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Business Aviation & The Boardroom - Reporting Procedures for Business Aviation

Having your Business Aviation services reporting to the wrong position can cripple performance and raise your operational risks. Using the Goldilocks analytical model- Pete Agur explains his point.

Pete Agur   |   1st March 2012
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Pete Agur Pete Agur

Peter Agur Jr. is Chairman and Founder of VanAllen - a business aviation consultancy firm with...
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Reporting Procedures For Business Aviation Leaders
Having your Business Aviation services reporting to the wrong position can cripple performance and raise your operational risks. Using the Goldilocks analytical model- Pete Agur explains his point.

Reporting directly to the CEO can be a setup for failure. Most Business Aviation services create their greatest value by providing time-place mobility for top executives. Some CEOs- particularly those responsible for smaller enterprises- opt to have Business Aviation report directly to them - after all- the CEO may be the most frequent user of aviation services.

Additionally- the CEO may want to meter aircraft use personally. However- the drawbacks of having Business Aviation report directly to the CEO can be significant. Many aviation department leaders look for- and need mentoring.

The CEO rarely has time to act as a mentor to an operational manager. Business Aviation is very complex and has unique regulatory- taxation- financial- legal and Human Resource issues. Overseeing and dealing with these areas on an operational level is well below the pay grade and availability of most CEOs.

Even more importantly- the CEO should be the company’s Chief Safety Officer. As such he or she should be the arbiter of policies and conflicts that affect safety. But- if the CEO is the point of challenge there may be no point of appeal for corrective support. This can make resolving the issue essentially impossible for the aviation manager.

Reporting too low can also lead to failure. Very large companies tend to have very robust and well-established administrative systems and processes. They are tempted to position aviation as the responsibility of a mid-level manager. There can be significant pitfalls with placing Business Aviation here.

First- the wrong performance criteria could be applied. Mid-level managers who are not usually users of Business Aviation may be tempted to administer the department as a Cost Center (the model they know best). Business Aviation is most effectively managed as a Service Center (I will address this issue in much more detail in a subsequent issue of this publication).

Suffice it to say- managing aviation services as a Cost Center can create service variances that will affect top executives who are usually intolerant of interruptions in their tight schedules. Cost Center processes can also be frustrating to the service providers as they are often on first name terms with their passengers. You can imagine how informal communications between flight crews and their passengers might seem inappropriate to a mid-level manager.

Secondly- a mid-level manager rarely has the authority or status needed to lead aviation services. It can be extremely uncomfortable for a mid-manager to act as a referee between competing executive users of aviation services.

A more serious situation can arise when a top level passenger is inducing operational risks- such as pushing crews to extend the duty day or asking them to go to a high-risk airport. A mid-level manager is in a very difficult position when he or she must directly address poor behaviors by a senior officer.

The majority of the best-run aviation departments report directly to a senior executive. The organizational structure and/or the culture of the company may determine which executive oversees aviation services. The selection is straightforward: the executive to whom aviation services reports must understand and appreciate the strategic impact that Business Aviation creates. This reporting point gives the aviation services team the attention and direct support needed to make the intended impact in the manner that is most appropriate and productive.

And that brings us to the final point - the title of the aviation services leader. The vast majority have the title of either Director of Aviation or Manager of Aviation. This may set the bar too low.

The responsibility of managing aviation services includes millions of dollars in assets and budget oversight. More to the point- the aviation manager is directly responsible for assuring the safety of the company’s key people- and competes with other corporate executives for headcount and funds. The aviation manager is the leader of a significant business unit within the company.

He or she should have a high level of competency and perform to the same standards of any other business unit leader within the company. Therefore- the aviation manager should act as a full staff member of the senior executive to whom he or she reports- with the responsibility and title appropriate for that position. That sounds like a senior director or vice president to me.

Is your Business Aviation services manager a true peer among others of the same title? That’s a great topic for next month…

Do you have any questions or opinions on the above topic? Get them answered/published in World Aircraft Sales Magazine. Email feedback to: Jack@avbuyer.com 

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