Published by Tom Thinnes
While a number of people think aviation runs on jet fuel, most know the management of assets is what keeps the birds in the sky. Think about the old joke, “What makes airplanes fly?” From a technical perspective, the correct answer involves an understanding of the four forces of flight. For the comedians, the funny answer is, “Money!” However, for people like Western Michigan University Alumnus Scott Warner, the truth falls squarely with a solid understanding of aviation business.
Growing up in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan, Warner was your typical kid. With one difference, “Ever since I can remember, transportation fascinated me,” he said. While it isn’t uncommon for young children to become interested in cars and trains, Warner began fixating on other things. “For me,” he said, “airplanes were the coolest. I always enjoyed airports, airshows, and just being around aircraft. I remember always reading about airplanes. The truly interesting part, I came from a family of non-aviators, so it’s hard to understand exactly how I became so interested in aviation – but I’m glad I did!”
Unlike some students, whose interest in certain things wane over time (think dinosaurs!), Warner’s curiosity with transportation and aviation only deepened. Using every opportunity at his disposal, the up-and-coming aviation scholar continued to investigate and expand his understanding and knowledge about the industry. As a student at South Lake High School, no chance was squandered. “If there was a way to learn about airplanes, I used it to my advantage. I can’t tell you the number of class reports I did in high school dealing with aviation and aircraft,” he said jokingly.
Matriculating to Western Michigan University, Warner began his quest to major in Aviation Science and Administration (Now known as Aviation Management and Operations). Combining his passion for the aviation industry with a keen interest in business, marketing and sales, Warner saw the science and administration degree as the perfect blend. Thinking back on the time, he said, “As a student, there are so many great memories. I thoroughly enjoyed my involvement with the various registered student organizations, and will never forget the friends and memories I made in the Aviation House of Henry Hall.”
As with most students, the social aspects of the experience stick out as fond memories. However, Warner stated he would be remiss if he didn’t give accolades to the faculty and staff he encountered during his tenure. “My interactions at Western Michigan University with the faculty and staff of the College of Aviation was always positive,” he said. “Each person I interacted with, regardless of their status as faculty or staff, brought value to my education and had an impact on my overall work life. Many of them provided me with connections I would never have been able to make myself, provided advice and guidance about subjects I never would have thought about. The best part, these relationships continue. Even as an alumni, they continue to offer their support as professional mentors.”
Graduating with his bachelor of science in 2011, Warner’s time at WMU wasn’t finished. Soon after walking across Miller Auditorium and shaking President Dunn’s hand, he landed right back where he just left – the Aviation Education Center working with the Recruitment and Outreach department of the College of Aviation. Using his talents in marketing and sales, with his strong aviation background, Warner helped to lay the foundation in recruitment, which continues to be built upon today. “As a member of the WMU Aviation staff,” he stated, “I truly enjoyed working with prospective students and the mentoring of current student staff members. Watching them grow, mature and start their own careers was very rewarding. It’s awesome to see all the places they have gone and the roles they currently hold.”
While Warner was flourishing in his recruitment role, he wasn’t done with the world of academia. While the degree in aviation management satiated his aviation hunger, he was still starving to expand his business acumen. In 2015, Warner graduated from the WMU Haworth College of Business with his Masters of Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Using the combination of the two degrees, he cast off to continue his adventure in the aviation industry.
Since graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Warner has engaged in a number of opportunities. Beyond his time in the Recruitment and Outreach department of WMU, Warner states, “I have been quite fortunate to experience a lot of different, challenging, and eye-opening roles within the aviation industry: sales and marketing, aviation/business consultant for several major airport construction projects, inside sales for L3 Aviation Products, and international business consulting within aviation. These positions allowed me to engage in aerospace and defense, consulting and aviation education sectors of the industry.”
Currently, Warner works for L3 Aviation Products (L3 Technologies) as a Service, Repair, and Overhaul Administrator in Grand Rapids, Michigan with the task of supporting the suite of L3 Aviation products which include: cockpit voice recorders, flight data recorders (black boxes), and other avionics technologies required in aircraft cockpits, components and communication. “My job?” he asked. “I manage the customer interfacing and coordinate the internal communication as a representative of the client. I am the main point of contact for many of L3’s worldwide customers who require our repair and overhaul services. Many of our products support incredibly important missions, making the repair of downed equipment extremely important.”
Completing the job requires a tremendous amount of teamwork. Said Warner, “One of the things I love about the job is the team of talented individuals I work with. I enjoy being part of such a fantastic, talented and energetic team committed to providing the aerospace industry with some of the most technologically advanced products available.” As most people might think, a company such as L3 usually attracts individuals with an interest in aviation and aerospace. “The L3 team,” said Warner, “is comprised of many aviation-centric individuals who love the industry, who are committed to providing our industry with new tools for aviation safety, defense and training. There is nothing better than a great team to work with every day!”
As in most jobs, there are good aspects and challenging things. For Warner, some of the best include working with a diverse product line, servicing all makes and models of aircraft: from the classic Cessna 172, to the Airbus A350, to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. However, he can’t lie, “I love working with our products and the great people I interact with. But, having every other Friday off and being provided the opportunity to learn to fly for free isn’t too bad either!”
When asked about the challenges, Warner was very open, “Our customers demand perfection, and we deliver it. However, this does occasionally cause a ‘heavy’ amount of pressure. Topped with the fact we operate in an industry which operates 24/7 around the world, it can get pretty busy and hectic.” Additionally, with an industry so closely linked to the economy, there can be a number of ups and downs. Said Warner, “Sometimes there are reductions of force (lay-offs) as a result of uncontrolled events. In addition, it is incredibly competitive, due to performance and contract wins. Let’s be honest, if it was easy, everyone would do it!”
Even though Warner has entered the aviation workforce, his passion for aviation has not decreased. “I have a lot of great memories in aviation,” he said, “and I am sure there are plenty more to come!” Warner has been fortunate enough to represent a number of different companies at EAA Oshkosh, been responsible for the activation of new airport terminal operations, and has attended the World Aviation Training Symposium as a student while at WMU. All of which has built a foundation of fun that continues to produce. “My connections within aviation have helped me explore the world, make great friendships, while also creating many good memories. Most of which wouldn’t have occurred without my interest in the field.”
Looking toward the future, Warner has his sights on other opportunities and avenues within the industry – possibly pursuing options in aviation marketing, sales or operations at an airline-training academy, airline or large airport. While he looks forward, he also understands the necessity of promoting the present and supporting the past. As an alumnus of the Western Michigan University College of Aviation, Warner embraces his responsibility of giving back. “Aviation needs mentors, educators, and supporters for the next generation of aviation professionals.” he said. “If we don’t plant the seeds now, we will not have the workforce to cultivate later.”
His support for aviation is only paralleled by his support for his alma mater. Understanding the importance of brandishing positive attitudes toward WMU, Warner stated, “The more the WMU brand becomes known and recognized within the aviation industry, the better it is for our alumni, current students, and our program. Every time someone recognizes or acknowledges themselves as a member of the Bronco Aviation family, our ‘value’ increases as we represent ourselves as high-quality, highly competent aviation professionals. This not only helps our career progression, it also helps our fellow Broncos who will come after us.”
Beyond WMU, Warner has also dedicated himself to growing professionally within the industry. As a stanch member and supporter of the West Michigan Business Aviation Association (WMBAA), Warner is often seen representing the organization at various events like their annual golf outing and scholarship drives. Not only does this make good sense professionally, it also helps to increase awareness in other aviation avenues. “WMBAA does a lot of great things. In particular, it helps to promote alternative career choices for pilots, mechanics, and managers. Aviation has so many good ‘avenues’ to pursue, but it is our job to help educate people about those options. Through our efforts in WMBAA, we help individuals investigate the different paths within the industry, since the road one chooses can impact your satisfaction within the career significantly.”
While Mick Jagger may not have been able to find any satisfaction, this hasn’t been the case for Scott Warner. Following ones passion, pursuing a plan of action, and persevering through various challenges seem to be his battle cry. One could honestly say, these are “Warner’s Words of Wisdom.” Not only does he say them, he has also lives them.