focus on building solid connections through networking and also to provide an opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues.

The convention theme “ReYOUnion” was weaved throughout a variety of panels centered on allyship and workforce development. The importance of leadership and the development of strong, supportive networks was evident in the stories of mentorship throughout the event. Leadership sessions provided attendees an opportunity to evaluate their personal beliefs and behaviors as leaders and as colleagues as well as offered tools to aid in communicating more effectively with others. As one panelist said, “We need leaders on the flight deck—not just a pilot who’s qualified to fly the aircraft.”

In line with OBAP’s objective to motivate youth to become educationally prepared for life and to increase minority participation in aerospace through exposure and training, the annual OBAP youth day was held at the United Aviate Academy. The invitation-only event allowed Phoenix-area youth to become Aviate cadets for the day and enjoy hands-on activities.

Capt. Hans Reigle (United), a PCDI member, works closely with Delaware State University and is actively supporting the connection between the university and the United Aviate Program. “Providing pathways into the industry that support personal growth and training is to everyone’s advantage. Events like the OBAP convention provide a needed opportunity to guide the next generation of aviation professionals.”

A success story and example of OBAP’s commitment to workforce development is Capt. Joel Webley (FedEx Express), who currently serves as OBAP’s chair. He’s been an OBAP member since 2004, but his introduction to the organization began in 1999 when he took part in an affiliated summer program as a high school student. This early exposure set a course that helped to guide his education, Air Force military career, and employment with FedEx Express.

During a general meeting session, Webley noted, “OBAP has always been a member-driven organization. Our goal is, and always has been, to connect individuals with career opportunities and to attract qualified, diverse talent to the profession.” OBAP recently hired a full-time staff member to handle its daily administrative functions in order to shift day-to-day responsibilities away from members and allow them the needed flexibility to serve in roles as mentors to new aviators.

Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Capt. Claudia Zapata-Cardone (United), vice chair of ALPA’s President’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, take time out for a photo.

A surprise appearance at the conference by Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg underscored the importance of the work being done by OBAP and its commitment to diversifying the aviation community. Capt. Claudia Zapata-Cardone (United), vice chair of the PCDI, expressed her appreciation for the visit. “That the Department of Transportation secretary took time to visit the OBAP conference speaks to his commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and the importance of developing a diverse workforce.”

OBAP’s next annual convention will be held August 9–11, 2023, in New Orleans, La. Learn more about OBAP..

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This article was originally published in the September 2022 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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