Flight Plan Image.jpg

A Flight Plan To Success. CRM Outside The Cockpit.

Operating the business jet or turboprop which you were hired to fly is certainly one of the more enjoyable parts of a Chief Pilot’s or Director of Aviation’s job. But there are other aspects to these positions that can pose more challenging than even maneuvering around thunder storms or working through unexpected and complex maintenance situations. Yet dealing effectively with those additional issues can also yield substantially greater success for you and your operation.

Employ cockpit resource management outside of the cockpit. Identify the specific tasks you need to accomplish and the resources – internal and external – required for completion.

Regardless of a flight department’s size or longevity, inherent in virtually all corporate flight operations are four primary areas that require intense focus and precise management:

1. Corporate alignment

2. Market valuation

3. Fleet planning

4. Forecasting

Most business aviation managers have the background, experience, and training to function well in these areas. However, there is one element that nearly everyone lacks: as much time and as many human resources you think you need, or would like to have, in order to do all of these things as well as you fly.

So what should a prudent aviation professional do? Simple – employ cockpit resource management outside of the cockpit to accomplish time-consuming and labor-intensive projects. Identify the specific tasks you need to accomplish, the time frame and deadlines for those items, and all the resources, internal and external, required to accomplish the job(s).

Assuring your flight department is aligned with senior management requirements can be a full time occupation in and of itself, if you let it. While that process is the foundation for everything else, there is no reason it should be all-consuming. Since this subject is really the basis for all other decisions and operations, we’ll start here. Market Valuation, Fleet Planning and Forecasting will be covered throughout 2015.

Before proceeding further, it would be worthwhile to construct the scenario as to THE REASON a flight department exists. The one and only valid basis for operating corporate aircraft is to create a competitive advantage for an organization by providing a means of increasing efficiency to employees at as many levels as possible within that entity. In other words, to state the obvious, flight departments grow when companies grow, and flight departments shrink when companies shrink.

That having been said, here is a news flash for you: By virtually every business school measure, individuals and companies operating business aircraft substantially outperform those who do not. Those performance measures include Return on Equity, and its little brothers Return on Assets, Sales per Employee, Gross Revenue, Net Profit, and virtually any other relevant metric. Thus, it is no wonder that the global business jet fleet today numbers approximately 20,000 aircraft. Now you need to take that macro level and sh

From the above indicators, it is not a difficult leap to establish the drivers of flight department growth. First is corporate profit. Second is growth, in four key areas:

Users / Frequency

Passenger satisfaction

Employee satisfaction

Management satisfaction

So how do you ensure that your efforts support revenue enhancement and expense reduction? That can only occur by making certain your flight department – personnel, equipment, processes, and procedures – deliver the service and value that senior managers and top executives want and need. Further, by ascertaining exactly what those needs and perceptions are, and then verifying those conclusions, your plans and proposals have the advantage of being developed on a sound and solid knowledge base.

Failure to do so can create an adverse outcome. More than one flight department has received a real shock when notification came the operations are ceasing, all aircraft were to be sold, and that employees would be given outplacement assistance to support them in their search for new jobs.

Obtaining, recording, tracking and analyzing data are certainly time consuming, painful and tedious tasks. This situation does not necessarily lend itself to rapid executive communications. But, the fact is, when the Chairman asks a question, he or she really wants the information, and really wants it right now.

The takeaway here is this: all the support, information and assistance that anyone could ever desire really is available from any number of sources. When undertaking major projects such as a corporate alignment study, which usually is something only done by aviation managers and senior executives on occasion, there is one basic first step. Understand not only what you know, but, even more importantly, what, and what all, you may not know. It is also very important to realize that a well prepared and comprehensive corporate alignment study will pay significant dividends to the entire organization, not to just the aviation function.

So what next? Start with an honest assessment of your resources. Determine the amount of time that you can allocate to this project. What personnel support is available? Does the necessary data exist, and is it easily accessible? How critical is the third party objectivity that outside experts can provide? What data, software, and industry / product / market knowledge do the external partners possess that can prove valuable? What knowledge does an expert third party have regarding this particular effort that you may not? Which questions do external resources know to ask, and how to ask them?

Start with an honest assessment of your resources. What can and should be done internally. What value do external partners provide? How critical is outside expert validation?

Bringing recognized and highly-regarded professionals alongside is one best, fastest and easiest means to complete a corporate alignment analysis, develop sound and effective strategies, and then implement specific, actionable tactics. But remain mindful of one caveat. Select only those individuals and teams who possess both the specific expertise you need, as well as the broad industry overview so important to keeping everything in the proper and relevant context.

To find these knowledgeable and capable individuals requires a bit of homework, but nothing that is overwhelming. Start with your peers at other flight departments. Talk to contacts at industry associations. Connect with past supervisors, colleagues and subordinates. Find out not only with whom these people have had experience, but what that experience was. Ask about the value their external partners delivered. Find out about their culture and work style. Prior to ever connecting prospective partners, create a profile of what you are expecting them to be and be like. Then make your own assessment as you begin determining the fit.

Some specific criteria would include maturity, relevant experience, and executive communication capabilities. Are they able to meet, gain the confidence of, and obtain the necessary data and information from your top managers? Does their repertoire include the right resources and tools to design and execute research and data collection? Do they know the right questions to ask – and, equally importantly, when to ask them?

Can they provide the necessary and meaningful analysis? How many times and to who have they provided assistance? Were those previous clients similar in operation and culture to you and your flight department? Do these prospective partners have a well-defined process? Is it rigorous and repeatable? Does it make sense? Is it complete and inclusive without being cumbersome?

When you have answered these questions to your satisfaction, and the chemistry and culture align, go forward with vigor and confidence. Once you have selected the most professional and capable partner, define the goal, work process, deliverables and timeframe. But don’t feel you have to operate in a vacuum. Utilize their experience and expertise to provide a fuller measure and broader overview.

Finally, make certain you have not only precisely defined deliverables from your partner but also a complete understanding and buy-in from your executives. Then get set to demonstrate the outstanding value you and your flight department bring. Do this and they won’t leave home without you.