NATA is to recognise Banyan Air Service president Don Campion as this year's NATA Distinguished Service Award honouree at its 18th Industry Excellence Awards Presentation luncheon in June, held in conjunction with the NATA 2019 Annual Meeting and Aviation Business Conference.
The Distinguished Service Award is given to an individual or organisation still active in general aviation on a regular, day-to-day basis, and recognises outstanding service and ongoing contributions to the industry. Campion's celebrated 40-year aviation business career is also hallmarked by his philanthropy and community service, extending beyond general aviation and his business locality. He has been a long-time member of NATA and previously served on its board of directors from 1999 to 2002.
“The association is happy to present Don with this year's Distinguished Service Award for his tremendous contributions to the general aviation industry. He has been a role model for many of us within aviation business and we applaud him for his dedication to giving back to his community,” says NATA president Gary Dempsey. “What I admire most about Don is his persistence, even early on when the odds seemed stacked against him. In my first few years running a large MRO in Tampa, Don spent time getting to know his fellow aviation brothers and sisters throughout Florida, always willing to share his knowledge as a mentor. He is a champion for state issues, joining the fight to get tax relief on labour. Don is a very effective leader and a gentleman, and he always has a smile and a giving, positive attitude.”
In 1979, Campion was contracted as a co-pilot for a small charter operation flying primarily from south Florida to the Bahamas. Realising an opportunity to provide aircraft maintenance in the region, Campion co-founded Banyan Air Service at Fort Lauderdale Executive airport (FXE) in Florida. Under his leadership, Banyan Air Service has grown from the one small hangar he ran with a friend and two employees, to a staff of over 190. The company has more than 400-based aircraft in a 24-hour complex that spans over 100 acres, including one million sq ft of office and hangar space. Last year, it announced it would provide FBO services for Sheltair's new 20-acre FXE Northside Hangar complex. Construction is currently underway on the $30 million development with ribbon-cutting ceremonies scheduled for the winter of 2019.
Banyan's technical divisions have received the FAA Diamond Award for training and the company is an FAA and EASA-approved repair station in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, and Venezuela. Banyan has been named one of the best places to work by the South Florida Business Journal, received recognition from the City of Fort Lauderdale and is consistently ranked by pilots as a top 10 US business aviation centre.
“Don leads not only a first-class quality operation at Banyan, but also one that is guided by his ongoing commitment to integrity, team work and giving back to his local and global communities, including his tireless efforts to restore medical service to a village in Nigeria, a project started by his parents nearly 70 years ago,” adds NATA board past chair and Pentastar Aviation president and CEO Greg Schmidt. “Raised by medical missionary parents, Don grew up in Nigeria, experiencing a rural environment where they installed their own electric generators, dug wells for water and built their own homes and furniture. His upbringing had a profound impact on his future community work and desire to give back. Don and his wife Sueanne are actively revitalising a small rural hospital in Egbe, Nigeria.” As Egbe Hospital's project leaders, the Campions recruit personnel, raise financial support, ship medical equipment and supplies and provide oversight to establish medical care in this region. Over the years, Banyan Air Service has also provided significant resources and assistance for natural disaster relief in Florida and nearby areas.
Campion is currently president of the Florida Executive airport association and a long-time member of the FBO #1 20 Group, an association of independently-owned aviation services company peers. In June 2009 he was inducted into the Florida Aviation Trades Association Entrepreneurial Excellence Hall of Fame. Other recent accolades include the FXE Distinguished Service Award (2019), FXE Achievements in Community Excellence Award (2018), Excalibur Award (2011), International Business Award from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce and Junior Achievement South Florida Business Hall of Fame Laureate (2011). He also participated on the Everglades University Aviation Program Advisory Committee. Campion attended Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology, a four-year aviation programme, which included a commercial, multi-engine pilot's license followed by one year of aircraft maintenance at Centennial College.