APEX in Profile: David Kelly

Image: Jon Black Photography

David Kelly
Vice-President, Strategy and Marketing
HAECO Americas

David has 16 years of industry experience and leads HAECO Americas’ strategic planning, advertising, branding, communications and intelligence functions. Before joining the company in 2015, he held several roles at B/E Aerospace and VAS Aero. David also has a commercial pilot’s license and has logged 24 hours on a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 from a flight operations internship at Continental Airlines.

Fast Facts:
Location: KGSO
Now reading: The New Rules of Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott
Favorite aircraft: MD-80
Passport stamp you wish you had: Maldives
The future of flight will be: Autonomous

Describe a day in the life of your job.
In a single day, my team and I might go from planning a tradeshow to working
on a customer forecast model to tweeting about job openings to developing advertisements. If I need a break from the chaos, I head down to the hangar and see the aircraft we have in for heavy maintenance. There’s something about smelling Jet A burning during an engine run that makes me smile.

What’s the biggest challenge for aircraft engineering and maintenance companies right now?
It is hands down finding enough qualified employees to perform aircraft maintenance. We have partnered with local technical schools to create a pipeline of employees, from job shadowing to internships to tuition reimbursement. This, however, is an industry-wide problem, and just as airlines are havingto get creative to train pilots, we need to do the same for mechanics.

What part of the airline passenger experience industry never fails to impress you?
I get a feeling of satisfaction that is hard to describe every time I get home from an international flight (aside from the jet lag). There is a sense of amazement knowing I woke up in a place like Hamburg and in less than a day’s time, I’m eating
dinner with my family in Greensboro, North Carolina.

You studied aeronautical science and have a commercial pilot’s license, but ended up in marketing. Was that the initial plan?
I graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a degree in aeronautical science shortly after 9/11 when the pilot job market was impossible. As a broke flight instructor, I worked as a skycap at Tampa International Airport checking bags and pushing wheelchairs out to airplanes I knew how to fly.

To stay on my parents’ health insurance as a “student,” I needed to take a college credit, so I signed up for a marketing course and eventually finished a second degree in marketing and business. It turned out I was better at flying spreadsheets than airplanes, and the rest is history.

What does the aerospace industry struggle to communicate effectively?
I think we might be missing the boat on how “green” flying is. If you own a Toyota Prius and you need to get yourself from Charlotte to Miami, the most environmentally friendly thing to do would be to drive your car to the airport and fly, as the aircraft gets better miles to the gallon than the Prius. In my opinion, it is a matter of time before serious steps will be taken to curb carbon emissions, and from a PR perspective, the airline industry should be getting ahead of that debate.

If you could sit next to anyone on a flight, who would it be?
Mario Andretti. Aside from aviation, I am also a “car guy.” Andretti is a legend and arguably the best driver of all time and is still closely involved with the racing industry. He is also an ultralight pilot and loves aviation. That said, I am sure he would regret sitting next to me with all the questions I would have!

APEX in Profile: David Kelly was originally published in the 9.3 June/July issue of APEX Experience magazine