Captain, United Airlines
Jim Blackford BS'85 and Stephanie Blackford reside in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
Jim serves as the Chair of the Parent Leadership Council. He earned his BS in Aviation Management/Flight Technology from Florida Tech in 1985 and currently works for United Airlines as a 787 Captain.
Stephanie attended the University of Michigan and is helping their younger daughter, Maddy, prepare for college.
Their daughter, Molly Blackford is a senior in Aeronautical Science.
Swiss Intl. Air Lines
Sr. Mgr. of Aircraft Asset Mgmt. | Swiss Intl. Air Lines
Clarissa earned her BA in both Aviation Management and Business Administration from Florida Tech in 2009, in 2013 she completed the executive Master of European and International Business Law at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. She started her career as a consultant at Swiss Aviation Consultants and currently works at Swiss International Air Lines in the Asset Management department.
Pilot | United Airlines
Pilot | United Airlines
Jill A. Eanes is a captain for United Airlines on the Airbus 319/320 and serves on the pilot hiring and recruitment teams. She has also served as a flight manager in the SFO Chief Pilot’s Office and facilitated Human Factor Change Review courses and Operational Efficiency training for United. Jill has volunteered for United’s Women Mentoring Women program, the Air Line Pilots Association’s (ALPA) Local Scheduling Committee, and the ALPA United Airlines’ Master Executive Council Legislative Committee.
Jill grew up outside of Washington, DC. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Aviation and her M.B.A. at Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech), where she was also an assistant chief flight instructor. In 1995, Jill started flying for Northwest Airlink in Memphis, TN on the BA-3100 and the Saab 340. She was a captain and check airman on the Saab 340, and she served as the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) Secretary-Treasurer. In 1999, Jill started her career at United Airlines flying the Boeing 737 and has flown the Airbus A319/320; Boeing 757/767; and the Boeing 777.
During a three-year furlough from United, Jill flew at USA 3000 Airlines and JetBlue. As part of the initial cadre check airman at JetBlue for the North American launch of the E190 aircraft, Jill was the first woman to pilot a delivery flight of an Embraer to a customer’s base. Jill lives in Sunnyvale, CA with her wife, Kitty. They enjoy hiking in our incredible National Parks, as well as biking and running in less wild locations.
Lead Captain / Check Airman Jet Aviation
Nick is currently employed by Jet Aviation, as a Lead Captain on a Global 6000 based in Stuart, FL. Nick’s first experiences in aviation began at an early age, sitting next to his Dad in a Piper Tri-Pacer. Fascinated with flying, he began flying lessons at age 16. A profession in Aviation grew from these early childhood experiences. In 1991, Nick earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Aviation Management from Florida Institute of Technology.
His aviation career began the same way as many young aviation enthusiasts, flight instructing and towing banners on the Jersey shore in the summer. After college, he flew a Learjet for a Med-Evac company out of Clearwater, Florida. Within a few years, he had enough jet time to secure a job with an aviation management company in Connecticut. In his time at Key Air, Nick flew the Learjet 35 before moving into the Hawker 700 and eventually the Challenger Series aircraft. His experience in the cabin class aircraft opened up new doors and career opportunities.
Texaco Aviation, based in White Plains, NY, was Nick’s first job with a Fortune 10 company. Flying a Gulfstream IV, Nick transported executives around the world. His experiences would make him a perfect fit for a job at General Electric Corporate Air Transport when Texaco closed their aviation department in 1999.
Nick spent the next eighteen years fulfilling career aspirations at General Electric Co. A world wide flight department, GE, provided Nick with experiences flying the Challenger 604/605, Gulfstream IV, and Global Express aircraft. His career at GE also allowed for experiences in the management side of aviation for Nick. During his time with General Electric Co., Nick held a Bombardier Challenger Advisory position, led the Training and Standards for the Challenger aircraft, and was an integral part of the new pilot interview and hiring team.
In 2015, with General Electric planning a relocation of their aviation department, Nick exited the company for an opportunity at Jet Aviation. Within his first few years at Jet Aviation he has risen to his current position as lead captain of a Global 6000. In addition to his role as lead captain he is also a check airman and FOQUA gatekeeper. Recently, Nick has started mentoring college graduates as they begin their aviation careers.
Nick’s current position with Jet Aviation has brought him back to Florida, where he resides in Palm City with his wife, Beth, and three teenagers, Luca, Jaxon, and Cara. In his spare time, Nick enjoys boating, fishing, traveling, and watching his children play sports.
Booz Allen Hamilton
Senior Associate | Booz Allen Hamilton
Chris Fernando is a Senior Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton with more than 17 years of professional experience in the aviation industry. He is currently the market lead for emerging technologies in aviation and analytics in the transportation business at the firm. His areas of expertise include emerging aviation technologies, airport and environmental planning, airspace and aircraft operations, and air traffic management. Over the past five years, Mr. Fernando has served as the urban air mobility (UAM) and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) lead for Booz Allen’s transportation and infrastructure business. In this role, he has worked with clients to address complex emerging technology issues and engaged in strategic partnerships with industry to support these clients in planning and hosting successful workshops, stakeholder engagement roundtables, and conferences. Past clients include the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, and Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP). Most notably, Mr. Fernando served as the principal investigator for a NASA market study to research the policy, economic, social, environmental, and legal barriers to enabling UAM and forecast current and future demand. Mr. Fernando holds a bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management from the Florida Institute of Technology.
Aviation Practice Leader (US) at Marsh
Marsh is an insurance broking and risk management company that provides solutions to their clients' insurance needs including consulting, brokerage, and claims. Marsh is headquartered in New York.
Director of Global Operations at FlyNewton
Brent was raised in the mountains of Colorado where he enjoyed skiing, hiking, camping and other regional activities which he still enjoys today. His father and grandfather were both recreational pilots, the later of which was an Army Airforce pilot flying the B-17, B-24 and finally the B-29. The stories of Grandpa Bob flying these planes, including the Memphis Belle, is what got Brent interested in aviation.
Brent graduated from FIT in 2012 with a BS in Aviation Management with Flight. While he had a passion for flying, it was clear to him upon graduation that it was not a passion strong enough to lead to a career. Respecting his love for aviation, he accepted a job in Dallas, Texas working in the private jet charter industry for Starbase Jet. He learned about private jet charter sales and operations for almost two years before moving to Florida to work for a startup called JetSmarter. Brent was employee number nine at JetSmarter and over the next four years the team grew the company into a unicorn tech company valued at $1.5 billion with over 300 employees. Brent started as a sales representative and worked his way up to Director of Sales for the United States. Brent also opened the UK office located in London, England. Brent negotiated the first agreements with operators to do scheduled shared flights or “shuttle” flights under part 380 of the FAA regulations. While many in the industry thought this was in violation of FAA regulation, JetSmarter found a way to make the shared private jet flight legal and accessible to the consumer. Brent is now working on a new venture called FlyNewton. He is the Director of Global Operations. FlyNewton focuses on UHNWI who are interested in a truly private experience when flying. FlyNewton clientele expect nothing but the best often chartering, BBJs, ACJs, Lineages, and ultra-long range jets.
Brent lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL where he enjoys the warm weather and activities like boating, scuba diving, and paddle boarding.
Head of Airbus Corporate Jets North America
Sean McGeough, Head of Airbus Corporate Jets North America
Sean McGeough joined Airbus in 2021 as their Head of Airbus Corporate Jets in North America. Prior to his role at Airbus, Sean was Executive Vice President for North American Corporate Sales with Wheels UP. An established aircraft sales leader, Mr. McGeough previously served as the Vice President of North American Sales at Aerion Corporation, the first supersonic business jet where he was responsible for a fleet sale to Flex Jet worth over 2.5 billion dollars and 20 aircraft. He also served as the CEO of the pioneering company Nextant Aerospace where he was responsible for developing Nextant into a global, award-winning aviation brand. Mr. McGeough oversaw the company’s growth, international expansion, new product launches, operations and customer support.
Mr. McGeough fostered new relationships with General Electric, Garmin and Jet Aviation to enhance the company’s capabilities and raise its profile in the industry. He orchestrated high profile sales with Purdue University and NASCAR. They boosted global PR coverage by 300%, increasing brand awareness in all regions.
These achievements build on a record of international sales success with Hawker Beechcraft (HBC). Following postings in South Africa and Switzerland, he served in Chester, England as President of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific (EMEA & APAC).
Among other innovations Mr. McGeough established a center of excellence, co-locating the EMEA & APAC headquarters, a customization center and world-class maintenance facility. He set up regional headquarters in Singapore and Beijing, significantly increasing sales to flight departments and doubling the Chinese fleet of turboprops. He also grew special missions business in training, air ambulance and surveillance. In London’s Mayfair, he pioneered the world’s first private aviation sales storefront and built partnerships with Formula 1, the PGA, amfAR and the World Economic Summit.
Mr. McGeough holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the Florida Institute of Technology where he wrote his Master’s thesis on the commercialization of supersonic technology for business aircraft. He is an airline transport pilot (ATP) with type ratings on Hawker 400XP, Hawker 800XP and King Air. He was a board member of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the Remanufacturers Industries Council (RIC). He is also an active member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO).
He lives in Melbourne Beach, FL with his wife Mary and their five children, Ava, Lana, Evita, Finn and Tristan. Sean enjoys playing golf, running and boating when he is not flying.
BNP Associates, Inc
President, BNP Associates, Inc
David Mecartney, driven by a childhood dream of becoming a pilot and escaping the harsh Chicago winters, matriculated at Florida Institute of Technology in 1978 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Flight Technology & Aviation Management. He obtained all his of his flight ratings including a CFI. Due to an economic recession dampening the prospects of becoming a commercial pilot, he pursued a career as a consultant. After graduating in 1982, Mr. Mecartney was employed as an entry level planner at BNP Associates, Inc., a worldwide consulting firm specializing in the design of baggage handling, cargo handling, security screening, and parcel handling systems related to airports.
When he started at BNP, the company had a single office in Stamford, CT with only 7 employees. After working his way through the company, he became President of BNP in 1995, and has since grown and proliferated the company to employ over 100 personnel across multiple offices around the world. Under David’s leadership, BNP has provided consultancy services to some of the largest airports in the world, including Singapore, Chicago, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, and Orlando. While President, he continued to pursue his passion for flying, acquiring initially a Skyhawk, moving to a Saratoga, a couple of Meridians, two Mustangs and now flies his own Cessna Citation CJ3+. Along with flying, David also endeavors several philanthropic interests, especially support for Colorado Children’s Hospital. His interests include golf and road biking.
David has three children and currently lives in Jackson Hole, WY.
Fraport USA, Inc.
Chief Executive Officer | Fraport USA, Inc.
At the age of 15 Mike boldly stated in his eighth grade yearbook that he was going to be a pilot. At that point he had never set foot in an airplane and had never even met a pilot. His childhood imagination and untapped curiosity about the world outside his backyard was a powerful engine.
For Mike, his path through college and work was not a circuitous one, no changed majors, not a series of different industry jobs. Since that day in the hot steamy grade school gym his path has been as straight as a runway. Now celebrating his 31st year in the aviation industry that he dreamed of being part of as a kid, Mike loves the challenges and adventures that he has the joy to be part of.
Today Mike is the CEO for Fraport, USA, Inc. Prior to this, he spent 15 years with Hudson leading a team focused on the company’s strategic direction, business development, governmental affairs and business diversity.
His flight path prior to Hudson took him through flight, education, aviation consultancy and airport management experiences; providing him with a uniquely rounded perspective in the aviation industry.
Outside work Mike is an outdoor adventurist (recent trips have included exploring the wilderness of Peru and Laos on motorcycle, cave diving in Mexico and rock climbing in Joshua Tree and Taho) and is an advocate for Organ and Tissue donation.
B767 Captain | FedEx Express
Mary Murphy is currently a B767 Captain for FedEx Express. Mary first took to the skies in January 1982 in a Piper Tomahawk. She earned her B.S. in Aviation Management from Florida Tech while working as a flight instructor for FIT Aviation. She then flew as a First Officer and Captain at the regional airline Commutair before beginning her extended career flying for FedEx. A life-long contributor a with an insatiable desire to gain new perspectives, she has held positions with the FedEx Pilots Association, Flight Training Department, Flight Operations Management and ALPA. Her contributions while managing the B727/B757/B767 fleet of airplanes earned her the prestigious FedEx 5-star award. She is currently working on the enforcement of the current pilot contract. When Mrs. Murphy isn’t flying around the globe, she spends her time focusing on her most important job as mother to her two children, Analise and Daniel, practicing yoga and playing indoor soccer. She resides in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband Steven. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Airlines (Ret.)
Paul Rice was a pilot for United Airlines for nearly 44 years, finishing his career as a captain on the Boeing 787. While at United he held numerous leadership positions at both the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), and the International Federation of Air Line Pilot Associations (IFALPA).
During his time at United Airlines, Paul flew as captain for more than 30 years and was an instructor pilot and check airman on numerous aircraft types. During his first 20 years with United, he flew domestically and then flew international routes for the remainder of his career. Between flying and association work, Paul has visited more than 80 countries worldwide.
ALPA represents airline pilots in the US and Canada. Working on behalf of the represented pilots, Paul served at the local level in Washington, DC’s Council 11 as captain representative and chairman. He further served at the international level as Vice President of Administration and later as First Vice President. Coordinating work on strategic planning, improvements to ALPA’s governing structure, election and ballot reforms, union organizing, and labor negotiations were a part of Paul’s duties. Among his accomplishments was the inclusion of the first labor codicil in a US-signed treaty; the US-EU Open Skies Agreement.
IFALPA represents pilot associations in over 100 nations across the globe. At ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), the aviation arm of the United Nations, IFALPA is one of only two non-states to hold a seat at the General Assembly. Paul served as IFALPA Executive Vice President of North America and subsequently as IFALPA Deputy President. Areas of focus included the criminal liability of pilots under ICAO Annex 13, strategic planning for airline growth in Africa, China, and the Gulf Region, dealing with low/ultra-low-cost corporate models, and modernization of IFALPA’s structure to include helicopter pilots and airline pilot alliances.
Paul attended Florida Institute of Technology’s School of Aviation from 1975 to 1978 earning an AS in Flight Technology and a BS in Air Commerce.
Captain, United Airlines
Brian Ridyard came to Florida Tech in 1985 from Branford, Connecticut. He completed a B.S. in Aviation Management / Flight Technology in 1989 and a Master’s in Business Administration in 1992. He was a flight instructor in Vero Beach, Florida and in 1995 started at Continental Express Airlines where he flew the Beech 1900 and ATR 42. In 1999 he transitioned to Continental Airlines. Now with United Airlines he has flown the B757, B767 and is currently Captain on the B737 based in Newark, New Jersey.
Brian met his first wife Lourdes (B.S. Psychology) at Florida Tech in 1987 and they had 2 children. Lourdes passed due to cancer in 2013 and in 2017 Brian married Tiffany. They have 5 adult children and live in Merritt Island Florida where they enjoy boating, traveling and cooking.
Flight School Assoc. of N. America
President & CEO Flight School Association of North America
Bio under construction
Director of Operations and Captain| Empire Airlines
John Russack is the Director of Operations and a Captain for Empire Airlines. He manages Empire’s flight operations relationships with FedEx and Hawaiian Airlines and supports a diverse team of aviation professionals. Also, John works as a consultant with organizations to find ways to build teamwork, trust, inclusivity, and employee engagement.
John earned his M.S. in Human Factors in Aeronautics from Florida Tech in May of 2021 and has a B.A. in German and Political Science from the University of Arizona. His coursework and professors at Florida Tech provided him new technical perspectives and ideas for evaluating and designing processes and procedures and promoting a strong safety culture at Empire.
As a First Officer on the ATR 72 with Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA)/Delta Connection, John began his commercial airline career. He later upgraded to Captain on the ATR and then the CRJ before making the transition from line pilot to management as part of the startup team for Air Mekong, the first privately held airline in Vietnam. In addition to his current role at Empire Airlines, he has held leadership positions including Captain, Chief Pilot, Training Manager, and Head of Flight Operations at airlines based in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
Residing in the Spokane, WA/Coeur d’Alene, ID metro area gives John access to the area’s mountain forests, lakes, and nearby deserts where he enjoys hiking and winter sports.
CHEC Port City Colombo Pvt. Ltd.
Executive Director – Investment Promotion and Marketing at CHEC Port City Colombo Pvt. Ltd.
Shalaka Wijeyaratne resides in Colombo, Sri Lanka and holds a MBA (specialization in Marketing) from the University of Bedfordshire (UK) and a BSc in Aeronautical Science without flight (summa cum laude) from Florida Institute of Technology (USA). He is currently the Executive Director – Investment Promotion and Marketing at CHEC Port City Colombo Pvt. Ltd.; the master developer of the 269 hectare reclaimed land development, which is an extension of the existing CBD and positioned to be a world class city in South Asia. Prior to joining CHEC Port City Colombo Pvt. Ltd. he served as the Business Development Manager of AECOM in Sri Lanka; an USA based integrated infrastructure consulting firm that is a Fortune 500 listed company and one of Fortune magazines “World’s Most Admired Companies”.
In addition, Wijeyaratne was a consultant to Selendiva Investments Ltd., state owned real estate and property development company, assisting the leadership with Investment and Business promotion activities. He is also an Independent/Non-Executive Director on the Boards of Canwill Holdings Pvt. Ltd., Sinolanka Hotels & Spa Pvt. Ltd. (developer of the proposed Grand Hyatt Colombo Hotel) and Helanco Hotels & Spa Pvt. Ltd. (developer of the proposed Hyatt Hambantota Hotel). In the immediate past, he also served as the Managing Director of the aforementioned companies.
He presently serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the College of Aeronautics at Florida Institute of Technology (USA) and holds professional memberships with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK) and Association of Business Executives (UK).
Shalaka is also an active philanthropist and social welfare proponent. He is the President of Heal Lanka Society Limited that he Co-Founded in the immediate aftermath of the Easter Sunday Bombings of 2019 to help provide assistance and sustainable long-term relief to the victims. Currently, the organisation has further expanded to champion campaigns and efforts to elevate and empower the marginalized and underprivileged citizens of Sri Lanka’s society. Wijeyaratne is also an active alumni member of Oxford College of Business, Sri Lanka where he has participated in several CSR initiatives, namely “Out of Darkness” that won the Social Empowerment award at the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Awards and International CSR Summit in 2016.