Hitting the Symposium slopes: Connico’s insights from the PDC Symposium in Salt Lake City

Hosted by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and the Airport Consultant Council (ACC), the Airports Planning, Design & Construction (PDC) Symposium is one of the largest and most anticipated aviation events of the year. Known as the preeminent technical event of the year, attendees are given the opportunity to learn about the latest developments and discuss pressing topics in the aviation industry.

Several members of the Connico team traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, in March for the valuable opportunity to gather with almost 2,000 of our friends and colleagues and discuss what’s new in aviation. As a Bronze sponsor of this year’s event and once again supporting the Young Professional initiatives, Connico was thrilled to play a large part in this year’s festivities.

Knowing of all the insightful information to come and wanting to share the knowledge with those who could not make it to the PDC Symposium this year, the Connico team made plenty of room in their suitcases for some notebooks and pens to provide a full recap of the event! Continue reading for insights, lessons learned, and top takeaways from Mihail Risteski (Senior Project Specialist), Bryan Hafertepe (Associate Principal), Fabian Guevara (Analyst I), Sri Kumar (President and CEO), David Hunley (Vice President and CDO), Ramon Valdez (Analyst II), Caleb Claxton (Analyst III), and David Yi (Analyst II).

Explore every option to ensure success
I’m delighted to share that my first experience at the PDC Symposium was both enlightening and enjoyable. The well-organized event contained a range of topics, encompassing both technical aspects and futuristic visions of the aviation industry. Additionally, the attendees were friendly and open to sharing their expertise and creating an environment conducive to learning.

One discussion that particularly caught my attention was about the application of Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) contracts in the aviation sector. The panel highlighted the advantages of GMP contracts, such as cost control, risk allocation, transparency, and enhanced collaboration, all of which contribute to the successful completion of projects. The panel also shed light on the challenges associated with GMP contracts, such as the timing of contract signing, the level of design detail, and the clarity of contract documentation. It was refreshing to see the aviation industry’s openness to exploring different tools and methodologies, and while there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for every project, initiating discussions about the various options available is a significant step in the right direction.

Mihail Risteski, Senior Project Specialist

Initiate tough conversations to keep your workers safe
One of my most impactful and important findings at the PDC Symposium was the understanding that our entire industry is struggling with workload and timeline demands. This is due to the great volume of large-scope projects traversing through the aviation industry thanks to airline expansion and recent Federal grant dollars. It’s a critical topic that needs to be discussed, and the conversation is just getting started. I’m looking forward to further exploring how we can all make the necessary adjustments to ensure that quality work is being produced on all fronts while protecting those doing the work.

Bryan Hafertepe, Associate Principal

Sharpen your collaboration skills by saying “yes” to networking opportunities
My favorite moment from the PDC Symposium was the invaluable networking opportunity provided during the Young Professionals scavenger hunt. I enjoyed meeting fellow young professionals in aviation, and working with my team not only allowed us to showcase our incredible teamwork but also highlighted the importance of collaboration and strategic planning in our industry.

Fabian Guevara, Analyst I

Secure a successful future for aviation by putting humans first
This year’s PDC Symposium put a spotlight on the complexities of aviation projects in today’s world. Back in the day, we would receive a set of drawings and be asked to quantify what was represented on them. Now, we receive a cellphone photo of a sketch on a napkin and are asked to estimate a multi-million dollar terminal program based on that single document. The increase in complexity also means we’re working with more team members than ever, and this opens up the need for greatly increased communication frequency and clarity.

Speaking to Bryan’s point, there is an attitude that the industry will “just get things done,” and this is an extremely dangerous mentality to have. While there’s acknowledgment that it is an overbearing sentiment that’s straining firms to their limits, there is very little pushback on the idea itself. Connico is leading the charge on eliminating this unsafe mentality, and while it’s jarring for those who have seen this philosophy be the standard for a long time, the recent pilot errors are stark evidence of what happens when the “we’ll work through it” mentality prevails. We must start having discussions about putting humans first at work.

Sri Kumar, President and CEO

Invest your time and energy into future generations
White attending the PDC Symposium, I was given the opportunity to participate in the annual Young Professionals scavenger hunt. As a mystery guest, the young professionals were tasked with finding me at the conference by only using a few clues about my career. Upon the conclusion of the scavenger hunt, I had the chance to meet several of these inspiring professionals and answer their important questions, offer them advice, and share ways to help them advance their own careers. In the twilight of my professional life, I have grown more and more fond of the opportunities that allow me to engage with the future leaders of aviation, and this conference made me even more confident about the future of the industry!

David Hunley, Vice President and CDO

Trust and invest in your young professionals
One of my favorite parts of this year’s Symposium was the ability to network with other young professionals in the aviation industry. Seeing that there will be a lot of new work coming in around the country, it was interesting to meet a new generation of young professionals and talk about the different projects we’re all currently working on or preparing to assist with. It was also great to see so many companies investing in their YP employees so they can experience these types of conferences and continue to learn and grow. Overall, it was a great opportunity to network with people in the industry and see the latest growth firsthand.

Ramon Valdez, Analyst II

Engage in the unknown with curiosity, not fear
At the PDC Symposium, I was most interested in the conversations about AI and how owners and engineers in the aviation industry are utilizing it. Engineers shared ways they’ve been using it to streamline work, and owners shared how they are implementing their own regulations to keep their airports safe. We’re living through a very interesting and pivotal time in history, and it’s very intriguing to imagine what the workplace (and world) will look like 10 years from now due to new advances like AI.

Also, something I took away from the conference was how much Connico has supported me in expanding my network over the past 6 years. I’ve been to many industry events, and at the PDC Symposium, I realized how many people I now know in the industry. I’m very grateful for the many ways Connico has pushed me to grow professionally.

Caleb Claxton, Analyst III

Kickstart your industry network to set yourself up for success
I had an amazing experience at the PDC Symposium, and it was my first time attending an aviation industry conference. It was nice to meet so many other first-timers through the Young Professionals events and to learn about the great impact Connico has had through the networks David, Connie, and Sri have built over the years. Seeing that Connico is where we are today because of our quality of work and the reputation we have in the industry, one of my biggest takeaways was the importance of networking. Returning from the conference, I’m optimistic about the opportunities in the aviation industry, and it doesn’t look like it will be slowing down anytime soon!

David Yi, Analyst II