Paula Kraft is founder of DaVinci Inflight Training Institute, dedicated to delivering highly skilled and versatile crewmembers for the business aviation industry, using very hands-on, interactive approach.

How did you get into the aviation industry?

It was quite by accident. I was the in-house caterer for Macy’s Food Cellar and was asked to provide a picnic meal for a concert in the park. The client liked the meal so much that his assistant was tasked to get in touch with me to see if I had an interest in providing food to the executive dining room. I made a presentation that same week and after doing so was asked by one of the executives if I would be interested in catering for their aircraft. Of course I said yes, and made another presentation to their flight department later that same week. I was so proud of our picnic packaging that I delivered the samples for the flight department tasting in those same boxes. Much to my surprise, they didn’t fit through the aircraft door, much less in the galley. At that time the flight department manager said they would work with me and teach me what was expected in aviation catering. I was fortunate that the entire team mentored me and taught me everything I needed to know. Shortly after, the local flight department executives were invited to attend a special event and asked me to cater the flights. Their passengers consisted of executives from other flight departments. Upon their return, every one of the guests called me to cater for their aircraft. It wasn’t long before I decided I would only do aviation catering.

Can you tell us about your career so far?

I have been truly blessed when it comes to career and family. I have never worked a day in my life – because I am living my passion. I get up excited as I face each new day, I see the positive in people and events. My passion and dreams always drive me forward. My heart breaks for people when I hear them say they dread going to work – how horrible for them to spend most of their life being miserable. I find that being positive, looking for and finding the good in people makes me happy. I love to share and give of my time and myself. I jump through open doors just because they are open, and I can imagine all the great things I will encounter on the other side. At times, I ask myself: “What have I done?” and I ask myself: “Am I dreaming too big?” But I have never regretted my decisions. I take chances knowing that if it is meant to be, it will happen.

Why did you create DaVinci Inflight Training Institute?

I wanted to make a change in my industry. For years, I have been approached to help corporate flight attendants improve their skill set, related to catering, planning, organising, and presentation. Frequently I was asked to assist them solve catering problems as well as staffing concerns. I heard over and over from lead flight attendants wishing someone was capable to train the complete job of a corporate flight attendant. They found it difficult to hire a professional who knew the job and all that it entailed.

What is your role and who are some of your other partners?

I consider myself the visionary for DaVinci. I have a dream of what we can accomplish – not alone, but as a team of experts. Through my travels, I have met numerous people that are revolutionising the aviation industry in one way or another. If you are lucky enough to attend industry conferences and travel, you may have the opportunity to meet and learn from these experts. However, the majority of people aren’t that fortunate. I wanted to create a school – not a training centre, but an educational facility. I want to raise the flight attendant/cabin crew/third crew member to be considered a highly trained professional that is respected for all that he or she must achieve on a daily basis. It is their expertise and training that keep passengers and crew healthy, balance their diets with menu planning, as well as providing reduced risk of food illness by recognising potential risks and properly mitigating them. All this has to be done while consistently providing nurturing services to passengers and crew. Flight attendants must be ready in an instant to change roles into an evacuation specialist or medical assistant when needed. DaVinci teaches this by using all our senses and experiences. The classes are all interactive. Each student touches and feels the equipment they will use when on the aircraft. They taste and understand what flavours shift when at altitude. We share the experience of what they do for others, and we do for them. If they can experience it, they understand the reasoning behind why something is done and asked of them. Hopefully, we teach them to have passion for their career path. It is so much more than a job.

What do you enjoy most?

I love what I do, and I do not get tired or bored with my work. I am energised each day at the thought of sharing skills and techniques with our students. I learn something with every day that passes from my students – it is totally awesome. I love to be challenged when I teach. I love to help our students feel that they can do it, that the skills they are working on are not out of reach. And most of all, I love sharing my joy.

What is your biggest challenge?

There are only 24h in a day.

What does the next 12 months hold for DaVinci?

Our subject matter expert number is increasing, and our class size is growing every day. We have added additional aircraft trainers for service training. DaVinci plans to offer new classes on various topics with our new subject matter experts. We celebrated the grand opening in January 2018 of our Fort Lauderdale, Florida, facility, and have begun a major expansion on the site that will double the size of our school. As a global community, we need to understand the cultural differences and protocol as we interact across countries’ borders. Our clients will soon be introduced to classes designed for pilots, flight department managers, and chief executives as well.

* This blog post first appeared on www.flightglobal.com

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