Meet AeroGuard Leadership Team
Chief Executive Officer
Joel Davidson is the Chief Executive Officer at AeroGuard. In this role, Joel leads the strategic direction and oversees all business and operations for AeroGuard.
Joel has over 30 years of experience as a CEO and executive leader spanning a number of consumer services and technology businesses. Prior to AeroGuard, Joel was the Chairman, Founder, and CEO of Medallion Analytics, a web-based SaaS platform that connected the mortgage industry as well as the President and CEO of NextAction, a venture-backed digital advertising technology company. Before those two endeavors, Joel had a long and distinguished career as a senior executive leading growth initiatives at global companies like AOL, Rogers Communications, the largest telecommunications company in Canada, the H. J. Heinz Company, and the Campbell Soup Company. Joel began his career at the world-renowned consulting organization, Bain & Company, and he graduated First in his MBA Class at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Joel’s mission is to transform AeroGuard’s into a global leader in superior Aviation training and safety practices. Joel has an unending passion for the Aviation industry, AeroGuard’s tremendous employees and students, and the incredible relationship that AeroGuard has with its close business partner, SkyWest Airlines. Joel’s commitment to AeroGuard’s employees and airline customers is to scour the globe to recruit and develop the world’s best students and train them to become exemplary pilots. In Joel’s words, at AeroGuard, “We Make Awesome Pilots!“
Chief Financial Officer
Adrian joined AeroGuard in 2016 as the Chief Financial Officer.
Adrian has more than 15 years’ experience in senior leadership and financial roles. He spent a large part of his career working in senior finance capacity roles in Europe, Asia and the US for IG Design Group, one of the world’s largest greeting and stationery companies. Adrian excels at bridging the gap between finance and business operations to drive improvements and efficiencies in organizational performance.
In addition to being responsible for the financial reporting and planning for AeroGuard, Adrian also oversees all flight training operations to AeroGuard’s Chinese customers and all Ground School Academic Training. Having worked across the globe, Adrian particularly enjoys the interactions with the students at AeroGuard who come from such a wide range of geographic backgrounds and understanding their particular cultures.
Adrian was able to successfully secure financing partners for AeroGuard’s domestic training program upon his arrival at AeroGuard. This enables students to obtain competitive financing options to finance their flight training while deferring repayments until after training is completed, thereby allowing students to focus 100% on their training performance.
Adrian currently holds a Masters in Accounting, is an International Associate of the CPA and a Chartered Management Accountant. Adrian is also a member of the Communications Committee of the Arizona Chapter of Financial Executives International.
VP International Business Development
Karen Hillyard has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. She has previously worked with companies such as Boeing, Raytheon, Panasonic Avionics and L3 Technologies. Karen comes with a wealth of knowledge in the aerospace/defense industry and experience having held Executive positions in business development, marketing, and strategic alliances. Karen also held Executive roles in the entertainment business leading corporate alliance organizations at Walt Disney Company and other start-up projects involving fun, family experiences.
Currently, Karen works with AeroGuard to extend the ab initio training programs in international business. She engages with global airlines, universities, and in-country reps to train international students at AeroGuard. She continues to secure new business from several entities in South Korea and has added in-country representatives in South East Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Having grown up in the aerospace industry and traveled extensively her whole life, Karen has always been passionate about flying. Her favorite thing about AeroGuard is being a part of building a solid foundation for millennials to become outstanding commercial pilots. Additionally, she greatly enjoys working with her partners to help solve the global pilot shortage and growing AeroGuard’s business.
VP Supply Chain & Maintenance
Richard Ham has over 20 years of experience with a career in supply chain. He has previously served as a Materials and Supply Chain Manager for manufacturing, research, reseller, and renewable energy companies. Originally from Alabama he enjoys scuba diving and hiking trips.
In 2009 Richard joined AeroGuard. Over the years he has successfully reduced costs, established supply chain partnerships, and developed key analytics to better control, forecast, and identify supply chain challenges and opportunities. Richard was promoted to VP Supply Chain and Maintenance in 2016 and is responsible for the company supply chains, as well as maintenance, scheduling, dispatch, facilities, transportation, immigration, records, student services, and high performance.
“I enjoy the diversity of challenges at Aeroguard. Working typical supply chain issues and opportunities is only part of a day. Developing and implementing process and data driven changes in multiple departments has been a rewarding and challenging process.“
Sr Director of Training for Chinese
Jay Meade originally started at AeroGuard in 2006 as a pilot in training. He began training other students in 2008 after completing his own training. Having worked his way up through levels of management he is now the Director of Training and Flight Operations for the Chinese program.
Jay has helped to create and refine a training program that consistently and safely exceeds customers expectations for safe flight training. He enjoys working with AeroGuard knowing they are industry leaders in transforming young pilots into fully developed professionals.
At AeroGuard Jay ensures that the program meets the needs of their students in areas of safety, regulatory compliance, and professional development. He is responsible for all communication with AeroGuard’s Chinese partners, adherence to budget, and training timelines.
Jay enjoys the variety of challenges that continually present themselves and being able to coordinate creative solutions for the students with a team of co-workers. More than anything he enjoys watching each of the students transform into professionals.
Chief Instructor, East Asia/Domestic Programs
Gene Firestine began his flight career in 2010 after winning a raffle ticket to a free intro flight training. Gene knew that to make aviation his career he needed to dedicate to flight training full time from a “pay as you go“ program. After finishing all of his certifications in 2011 he applied to be a Flight Instructor with AeroGuard for the year of 2012.
Gene first began training Chinese students through PPL, IR, and CPLME. After completing two groups of training he was transferred to the domestic side of training. After becoming Training Manager for the Chinese Program Gene was able to travel to China and teach the pre-arrival ground school in Xiamen and Nanjing, China. In 2016 he received his CE-500 SIC type rating and completed his ATP Checkride.
In November 2016, Gene became the Director of Training for South East Asia and Domestic Programs. Gene went on to become the Director of Training and Flight Operations and passed the Chief Instructor Proficiency Checks for Vietnamese, Korean, South Mountain High School, and Liberty Programs. Gene has also received the Master WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program through the FAA Safety Team.
Gene enjoys working with AeroGuard because it gives him the ability to mentor Flight Instructors and Managers, travel to different countries to build relationships with partners, and lead a group of personnel to the ultimate goal of creating safe, professional, and proficient pilots.
Director of Pilot Development
Eric Noel began his career in aviation in March of 2005. Once he completed his training program Eric became a full time instructor. Over the years he was able to work for a multitude of different schools and commercial operations in many roles. Each of these opportunities allowed him to acquire new knowledge and skills.
Throughout his experience Eric had produced many FAA approved ground and flight courses, spent thousands of hours training students and instructors, and experience flight operations throughout the United States and China.
Currently the Director of Pilot Development Eric is involved in improving and expanding AeroGuard’s partnership with SkyWest Airlines. In the United States there is significant demand from the airlines for qualified pilots. Eric works to improve the training programs and assist individuals in finding the right path into a career as a pilot.
Eric tells everyone he is “livin’ the dream“ and does not have a sarcastic note to it. While his role presents challenges he thrives in the dynamic environment that requires him to develop innovative solutions. Each day he is able to engineer these solutions and gain more experience.