We’re talking with aviation thought leaders about how they’re thinking about, reacting to, and planning beyond the Covid 19 situation.

In this episode, I was thrilled to get a few moments to talk with René Banglesdorf, an aviation company owner and association leader about her efforts and activities, including the completely virtual IAWA GA Forum!

René Banglesdorf, CEO, Charlie Bravo Aviation

René is co-founder and CEO of Charlie Bravo Aviation, an Austin, TX-based company that buys, sells and leases corporate aircraft worldwide.  She applies a background in business journalism and marketing from several industries to the company she started in 2008.  Charlie Bravo works with government entities, non-profits, corporations both large and small, and private individuals and has closed deals more than 40 different countries ranging from hundreds of thousands to $30+ million.

René is part of an elite group—only 4-6% of high-level aviation positions are held by women in North America and Europe. René serves as a spokesperson for business aviation and women in aviation in speaking and press appearances all over the world. René serves as Vice President-Communications on the International Aviation Women’s Association board, driving all Connect, Inspire and Lead activities. In 2018, she held organized and emceed the IAWA Inaugural GA Women’s Leadership Forum, with more than 100 female leaders from the industry in attendance.

René is an active member of the National Business Aircraft Association. She served on the advisory board of Phoenix Arising Aviation Academy, a group that teaches the love of STEM learning through aviation in her local community for three years and continues to promote STEM learning through other activities. She serves as a Supply Chain Coordinator for PALS Sky Hope Disaster Relief, a charitable organization that utilizes business aviation to help in times of natural disaster or life-threatening situations. René also sits on the advisory board of Wingform, an aircraft transaction software company.

René met her husband and Charlie Bravo Aviation co-founder, Curt, while studying journalism at Ohio University. To satisfy her passion for writing, René is an editorial contributor to several aviation business publications. Her latest book, Stand Up: How to Flourish When the Odds are Stacked Against You (April 2019) is available on Amazon, or anywhere books are sold.

René also hosts a podcast called Defying the Status Quo, on which she interviews women who are crushing it in male-dominated industries. She launched a video podcast for AvBuyer.com in April 2019 interviewing corporate jet pilots about the planes they fly and their adventures in aviation.

2017 Enterprising Women of the Year Winner

2017 Austin Business Journal Profiles in Power Finalist

Social Media URLs

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CharlieAviation and https://twitter.com/ReneBanglesdorf

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/charliebravoaviation/ and https://www.facebook.com/banglesdorf

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/charliebravoaviation/?hl=en

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/rene-banglesdorf-15bb8527 and https://www.linkedin.com/company/charlie-bravo-aviation/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/charliebravomedia

Transcript-

 

Paula Williams:

We met, you probably don’t remember, but this was many, many years ago at, I think it was an NBAA. And I was just coming into the aviation industry from the finance industry and everybody had been telling me there’s no women in aviation, I mean it’s all men, men, men, men, men. And then you go to your first NBAA conference and it’s just this sea of navy blue suits and things. And I remember, I think you were wearing something in a really bright color and it was just like, “Okay, there’s more than one of us. We’re going to survive in this industry. It’s kind of cool.” So you may not remember that. I think you were speaking at that event and I just shook your hand and that was back when we could shake hands. So that was a million years ago.

Rene Banglesdorf:

We’re going to get back there. I insist.

Paula Williams:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), excellent. Great. So what are you seeing? What have you observed in the industry in the last little bit and what’s going on in your neck of the woods? I know we’re in Utah, Colorado, Las Vegas area. So we’re seeing one picture and I’m sure you’re seeing something completely different.

Rene Banglesdorf:

Yeah. So I can give you a micro answer to that and then a macro answer to that. I live just North of Austin, Texas in Williamson County and Travis County, which is where most of Austin is, is a little bit harder hit than we are but not massive outbreaks like we’re seeing in some of the other cities. But to give you just a snapshot here, and I did the math this morning because it’s so disconcerting, in the week of March 28th and we had been locked down for a little under a week then, here in Texas, there were 31 new cases of COVID in our County. In the same week, there were 5700 new unemployment claims, which to me is jaw dropping. I mean, just the effect that this has had on our economy is crazy and I’m really hoping and praying that people can pivot and come out of this stronger than ever and not have it be something that scars our nation forever.

Rene Banglesdorf:

That it’s an opportunity for people to regroup, to rejuvenate, to restore some things in their communities and their families and that as a country we come out of this better. I’ve been on quite a number of different calls, some with White House groups, some with marketing groups and all of us are just soaking up information right now. Right. And the thing that I’m beginning to hear, a theme that I’m beginning to hear is that people are drawing closer in to their local communities. Those of us who don’t have to travel are hesitant about that. One of my colleagues did a survey last week and the intent of Americans to travel internationally in the next two years is 0.2%.

Paula Williams:

Oh really.

Rene Banglesdorf:

So I think we’re going to see a lot of globalism shrink and a lot of people stick close to their home countries until there’s a vaccine. And so that’s kind of what I’m seeing. I think that sentiment probably rings true. I have a deal going on right now and my client is in Nebraska and the buyer of the aircraft is in Florida and even their pilots have some hesitation about, “Do I want to go to that state that has a lot more cases than we have in Nebraska?” Right now, Nebraska has only had 14 deaths. So that pilot’s like, “I don’t know if I want to go to South Florida. There is a lot more infection there.” So, when you really look at the-

Paula Williams:

Potential to get stuck right?

Rene Banglesdorf:

Right. And when you look at the infection levels, they’re actually really low in all of those areas. But the perception is what’s slowing people down. So it’s very interesting. It’s a fascinating time in history and I think there are some interesting things to come.

Paula Williams:

Right, right. Well, they say, “Money never disappears, it just changes hands.” And so I know you’re probably seen some things from your perspective in terms of how to move forward. What do you see happening maybe in the next, and I don’t know if you want to talk in a 90 day framework or a year framework or whatever you’re comfortable with, what’s your thoughts about what’s going to happen next given all of this information that you’ve been seeing and that you’ve been absorbing?

Rene Banglesdorf:

Yeah, I think this is a really, really interesting time. So it’s long been my goal to investigate why so many men own private planes and why so few women do because gosh, it is so convenient to fly private.

Paula Williams:

Yeah.

Rene Banglesdorf:

But women will sacrifice convenience to be able to invest in something else. So women spend money on their community, on education, on their children, and they’re a little bit martyrs about spending something extravagant on themselves. Not all of them, and not always, but that sentiment exists. And I think we’re going to see a little bit of a willingness of women to protect their families and for business owners to protect their employees by not subjecting them to what I’ll call public transportation, aka the airlines.

Paula Williams:

The airline.

Rene Banglesdorf:

So I think, and I’m not the one who thinks this, but I think that we’re going to see an up, probably overall less travel, but of that travel, I think we’re going to see proportionately higher rates of charter or private travel because people who have a child with an autoimmune disorder, an elderly parent, are no way, shape or form going to put their loved one on a commercial airliner anytime in the next two years.

Paula Williams:

Right.

Rene Banglesdorf:

And I think that we’re also going to see some of the same of that for the businesses that need to have people moving around the country or the world for that matter.

Paula Williams:

That makes perfect sense. So what advice do you have for business owners, executives, sales and marketing people in particular in the aviation industry, maybe over the next 90 to 365 days? What’s your feeling about, what would you advise them to be doing or not doing?

Rene Banglesdorf:

Gosh, it really depends on the business and what they’re trying to accomplish with that. From what I’ve heard, and this was from a marketing consultant earlier this week, and of course everything changes every day, so take this for what it’s worth in context of where you are when you’re listening to this replay, but I think the things that we’re hearing right now, and certainly what I find to be true in my own life, and Paula, I’m sure you find this to be in your own life as well, is that we’re very concerned about the health and safety of our loved ones and then a little bit farther out, our personal community.

Rene Banglesdorf:

We’re also very concerned about working with someone who’s trustworthy and dependable and we’re really worried about safety. So as people are thinking about communicating, they need to think about, excuse me, they need to think about communicating about how they’re keeping their clients safe and they need to be talking about trustworthiness and dependability and providing help to those who maybe are in a more stressful situation than they are themselves. And so I think those things rather than the flashy, this celebrity who has her butt cheeks hanging out on the beach being the most popular thing, we’re going to swing back to community and family values, I think. And our messaging should really portray that or communicate that as well, if that’s true to who we are.

Paula Williams:

Right. Okay. So the VIP aviation perspective is going to be maybe less about celebrities and more about family and those kinds of things.

Rene Banglesdorf:

I think that’s really what’s going to resonate with people. And I think if we examine our own behavior over the last few weeks, those were the things that we were focused on. And I really, everyone that I’m talking to, doctors and marketing consultants and business leaders and even leaders in the executive office building at the White House, everyone’s concerned about the same thing and that’s the health and the safety of those closest to them. And they are going to turn to people that they trust to help them continue to honor those values.

Paula Williams:

To make that happen. Right. So a lot of us are using technology in ways that, and I know in the aviation industry in particular, there’s been kind of a hesitance, to do things in ways that are not traditional. It’s always been about the events. It’s always been about the magazines. It’s always been about doing business in person. And you have an event coming up that is going to be really interesting. I actually have just been reading about this. Thanks for sending this. And this is the general aviation forum panels that are going to be done virtually. So how are you making that happen and how does that-

Rene Banglesdorf:

Oh my gosh, Paula. I’m going to jump out of my chair telling you about this because I’m so excited about it. I have to tell you a little bit where it came from. So I’m part of an organization called the International Aviation Women’s Association. It’s a great group of ladies from all over the world, in all disciplines of aviation and aerospace, so defense, rocket science, engine manufacturing, airlines. So there are a lot of high level women in this organization and it’s so fun. And we’ve been doing events for 30 years that have a whole group of women coming together and talking about aviation things and leadership things and networking with one another. And it’s fantastic. However, we got faced this year and I actually made the decision pretty early because I like to innovate and I like to think outside of the box. So the very beginning of March I was like, “I don’t think I want to sign the contract for our event in New York in June.” Which by the way was a good decision looking back.

Paula Williams:

Because in June in New York.

Rene Banglesdorf:

And so I’m like, “I’m going to see what it would be like to do a virtual event.” So I called a friend of mine who’s pretty innovative and has worked in the tech industry, which is a little bit farther ahead than we are, and we came up with this amazing event. So it is a virtual conference and you come into the website and it looks like a 3D conference center. There’s an information desk that will be manned. You can chat or you can video chat with someone, just like you and I are to record this. There’s an auditorium that you go in, you’ll be able to see the people in the auditorium. There’ll be a box where you can do Q&A. You’ll see the avatar of the people who are in the room with you.

Paula Williams:

Wow.

Rene Banglesdorf:

So you’ll be able to see your friends there. And there will be live presentations on stage. So virtual of course, but live nonetheless. And then there’s also a networking lounge. And in the networking lounge, you can still see all the avatars of everyone who’s there. You can connect with them, you can chat with them, you can click audio or video and actually see them face to face in the networking lounge. And then the exact same thing is going on in the exhibit hall.

Paula Williams:

Oh wow.

Rene Banglesdorf:

So you’ll approach an exhibit booth. You’ll be able to see the name of the company and then you’ll see brochures that you can download, videos that you can watch and all of those on the day of the event will also be manned. So you’ll be able to interact in real time with people who are part of that organization. And the coolest thing, well, there are two really cool things about this.

Paula Williams:

Right.

Rene Banglesdorf:

One is that because we’re doing it virtually, women and men from around the world can attend. They may have their schedule adjusted a little bit depending on their time zone but they’ll be able to attend and it’s free. So the women in Africa or Australia or Timbuktu who have never been able to attend an aviation event will be able to join us and network and participate in all of this. The other cool thing that it does is it opens us up to be able to have as many speakers as we want.

Paula Williams:

Wow.

Rene Banglesdorf:

So we have five keynote speakers and those will be at a set time but we can have an unlimited number of panel discussions.

Paula Williams:

Wow. I was reading about this and wondering, “I’ve never seen anything like this.” So I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around how this works.

Rene Banglesdorf:

Right. It’s going to be so fun. So you and I and two of our other friends can put together a panel, recording it over Zoom just like you and I are. And then we would upload that to the website where our video team is going to take it and put our little lower thirds on and put our name and our title and our company and then, maybe at the beginning, they’ll have a nice graphic with our pictures and that kind of thing, but we’ll be able to have a panel discussion about a topic relevant to leadership or aviation that other people can listen to.

Rene Banglesdorf:

And it’s really inexpensive to do this. It’s a little bit of a pay to play scenario because I have video production costs, but it’s only $750 for people to be able to participate in this panel. And then all of the panels will be available for people to watch on the day of the event, which is free. And then if you want access to all of those panels, say there are 30 panels and you want to be able to access those later, you can pay a small VIP fee to have three months worth of access to this entire conference center.

Rene Banglesdorf:

So I think that will be really fun. The caveat here, which is what’s so fun about it, is that all of the speakers and all of the panelists will be women.

Paula Williams:

Oh wow.

Rene Banglesdorf:

So that means that everyone who attends, man or woman, will see and hear and experience women being leaders in this field. So it won’t be like when you and I first met at NBAA and we were two woman in a sea of gray haired men. It will be women on stage talking about the things in which they’re experts. And I think that’s just amazing. And here’s another cool thing about this, I know I’m like monologue here about this, because I’m so excited.

Paula Williams:

No, that’s cool. Yeah.

Rene Banglesdorf:

But we’re working with eight universities to get their students to attend free of charge. And I’m in contact with Girl Scouts USA for all of their junior and senior level Girl Scouts to come to the event and hear about different kinds of careers and leadership and aviation. So really promoting STEM among students who are in high school and college who have been robbed of some of the interaction that they would normally have in their schools this spring.

Paula Williams:

Oh, especially, yeah, their last years of high school when they should be exploring all these things and going places and doing things so I think that’s excellent. And I’m really, really curious now to see how this works and find out more about it. So if people wanted to learn about this now, is there a URL they should go to to find out more information or sign up for updates or?

Rene Banglesdorf:

Yes, it’s called IAWA, iawagaforum.com .

Paula Williams:

Okay, excellent. That’s fantastic. And the date of the event will be, it looks like…

Rene Banglesdorf:

June 25th.

Paula Williams:

June 25th, okay. Excellent. Great. Well, I’m really looking forward to that and I’m really happy that you could spend some time at this crazy time sharing your insights because I know we’re all absorbing information, but we all want to hear from the thought leaders in the industry and I know you’ve been one for quite some time and it’s really good that you were able to connect so thank you for that.

Rene Banglesdorf:

Well, thank you, Paula. I want to know what you think. I mean, I gave you my opinion. I want to hear what yours is.

Paula Williams:

Oh, I give my opinion every week in our podcast. But yeah, what we’re seeing is that all of our clients, I would say, except for maybe the flight schools, have either stayed the same or maybe just pivoted some of their marketing. Everybody else is hanging in there at least for the short term. And, of course, everybody has some anxiety and uncertainty about what to do but a lot of us are just simply pivoting what we’re doing.

Paula Williams:

It kills me because this last year I have worked a lot of our clients into the role of speaker, where they’re comfortable getting up in front of a group of people and we’ve worked really hard on getting into some events and getting into some forums and panel discussions and other things. And then those events were canceled, which just is heartbreaking to me because we worked so hard with some of our clients to get them to that rockstar stage. And it’s just really bad timing for that.

Paula Williams:

But other than that, I work from home. We go to our clients so it hasn’t affected me any. And most of our clients are pretty tech savvy, so they’re doing all right. So I’m really impressed with the way that the industry has adapted, but I do know it is a very traditional industry that relies so much on events that I’m really, really hoping for the best for all of us and just trying to help everyone pivot in the most efficient possible way because I know there’s always some missteps and things when there’s a big change in the economy.

Paula Williams:

So I just want to make sure it’s not us or anything that we’re advising our clients to do.

Rene Banglesdorf:

Yeah.

Paula Williams:

Yeah. Which is why we’re talking to everyone and I really appreciate you spending some time with us today.

Rene Banglesdorf:

Absolutely. It’s my pleasure. I’m glad to get to know you a little bit better.

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