The NBAA recently presented Bombardier chief of industry affairs Leo Knaapen with its Silk Scarf Award for his decades of leadership and steadfast commitment to safety, sustainability, international operations and other industry priorities.
“For more than three decades, Leo has been a constant, tireless and effective champion for business aviation throughout the world,” says president and CEO Ed Bolen. “As a result, we are a better, stronger, safer, more sustainable and more cohesive industry.”
Knaapen has long been a key supporter and previously served as an advisory council member for Bombardier Safety Standdown, a pioneering programme that has set the standard for elevating safety, including through the careful examination of real-world accident scenarios, with a focus on identifying root causes to prevent future incidents. He helped form what would become the Business Aviation Coalition for Sustainability, setting and driving the coalition's goals and work, including its focus on a commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. He has supported business aviation at a global level through his contributions to the work of the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), in coordination with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Knaapen embarked on his career in aerospace in 1985 when he joined Pratt & Whitney Canada. In 1989 he began his 33 year tenure at Bombardier and in 1992 became the spokesman for the Canadian manufacturer's Canadair division.
From 1997-2007, Knaapen was responsible for media and public relations at Bombardier Business Aircraft, a role that encompassed communications for the company's entire business aviation portfolio. This included the Challenger, Global and Learjet business jets, the Bombardier pre-owned fleet, Skyjet International charter operations, special mission aircraft and customer support and services.
In 2007, Knaapen established the industry affairs function at Bombardier, a position that has been instrumental in heightening the company's profile within the global aviation industry. In this role, he built on his reputation as a stalwart advocate for the business aviation community and has become a champion of issues critical to aviation's future.
Knaapen's dedication to business aviation extends beyond Bombardier. He previously served as chair of the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Business Aviation Association, where he remains a committee member, and he was engaged in the development of the safety management systems involving design and manufacturing for the International Civil Aviation Organisation's Annex 19. Knaapen serves on NBAA's advisory council; he also serves on the governing council for IBAC.
“Leo has always put the good of the industry first and demanded the same from everyone else,” adds Bolen. “He has always found a way to bring out our best.”