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As a Board, and also individually as a Director, effectively governing flight operations should be considered a significant responsibility. Jack Olcott asks whether you know enough about the person you have installed to manage the Flight Department.

AvBuyer   |   31st January 2010
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Who’s Your Chief Pilot?
As a Board, and also individually as a Director, effectively governing flight operations should be considered a significant responsibility. Jack Olcott asks whether you know enough about the person you have installed to manage the Flight Department.

Ask yourself the following key questions with regard to the Flight Operations of your company:

• Do you know who runs your company’s flight operations—his or her name, the person’s credentials, employment history and propensity for risk?

• Are you aware of the regulatory environment the Chief Pilot or Aviation Director is obliged to follow, including the strengths and limitations of those regulations?

• Do you appreciate the role that culture plays in safety?

• Does the Board have a process for monitoring the department’s adherence to appropriate protocols?

Collectively as a Board and individually as a Director, the governance of flight operations is a vital responsibility, and it cannot be ignored or delegated to others. Management authorities can be assigned to flight department personnel, but responsibility for the scope and efficacy of aviation policy rests with the Board and its Directors.

Your company’s most important assets—its leadership personnel—are passengers on the company aircraft, so it is fundamentally important that you and your fellow Directors know who is implementing flight policy.

Transportation via business jets piloted by a two-person crew of salaried aviators is impressively safe—on a par with the largest airlines, and exceeding the safety record of many regional and commuter air carriers. In terms of accidents causing death or serious injury, Business Aviation has an outstanding record.

Considering the safety statistics of Business Aviation, it is understandable if you might take safety for granted—BUT that would be a huge mistake.

While the regulatory structure for aviation differs among countries, the Federal Aviation Regulations—known in the trade as FARs—have been used as a reference for the rules established in other jurisdictions throughout the globe.

The nature of aviation worldwide, however, is such that the strictest regulations apply to commercial operations in large aircraft; the regulations for private operators such as your company’s flight department are purposely less stringent. The major airlines operate in accordance with FAR 121 or its equivalent (known in Europe as JAR Ops 1).

In the USA, charter companies and smaller commuter air carriers fly in accordance with FAR 135, which is similar to the protocols established for the largest airlines but are modified to account for the lesser resources of commuters and charter operators. Europe does not have a separate regulation for smaller commercial operations. Aircraft that are not flown for hire (i.e., not available to the public on a fee basis) operate under FAR 91 (JAR Ops 2 in Europe).

(Note: in the USA fractionally-owned aircraft, which are deemed not commercial, operate under FAR 91K, which retains the aspects of Part 91 related to private flying, but has been modified to include many of the safety provisions of FAR 135).

The time a crew is allowed to operate an aircraft is an example of how safety standards differ among regulations. Because fatigue is recognized as a factor in accident prevention, FAR 121 and its non-US equivalents set strict limits to the hours a crew can operate an aircraft; FAR 91 has no such limits.

Other examples exist, such as the weather minimums below which operators subject to FAR 121 or 135 many not operate. FAR 91 has considerably relaxed limits.

The diminishing nature of government oversight for private operators is significant for Directors. They cannot assume that a set of regulations or a government watchdog is the reason Business Aviation has such an outstanding safety record. Business Aviation is safe because professional aviators and aviation department managers adhere to standards often set by peer groups, such as the International Business Aviation Council, originators of International Standard—Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO).

While protocols such as IS-BAO set the bar for operations and standard operating procedures, implementation rests with the person heading the flight department—someone usually holding the title of ‘Chief Pilot’ or ‘Aviation Director’.

In practice, the safety environment of your company’s flight activities is dependent on his or her leadership, propensity for risk and dedication to policy. It is therefore the Board’s responsibility to set the overall policy for the flight department, and that policy must clearly emphasize that safety of personnel is Priority Number One.

Safety policy must be vetted by the Board and fully supported by the company’s Chairman. It is essential that Directors recognize, however, that implementation of aviation policy depends upon the character of the Chief Pilot/Aviation Director. With this in mind, what do you know about that person?

Read more about: Management | Pilot

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