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  • Anne Marie Sollazzo

A Journey in Aviation and Leadership


Ten years ago, I rejoined the aviation community as the Dispatch Coordinator for a Part 141 flight school.  My first day had me learning a new environment, coordinating and training 8 student CFIs as “Airbosses” (a.k.a dispatchers). As time went on, I became acquainted with the Private, Instrument, Commercial, Multi-Engine and CFI Training Course Outlines for 100 students and 25 CFIs.  Little did I know that I would soon become an “Air-Mom.”  

Interacting with the students everyday became a joy as I watched them learn and literally fly from the nest as they embarked on their first solo flights; stayed up late tracking them on their long cross-countries; and continually cheered them on, as one by one, they became CFIs to help pass along that newfound aeronautical knowledge. 

A love of learning has always been part of my core being.  This is what I saw at the college and what I gravitated toward in becoming a Director of Safety in the Part 135 sector.  When I moved on from the Part 141 environment in 2018, I wrote the students one last email that I’d like to share: 

Over the last 4.5 years I have been blessed to have gotten to know the majority of you Pro Pilot majors and can only wish all of you one thing: all the best in the world.

“All the best in the world” will not come easy though. There will be ups and downs, easy and tough decisions, but most of all there will be continued learning. Never stop learning when it comes to what you are passionate about....and for some, even in the Pro Pilot major, it might not be flying. Flying might be a steppingstone to something even better.

What could be better than flying? “I’m flying, making money, traveling the world, meeting tons of new’re nuts...I’ve got it all!” Take it from one who is older and wiser and has observed on the side lines: pay it forward and give back to the community you are in. Take the passion and pass on your knowledge. Become a mentor. Don’t think that you never have something to learn, because you do...and then pass it along to another.

Enter into every new adventure with fresh eyes, make a difference, and if you eventually leave...make sure you made an impact and leave it better than you found it.

That is what I hope I did here…and that’s what I’m planning to do in this next chapter.

To all of the CFI students: I have known you the longest and I cannot tell you how proud I am of you. You have a big job ahead of you. Teaching is hard...You are taking on a big roll in developing the future CFIs of tomorrow. Don’t be their friend, be their teacher. Lead by example.

To all of the Commercial and Instrument students: now is the time to get serious. Getting your Private is great, but this is the meat of your career that you are learning here. Pay attention and focus. Always go back and review your Private Pilot rules and regs because it’s not going to ever go away. Don’t forget that foundation.

To the Student pilots: the advice above is something you need to embrace. I don’t know you as well as the others, but I do know that some of you will wash out if you don’t buckle down and take it seriously. Studying is paramount. Know “the why.” Always come in prepared and with a question for your instructor. They are there to guide you, not spoon feed you. The best pilots I’ve seen here have always been on time, studying, preparing, and following the procedures and regulations both in and out of the program. The CFIs here know what they know because they never stop reviewing and studying. Make a note of that.

Always put forth your best effort in everything you courteous and kind...and remember that every day is a new day, with no mistakes in it.

Be safe! Anne Marie a.k.a. “Air-mom”

Much like those eager young pilots, I quickly learned that Safety Management Systems (SMS) became my newfound passion the more I learned about it.  Making sure the program was solid and everyone knew their role was paramount.  Discussions with fellow safety professionals further fueled that passion. We all were in the position to make something better than it was before with a simple and proven system.

With the Part135 SMS Mandate officially here, we are now at a point where everyone is hyper-focused on “how to we do this?” if they haven’t thought it before or back-burnered the discussion for however long. Some operators are not ready to fly solo yet…they need a few more hours of studying, preparing and practicing in the pattern.  If I were to write a letter now it would read like this:

To all the Safety Managers: I have known you the longest and I cannot tell you how proud I am of you. You have a big job ahead of you. For some, this is a new territory for you to learn, but you will get it! You are taking on a big role in developing future SMS programs of tomorrow. Be accessible, be a mentor when able, and be a teacher to your coworkers. Overall: Lead by example.

To all of the Accountable Executives and Managers: now is the time to get serious. Getting an SMS program in place is great, but this is where to rubber meets the road. Talk the talk and walk the walk. Don’t forget that foundation. Do your part in your department to uphold the Safety Policy set forth and make it a living document for the company.

To all the Frontline employees: You have a chance to make an impact – if you see something, say something. One safety report may not make a huge difference, but many can.  Data speaks volumes. If you don’t report, how can you expect the leaders to know what’s going on, to know what is or is not working?

To Operators just starting out: It is going to take time. It may be confusing. It may be frustrating. Expect it. Accept it. You are not alone. Reach out if you need assistance – there is an SMS community out there wanting to help.

The end game of the SMS Mandate to me is simple: “make sure you made an impact and leave it better than you found it.”

Stay safe! -AM (Anne Marie or Air-Mom…I’ll let the reader choose this one!)

In a few years, the litany of Safety Management System mandates across the aviation industry will have left of trail of learning and collaboration across multiple sectors.  It will be interesting what we all learn along the way!


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