As president of the Aircraft Electronics Association, Paula Derks presides over the international trade organization that provides regulatory representation, training and member services to nearly 1,300 general aviation electronics entities in 43 countries around the globe.
In coordination with the AEA board of directors, Derks’ position includes long-range planning and budgeting, representing the AEA at industry events, and ensuring the strategic objectives of the association are realized. She is the publisher of Avionics News, the association’s monthly magazine.
Derks received a Bachelor of Science in public relations and a minor in journalism from the University of Central Missouri. She began her career with the AEA as managing editor of Avionics News, and became AEA’s director of communications in 1990, before being named president in 1996.
Derks previously served as chairman of the board of trustees for the Aviation Accreditation Board International. She is a charter member of Women in Aviation, International and a member of the National Aeronautics Association. She is a member of the Aviation Advisory Council for the University of Central Missouri; chairman of the Friends of Lee’s Summit community activist group to promote the continued development of the municipal airport; and a board member of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council.
In October 2016, Derks was the first inductee into the University of Central Missouri Public Relations Hall of Fame, which honors alumni who support and participate in the affairs of the department and help mentor students. Derks also was named UCM’s Distinguished Alumna of the Year in 2004.
Derks resides in Lee’s Summit, Mo., with her husband, Bruce, and they have two grown children.
As executive vice president for the Aircraft Electronics Association, Debra McFarland manages and executes dozens of international events each year, including the AEA International Convention & Trade Show and the AEA Connect Conferences. She has been with the organization since it moved its headquarters to Independence, Mo., in 1977. Since that time, the organization’s membership has grown from 257 companies to nearly 1,300 worldwide.
McFarland manages the human resources and accounting functions for the AEA, and she works with the AEA board of directors on budget planning, long range financial goals and annual reviews.
With more than 30 years of experience with the AEA in various capacities, McFarland, a charter member of the Women in Aviation, International, also served on their board of directors for 17 years, 12 of which as chairman of the board. She is a member of the American Society of Association Executives, the Kansas City chapters of ASAE and MPI, and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events. She currently serves on IAEE's financial audit committee.
She resides in Independence, Mo., with her husband, Terry. Together, they have two adult daughters, Jennifer and Lauren.
Vice President of Government & Industry Affairs, AEA
Ric Peri, Vice President
Ric Peri has more than 45 years in aviation maintenance as a mechanic, instructor, writer, consultant and auditor. In his current role as vice president of government and industry affairs with the Aircraft Electronics Association, Peri advocates for the avionics and maintenance industries before the aviation authorities worldwide with a primary focus on the Americas, Europe and the South Pacific regions.
Peri has more than 20 years in association management and supports the membership through consultation and advocacy of aviation issues, with an emphasis on global maintenance, manufacturing and certification regulations. As an award-winning journalist, Peri has been communicating issues pertinent to the aviation industry since the mid-1980s in a wide range of aviation and engineering publications.
As an instructor, Peri has supported the aviation industry as adjunct professor at two universities and conducted organized training and education for the association’s membership. He also has been a guest speaker at several industry events worldwide.
Peri is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a United States Coast Guard veteran, having served in various maintenance and aircrew roles throughout his career.
Vice President of Member Programs & Education, AEA
As vice president of member programs and education for the Aircraft Electronics Association, Mike Adamson is responsible for AEA’s training and education initiatives delivered to technicians and small-business owners throughout the world. Since joining the association in 1999, Adamson has developed AEA’s extensive offering of online, classroom and regional training courses.
Adamson also serves as the executive director of the AEA Educational Foundation, which administers the largest scholarship program for aircraft and avionics maintenance technicians in the world. Through fundraising activities and key industry partnerships, the Foundation has given more than $1 million worth of scholarships to nearly 500 students since its inception.
Adamson has more than 20 years of experience in the aviation industry, including military, commercial, business and general aviation. An active member of several industry and academic advisory committees, Adamson also volunteers his time speaking to hundreds of future aviators at local and national aviation outreach initiatives each year.
After completing a tour in the U.S. Navy, Adamson earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation management from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree in business administration from Avila University in Kansas City, Mo.
He resides in Olathe, Kan., with his wife, Megan. They have a son, Nate, and a daughter, McKenna.
As vice president of member services for the Aircraft Electronics Association, Linda Adams works with AEA-member companies to implement a variety of membership benefits and programs. Adams manages sponsorship sales for the annual AEA International Convention & Trade Show.
After spending five years with the well-known Kansas City law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Adams joined the AEA staff in 1993. During her tenure, the association has experienced dramatic growth, and her duties and responsibilities have expanded as a result. She was promoted to her current position in December 2013.
Adams earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo.
She resides in Lee’s Summit, Mo., with her husband, Randy, and they have two grown children.
As director of information services for the Aircraft Electronics Association, Aaron Ward works with all departments and members to service their information needs. Ward manages the AEA website, servers, email, network, equipment for the AEA International Convention and Trade Show and Regional Meetings, video editing and production, mobile apps, as well as the association’s EEDirect members-only marketplace for buying, selling and comparing prices on thousands of parts.
Ward received a Bachelor of Science in business operations from DeVry University. He has more than 20 years of experience in information services ranging from support, development and management.
Before coming to the AEA in 2008, Ward worked more than seven years at Penton Media Inc., where he twice received the CEO Award of Excellence for increasing revenue and reducing costs as a digital products engineer. He also served in various positions for Applebee’s International, LabOne (now Quest Diagnostics) and Flightware Solutions.
Ward resides in Oak Grove, Mo., with his wife, Sherry. They have three grown daughters and have two sons, Matthew and Lukas.
As director of communications for the Aircraft Electronics Association, Geoff Hill serves as the editor of Avionics News magazine, a monthly publication of the AEA, and manages the organization’s communications efforts. He also is the editor for the AEA’s Pilot’s Guide to Avionics, a consumer’s directory chock-full of educational articles, timely information and data about the wonderful world of avionics technologies.
Hill joined the AEA staff in January 2011 and brings a unique blend of public relations, marketing and sales experience to the AEA. He managed the communications, media relations and marketing efforts for the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) intercollegiate athletics department for nine years after serving as public relations assistant for the Kansas City Royals baseball organization. He produced a variety of media guides and publications that earned conference, district and national recognition for outstanding quality during his tenure at UMKC.
Hill also spent seven years in private business as director of sales for Paradise Park Inc., a family entertainment center in Lee’s Summit, Mo. During his tenure, Paradise Park was named the Small Business of the Year by the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce and won the Fast Track Award from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, recognized as one of the fastest growing businesses in the state. Paradise Park also was honored with the 2004 Golden Token Award as the best new or renovated family entertainment center in the world, chosen from more than 20,000 facilities across the globe.
An engaged leader in the local community, Hill has served as vice chair for community development for the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce board of directors. He also is a member of the Lee’s Summit community branding task force and the Lee’s Summit Rotary Club.
Hill earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree in sports administration and facility management from Ohio University.
He and his wife, Rexanne, reside in Lee’s Summit, Mo., with their two daughters, Morgan and Reagan.
Jeff Kirchhoff serves as creative director for the Aircraft Electronics Association. He directs the creative design process for all AEA print materials, special projects, trade shows and events.
In addition, Kirchhoff serves a dual role as managing editor for Avionics News magazine and the Pilot’s Guide to Avionics.
He joined the AEA staff in 2008, bringing many years of reporting and photography experience working with a variety of newspapers and publications, including The Concordian and the Lee’s Summit Journal where he served as photo editor.
Kirchhoff majored in photography with an emphasis on business and communications at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo.
He resides in Pleasant Hill, Mo., with his wife, Monica, and their three daughters Kiahla, Emma and Amelia.
Director of Advertising, AEA & Avionics News MagazineContact
Lauren McFarland, Director
As director of advertising for the Aircraft Electronics Association, Lauren McFarland is responsible for advertising sales of Avionics News magazine, the association’s monthly publication, along with the annual Pilot’s Guide to Avionics publication and online advertising on the AEA’s website.
In addition, she manages accounts receivables for the organization and provides content for the AEA’s social media presence.
McFarland also manages the AEA Ambassador Program, which encourages stronger professional relationships between AEA repair station members and Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Offices. Since its inception, the AEA Ambassador Program has helped increase FAA personnel attendance at the AEA International Convention & Trade Show and other AEA events.
A member of Women in Aviation, International since 2010 and a current member of that organization’s board of directors, McFarland earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Missouri and resides in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
Katie Ryser serves as administrative assistant for the Aircraft Electronics Association. In addition, she is the circulation manager for Avionics News magazine, the association’s monthly publication, and the Pilot’s Guide to Avionics.
Prior to joining the AEA staff in November 2013, Ryser worked in law enforcement administration for more than five years.
Originally from West Virginia, she has an associate degree in theology. She plays the violin and teaches students from beginner to advanced levels.