Acro Tag

Bob Ponti Q&A

Bob Ponti with template

Bob Ponti was born close to Heathrow Airport and still lives near there today – so it’s no surprise that he loves absolutely everything about the aerospace industry. Well, you’d have to love it wouldn’t you, to have remained in the sector in one guise or another for as long as Bob has?

More than 55 years of working in aircraft engineering and interiors and he’s still going strong. He is Acro’s sales consultant in the Middle East and works with its team out there to introduce the Middle Eastern market to the reliability, durability and sustainability of Acro’s range of seats.  

In this instalment of our ongoing Q&A series, we’ve been chatting to Bob about how he came to work for Acro, what he loves about the company and the industry as a whole —as well as his obsession with motorised things.  

Bob, you’ve worked in the industry for a long time, can you tell us about your work background?

I joined BEA (a forerunner of British Airways) two weeks after my 16th birthday as an Engineering Technician Apprentice. After three years in the job, I gained a scholarship to study Airline Engineering at City University London, where I eventually gained a BSc Engineering degree. I worked for British Airways in Engineering for 14 years in total and ended up as a Senior Development Engineer, responsible for landing gears. I left British Airways to join BF Goodrich as Sales Manager for their Aviation Division looking after Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

I learned a lot there and so, after six years I set up my own consultancy business and continued to work for BF Goodrich as a consultant for another 19 years. This also gave me the freedom to consult for other aerospace companies in the past, such as Michelin, Lucas, Saint Gobain, BE Aerospace, Honeywell, Meggit, to name but a few, and last year I started working with Acro. I lived in the Middle East for 23 years and only returned to the UK recently.

You’ve spent a lot of your career in the Middle East, what was your biggest take away from working in that region?

The Middle East aviation industry is a melting pot of so many nationalities who come to the Middle East for work. Job security is really important to these people and leads to low staff turnover within the industry. That lower staff turnover in turn means that as a sales consultant you can build solid and long-lasting business relationships and friendships that develop over many years, and with people from many different cultures.

Essentially, people buy from people and, in the aviation industry like many other sectors, it’s all about the person you are buying a product from and having trust in those relationships you build — so that has been key for me and my work in the Middle East. But the most important thing I have learned in all my years there is tolerance.

What do you love about working in the aerospace industry and aircraft interiors, in particular?

Aeroplanes are magical things. Once you know how they work, they become even more magical — I also love anything mechanical, boats, cars, anything. I’m a born engineer and so it all fascinates me.

How did you come to work with Acro?

I’ve worked with a few of Acro’s senior leadership team before, namely CEO Neil Cairns and Tom Plant, Acro’s Executive Chairman. So, I knew it had a great team behind it and so was keen to join the team.

I am really enjoying working with a small company, after working for such large corporate clients in the past. It’s refreshing to consult for a smaller company that is dedicated to the products it is manufacturing and is doing it so well.

Also, the fact that the team here comes from many other industries and haven’t always worked in aviation gives it a different feel, I think. The aviation sector very much as its own quirks and so to have such a diverse team at Acro does make a difference to the way it works, which I like.

The seats are lightweight, durable and sustainable, all of the things that airlines are looking for in a seating product these days, so it’s been great to go out and talk to airline representatives, some of whom I have known for decades, about Acro and its new and concept products.

You’ve been described as a legend in the aircraft interiors industry, why do you think that is and how does it make you feel?

A legend, really? Well, that’s very flattering but it’s probably because I am still surviving after 58 years in the industry. But it does makes me feel old as I have been around the block a bit in this sector – but I am still enjoying it and it’s great working with Acro introducing their seats to new customers in the Middle East.

But there is a saying that sprung to mind when you asked me this — Never criticise a man unless you have walked a mile in his shoes, once you are a mile away you can call him what you like, as he will not hear you and — you will have his shoes.

So, legend I’m not sure about, I’d rather call it very experienced.

What do you enjoy doing when not telling the world about Acro’s amazing seats?

I am quite a busy man as I have four children and four grandchildren, so I don’t have much time away from work and home, but when I do it’s all about cars or boats.

I also have a small 21-foot-long boat that I love to sail up and down the river which we are luckily enough to live next to. I have a beautiful view out of my office window of that river and my lovely old boat.