Reflections on this unique 'Unconference'
Alison Chambers, Kelly Murphy and Kathryn Creedy share their CARIBAVIA highlights.
The Emerald Network. From left to right: Kelly Murphy, Kathryn Creedy and Alison Chambers.
Returning from St Maarten it struck me, with gratitude, that CARIBAVIA is an event like no other.
You find yourself looking for people you met the year before, quickly building up rapport with new arrivals and missing regulars (Adam Twidell and Seth Miller - the latter at his primary show Aircraft Interiors in Hamburg). Regulars do find themselves carefully scrutinizing their travel and home diaries to ponder ‘how can I make this work.’ Part of its success is that it is an intimate event. No more than 80 people. It is uncorporate, network focused, which starts with yoga overlooking the ocean.
My personal highlight was a day trip to St Barth’s with St Barth Commuter by Grand Cessna Caravan. Anything Textron aircraft related these past two months has been rather fortituous for me - their business jets seemingly at my disposal faced with easyJet cancellations or delays (thank you Ashley Namibas and Air Charter Scotland). So it was rather poignant that this trip would make it a hat trick.
Stepping off the aircraft after a record eight minutes from Grand Case Airport my Iphone pings to inform me I am a brand new Grandmother. Baby Millicent arrived seven days early, back home. What an amazing place to celebrate, along with media and tourism friends. Then a dilemma. Ushered into the beautiful office of the Island’s newly elected President Xavier Ledee, who is talking intently about tourism, my Facetime is vibrating. Meet your newly born Granddaughter or attentively listen to him. The Wi-Fi on the Island is indeed impressive. (I called them back).
At CARIBAVIA the Avgeek comes out in us all too. This time it was videoing and photographing take offs at the super impressive airport. By the time we’d finished we had to rush – the airport shuts at sunset. No time to pick up a St Barth’s baby outfit from the pricey but sumptuous airport shop. But we are family this group and the following day dear Umberto Vallini – doing his own trip - picked up exactly what I had my eye on.
The power of connections is always a theme of CARIBAVIA whether it’s air service discussions with airports, airline, tourism board representatives or attendee conversations during the three-day “unconference.”
For me, 2022 marked my second year of attending this event in St. Maarten and completed a year-long goal to bring Girls in Aviation Day (a program designed by Women in Aviation International (WAI) www.WAI.org) to schoolgirls on the island. At the conference close in 2021,
I met then Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs, Ludmila de Weaver, who took the time to visit after her presentation to learn more about the work I do for the non-profit-WAI-founded some 30 years ago. Offering year-round resources and scholarships to girls and women of all ages and backgrounds around the world, WAI is laser-focused on assisting female aviators to pursue their personal aviation dream-whether it’s to work at an airport; design, fix, or fly an aircraft; become an astronaut or a C-suite executive; or educate the next generation of women in aviation.
Kelly Murphy with Ludmila de Weaver.
With Ludmilla’s connections and steady guidance, a dozen female aviators that work in various aspects of aviation on St. Martin came together to host and organize the first Caribbean Girls in Aviation Day. This event was such a success (see related story) that unanimously - during a thank you lunch hosted by the St. Martin tourism board—plans are already in play for next year’s event. I won’t forget the smiles and laughter, and even a few hugs, that I witnessed from these schoolgirls who were able to learn about aviation and grow in their understanding that GIRLS CAN DO ANYTHING!
I began attending CARIBAVIA five years ago and have always been impressed. It is an unconference one in which lectures are replaced with discussions that move the needle from words to actions.
The talk turns to action and there is more exciting work to be done.
With an impressive array of government, tourism officials and aviation industry experts from around the world in attendance, it has tackled some of the region’s toughest issues as reflected in the CARIBAVIA stories in this special edition of Blue Sky.
Invariably veteran and new attendees, alike, come away energized to do something beyond talking and after years of talking, we have tangible examples of that something.
Last year, the frustration boiled over with several veteran attendees anxious to get something done. To that end, they organized with new attendees from this year throwing together their collective expertise to launch an aviation education program throughout the region. This important conference has now morphed into highly energized physical action that will deliver solid benefits to the Caribbean and I am looking forward to getting started – initially contacting all past attendees of CARIBAVIA to ask what they can contribute.
Complementing that was the overwhelmingly successful Women in Aviation International’s Girls in Aviation Day. To see girls learn about aviation careers and transform from shy to engaged and exited future aviation professionals really puts CARIBAVIA on a different level. How terrific is we can engage with more Islands this year – there was a lot of interest to do just that.
We now have a core group that will carry these initiatives forward. Still, we must rededicate ourselves to achieving what will unlock untold billions in additional tourism and business activity in the region – lowering taxes, easing immigration policies and implementing a Friendly Skies, as Founder Bud Slabbaert describes it. If that can happen, then his CARIBAVIA legacy will be complete.
BlueSky Business Aviation News | 30th June 2022 | Issue #660
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