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NATA Names Mary Miller And Kenn Ricci Recipients Of Association's Top Honors

Eric R. Byer
Vice President, Government and Industry Affairs



Alexandria, VA, March 28, 2012 — The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) annually recognizes individuals, offices, and organizations demonstrating excellence in their field and the highest level of customer service. NATA's Industry Excellence Awards are given to exceptional individuals and organizations that have helped improve the general aviation community. This year's winners were honored during the NATA Industry Excellence Awards Dinner on March 28 at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, D.C. The dinner was held in conjunction with the association's FBO Leadership Conference, Day on the Hill, Annual Meeting and Election of Officers, and Spring Committee Meetings − collectively called NATA's A Capital Week for Aviation Business. Top honors went to Mary M. Miller, vice president, industry and government affairs, Signature Flight Support and BBA Aviation, as recipient of NATA’s Distinguished Service Award and Kenneth C. Ricci, chairman of the board of Flight Options and chief executive officer of Nextant Aerospace, as recipient of NATA’s William A. “Bill” Ong Memorial Award.


The William A. “Bill” Ong Memorial Award is named in honor and memory of the association’s co-founder and first president and is given for extraordinary achievement and extended meritorious service to the general aviation industry. The 2011 award recipient, Kenneth C. Ricci, founded Flight Options in 1998 and currently serves as its chairman. His marketing and strategic leadership took Flight Options from inception to annual sales of more than $600 million, operating more than 200 aircraft, in a period of four years. He is a principal at Directional Aviation Capital, which invests in and owns various aviation enterprises, including Flight Options, Nextant Aerospace, Sojourn Aviation and Constant Aviation. He is a 28-year aviation veteran and is among the industry’s most dynamic leaders.


In 2005, Ricci, as chief executive officer of Mercury Air Centers, realigned its operating divisions, deployed $245 million of invested capital and sold it to Macquarie Infrastructure Trust in 2007 in a deal valued at $615 million. He began his career in 1980 with the founding of Corporate Wings. Under his leadership, Corporate Wings was named to the Inc. 500. For nine consecutive years, Corporate Wings was included in the Weatherhead 100.


Ricci is a four-time recipient of the NEO success award for business growth. He was honored as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000 and has been named one the most influential people in aviation by Aviation International News. In 2010, Ricci received the Harvard Business School’s Dively Entrepreneurship Award. 


NATA’s Distinguished Service Award is awarded to an individual or organization still active in general aviation on a regular, day-to-day basis and recognizes outstanding service and ongoing contributions to the industry. In a change from past years’ awards programs, Mary M. Miller was not named as the recipient until the evening of the awards presentation.


Miller began her aviation career at Butler Aviation in 1981 as a customer service manager at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). She was promoted in 1987 to director of customer service for the Butler Aviation network and later to director of sales and customer relations. When Butler and Page Avjet were merged to form Signature Flight Support, Miller was promoted to vice president of customer relations. In 2010, she was promoted to vice president industry and government affairs for both Signature Flight Support and parent company BBA Aviation.


Miller has played a pivotal role in the Transportation Security Administration’s DCA Access Standard Safety Protocol program (DASSP) for DCA and has assisted business and general aviation to utilize the 48 authorized daily operations at the airport. The airport was closed to general aviation following the September 11 attacks, and Ms. Miller was an integral part of the process to reopen the airport. She has also defined a process to assist operators in navigating the DASSP application process, which has increased traffic at the airport to numbers approaching the approved daily limit. Her efforts on Capitol Hill and with government agencies and officials have brought much needed positive attention to the integral role of business and general aviation in the economy of the United States and the world.


“We are thrilled to present these awards to two outstanding individuals within our industry,” stated NATA President and CEO James K. Coyne. “Both Kenn and Mary represent the very best of what the general aviation industry has to offer when it comes to innovation and customer service. NATA and its members congratulate them both on these prestigious honors and thank them for their tireless efforts in making the general aviation industry all that it is today.”


NATA released the names of the following Industry Excellence Award winners in a
press release on March 21:


  • Ronald Donner, editor of Aircraft Maintenance Technology (AMT) magazine, received the Aviation Journalism Award that identifies a journalist, writer, or publication excelling in consumer education or editorial support that is beneficial to the FBO/Air Charter industry.
  • The Richmond Flight Standards District Office was the recipient of NATA's FAA Customer Service Excellence Award and was recognized as an FAA facility that has represented the highest degree of customer service and elevated the quality of interaction between the FAA and aircraft maintenance and repair facilities, Part 135 certificate holders, airport service organizations, and flight schools.
  • The ATP/NATA General Aviation Service Technician Award (sponsored by Aircraft Technical Publishers) acknowledges the exceptional performance of a licensed airframe and power plant mechanic or radio repairman who has practiced his or her craft for a period of 20 or more years. The award was given posthumously to John (Ray) Hartley for his long-time career at StandardAero and work as manager and chief inspector - QA inspection at StandardAero's facility at LAX.
  • David Edwards, Jr., president and CEO of Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, was this year's recipient of the NATA Airport Executive Partnership Award. The Airport Executive Partnership Award recognizes an airport manager for his or her outstanding efforts to foster relationships between aviation businesses and airport operators.
  • Joseph Gravalec and Robert Kintner, Jr., owners of Superior Flight School, received the Excellence In Pilot Training Award for their outstanding contributions in safety, professionalism, leadership, and excellence in the field of pilot training.

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NATA, the voice of aviation business, is the public policy group representing the interests of aviation businesses before Congress and the federal agencies.