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Developing Aviation Managers

It's a Board's responsibility to provide flight department managers professional development. Here are some of the development paths...

David Wyndham   |   1st July 2014
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David Wyndham David Wyndham

As an Instructor Pilot in the U.S. Air Force- Dave's responsibilities included aircrew...
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A key element in Board governance
Flight department managers need professional development just as pilots require recurrent training- and it is a Board responsibility to provide for such education- advises David Wyndham.

iPart of ensuring that the aviation department is efficiently managed and well run is professional development of employees. Just as the pilots and aviation maintenance technicians get regular technical training- the aviation managers need management training.

Typically- flight departments are managed by pilots or mechanics who have been elevated to management by the skills they demonstrated in the cockpit or in the hangar. Often these high achievers struggle acquiring skills needed to lead personnel- develop budgets and handle other tasks of basic management.

For example- in addition to the overall arena of leadership- two areas that often need reinforcement and continuing education are communications and finance- especially budgeting and financial management. The cognitive sciences are constantly expanding our knowledge of how humans think- how we behave in groups- and how to communicate effectively. Acquiring effective verbal and written skills requires education and practice.

Financial management always seems to be a weak spot in aviation. Budgeting is seen more as a painful but necessary experience- much like a vaccination. Increasing awareness of the costs of aviation clearly requires a better understanding of cost management.

Educational Opportunities
Fortunately- there are many options available for the busy aviation professional. The Business Aviation community has a customized program geared to develop aviation professionals into management professionals: the National Business Aviation Association’s Certified Aviation Manager (CAM) program.

The NBAA CAM is an education plan and certification process that awards credit for professional experience- college courses and professional development seminars offered within the aviation community. The CAM program is a rigorous path to certification that is designed to maximize a busy aviation professional's time in developing the skills needed to be a manager and leader.

The Corporate Aviation Management Certificate Program (CAMC) by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University educates aviation professionals with the skill set to effectively manage aviation departments in accordance with accepted business practices and corporate policies. The CAMC is an approved adjunct to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Professional Development Program (PDP) for corporate aviation professionals. These Embry-Riddle courses also count toward the continuing education requirements for an annual review of the NBAA's CAM certification.

The NBAA- in partnership with several educational institutions and professional organizations- has project Bootstrap designed specifically for aviation maintenance technicians. For those with but a day to spare- the NBAA also teaches short seminars during its annual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition. Another trade association- the Helicopter Association International (HAI)- also offers numerous safety- management and technical courses taught in conjunction with the Heli-Expo annual meeting and convention.

Busy professionals have many options for obtaining aviation management education at locations throughout the US. Some schools offer in-depth focused courses- such as various on-line and resident programs taught by the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Darden covers topics such as Aircraft Management and Aircraft Ownership- Career and Leadership Development- and Safety and Risk Management. (http://nbaa.peachnewmedia.com/store/provider/provider09.php)

Aviation Management Degrees
The above-mentioned Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has numerous degree programs for aviation professionals aspiring to be flight department managers. Many are taught through distance learning using web-based classrooms and online training resources. Universities with aviation-specific programs are too numerous to mention here. A good reference- however- is the University Aviation Association (UAA)- which has 105 accredited universities and colleges as its members. These colleges and universities offer degree-granting aviation programs along with traditional business-related degrees.

For those looking beyond the certificate programs- schools such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School- Harvard- Duke- Berkeley- and the Northwest’s Kellogg School of Management offer degrees in Leadership Development in addition and business-related degrees. Some of these schools also offer intensive week-long (or similar) seminars focusing on single topics- such as Leadership.

Other Professional Development Programs- seminars and on-demand education such as webinars are taught by local universities and community colleges. The advantage of community colleges is that they likely have applicable courses for the working professional. Community colleges are also an excellent first step towards a four-year degree. There are professional educators who teach soft skills like leadership with a specific aviation tilt. One such person is Dr. Shari Frisinger (http://www.cornerstonestrategiesllc.com/about/about-shari-frisinger/).

Shari’s Doctor in Executive Leadership provides in-depth analysis and concentrated research into Emotional Intelligence and managing change and conflict. Her program is typical of the professional development that is being aimed directly at the aviation department.

Whether it is through continuing education- refreshers or post-graduate work- aviation professionals need to learn more than just technical skills within aviation. Acquiring management skills benefit both the corporation and the individual. As Board Members and Executives- you need to encourage personal development for flight department personnel- just as the company does for middle managers seeking career advancement.

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