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A CEO’s Guide (Part 2):
The ‘Aircraft Owner’s Bill of Rights’.
By Jeremy Cox

Welcome back for ‘Part Two’ of my article published last month- tackling the issue of ‘Staffing and Managing Your Own Flight Department.’ Last month’s article was specifically meant for CEOs- Presidents and the like- and I tried to keep the jargon of the aviation industry to an absolute minimum.

This month’s article should primarily help establish acceptable expectations for a CEO to have of his Flight Department staff- but may also offer a checklist for Flight Department staff to brush up on their work-ethos and better position themselves for consideration for work in a new Flight Department.

Business Aviation is a profession which requires a flight-crew applicant new to the industry to accumulate practical flight experience at every step on the path to a new rating or certificate. An Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Rating issued by the Federal Aviation Administration requires that a testing applicant must have accumulated a minimum of 1-500 hours of logged and certified flight-time under various stipulated conditions and profiles before any testing is authorized to be undertaken by the candidate.

Every Type Rating (the required license and logbook endorsement that enables a pilot to act as pilot-in-command of a specific complex/transport-aircraft type)- also requires an approved syllabus of practical training and testing. Over the past 100-plus years- civil aviation has developed and matured ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with its close cousin found in the guise of military aviation. Just like this regimented cousin- many complex phrases and actions have been shortened for brevity during tele- or inter-communications.

This tendency to shorten phrases and words creates “yuck-speak”- or “jargon” which feels as hard to scale to anyone that is not immersed within the business aviation profession- as a smooth marble wall would be to a novice climber. The following- like the first part to this article- has been kept as ‘jargon’ free as possible.

Now on to the specific issues raised by the implementation of an ‘Aircraft Owner’s Bill of Rights’... It is important to read these with the understanding that they must be tailored slightly to better match the real needs- and wants of the new owner- who- like you is creating from the ground-up- their own corporate/personal flight department:

Written as spoken in ‘first-person’ context- delivered by the Aircraft Owner to his Chief Pilot/Director of Aviation:

• You will not fly into or out of any mountainous airport during darkness- or when the visibility obscures the terrain.

• You will be ready to go two hours before the agreed departure time.

• Welcome me aboard and then leave me alone.

• I want to drive up to the aircraft and step aboard. I don’t want to park my own car.

• I will not be carrying my own bags.

• The aircraft will be kept clean- inside and out.

• Turbulence and bad weather shall be avoided whenever possible.

• If it is not safe to go- I won’t go.

• Treat my aircraft with utmost respect. It is a valuable asset.

• I don’t want to hear about your problems.

• If it is cheaper (depends on the number days away- and also what my schedule is like)- or there is a security or safety reason like a medical emergency- then I expect the crew to fly home on the airlines- rather than stay in a hotel.

• Spend my money like it is your money- i.e. don’t be extravagant. Review of the flight department annual expenses will be constant; if I feel that things are running okay we won’t talk about it. If I feel that things are getting out of hand or beyond reason- we shall discuss it immediately.

• We shall meet once a month to discuss the flight department. Otherwise you will communicate with my assistant at all other times- unless we are out on a trip.

• Other people may ride on my aircraft without me. Treat them exactly the same way that I expect you to treat me.

• I am your boss. My authority is what you act upon. You are the boss when it comes to making safety decisions regarding my aircraft- whether I am on it or not.

• No drinking of alcohol is permitted while on duty- or within 12 hours of any flight.

• Never take illegal narcotics while you are in my employment.

• Don’t engage in any activity that will prevent you from performing your job for me- especially when we are away from home.

• When on duty the crew will be expected to wear a suit and tie- or attire that is approved by me.

• I expect that all of my travel requirements are met by my flight department. You will coordinate these arrangements with either me- or my assistant. Car- hotel and catering are your responsibility.

• I expect the crew to ensure that they have had at least 10 consecutive hours of rest during the 24 hour period that precedes the planned completion time of the planned flight.

• The crew duty time each day will be eight hours- unless special circumstances exist.

• The crew duty week will be five days- unless special circumstances exist.

• If you or a crew member is sick- an alternative person must be utilized as a substitute. If any of the flight crew have an ailment that would not qualify them for a First Class Medical Certificate at any time during their employment- I must be informed.

• I- or my assistant will provide you with my weekly schedule.

• Expect to be away from your family at least half of your weekends every year. I rarely fly during the week. My normal travel pattern is to leave on Thursday evening/Friday morning- and return Sunday evening/Monday morning.

• A flight attendant will be on board the aircraft whenever there are two or more people traveling on a flight- and the flight is more than two hours in duration.

• I will expect you to perform other duties for me or my company- whenever I deem necessary- outside of your flight department responsibilities. This may involve my properties or company business; however I will abuse neither your time- nor your intelligence as I direct you to perform these duties.

• If there is a problem with the aircraft- or with our flight- I want to be informed immediately.

• Unless circumstances prevent this- I expect the crew to stay in reasonably priced accommodations that at a minimum have their own restaurant. I don’t expect the crew to stay in budget hotels- but I do expect the normal overnight rate not to exceed the normal corporate rate. Airline travel shall be via coach- unless business class tickets are the same price as the coach fare- or there are no other options available at that time- or the flight is longer than five hours of duration.

• Crew rental cars shall be limited to full-size- unless circumstances or rates allow for larger/specialty vehicles. Any- and all- frequent traveller miles- business gifts or rewards earned by any employee while on duty- shall be recorded and reported to my assistant. S/he will keep track of these and shall utilize them as s/he sees fit.

• When my aircraft is down for maintenance- I insist that at least one flight department member be present during this work. This will ensure that my aircraft is afforded the attention that I expect- and also it will minimize the downtime while it is under a maintenance procedure. I don’t expect to have to scrutinize the maintenance bills- this is your job.

• You will always have a flight crew available- whenever I have given you sufficient warning of possible flight activation. I expect that from-time-to-time- it will be necessary to employ contract crew members to accomplish this. I do not- however- expect you to be on stand-by 24/7.

• Before you arrange a contract pilot to fly my aircraft- I want a copy of that person’s resume provided to me so I may make the decision that the proposed candidate is acceptable to me. I will not veto your decisions regarding competency or safety; however I have a right to reject a candidate on the issue of personality or potential business conflict.

• All communications (oral- written or spoken)- schedules- business transactions- destinations- passengers- etc. that you are privy to knowledge of- or involved with- during the accomplishment of your role in my flight department- shall be considered confidential. If anyone other than me or my assistant asks you questions regarding my flight operation- business- family or friends- I must be informed immediately. This mandate also applies to all other crew members- contract or support personal that you involve in my flight operation.

• You will always seek out the best fuel price while we are out on a trip. You will choose the destination FBO based upon fuel price- unless security measures preclude this mandate.

• You will tanker fuel whenever possible- unless the destination fuel price can better the home-base fuel price or the performance degradation outweighs the advantage of carrying extra fuel.

• I want a record (names- companies- and telephone numbers) to be maintained of all people that have any interest or involvement with my aircraft and its operation. This is a security measure. This log will be provided to my assistant at the end of each month. In the case of my aircraft flying without me being on board- you will be provided with a manifest of authorized passengers before you depart. It is your responsibility to determine that the manifest exactly matches the people that present themselves for boarding. If an irregularity is spotted- the aircraft shall not leave until I- or my assistant has been contacted and the issue has been resolved.

• My aircraft shall be operated on the ‘best-time’ concept. Unless flight planning dictates that an endurance cruise fuel setting be implemented- you shall fly my aircraft at its optimum speed at all times. However- I never expect my flight operation to be hasty; only to make haste normally- whenever possible.

• What you do with your own time is none of my business; the same applies to me.

• You do your job to the absolute best of your ability- and I will make certain that you are compensated and treated fairly. If you abuse your position in any way- I will immediately call you to task as soon as I learn of your abuse- so that we can address it together. Unless the issue of abuse is an instantly terminable offense- we shall employ the use of the 2-step process; i.e. the first occurrence shall be dealt with a warning; the second occurrence shall be met with employment termination. Conversely if ever you feel that you have been abused by myself- a member of my staff- one of my family members- one of my friends or business associates- I want to know about it immediately after it occurs- so it can be dealt with swiftly.

• I expect complete and utmost loyalty. I wish to only employ people that want to work for me for a long tenure. You are to present a happy and polite demeanor at all times while in my employment. I will not tolerate political or personal agendas- other than my own- as they apply to the operation of my aircraft.

• I will be a fair and just employer. You will be a fair and just employee.

• I shall add to- or make changes to this document at will.

Some of the issues specified by the above might have been perceived as draconian- bombastic and highly unreasonable. It is fair to agree that no flight department in this world is exactly alike another- therefore ‘The Bill of Rights’ can be honey to some- and angostura bitters to others.

My only expectations and hopes for how you use this text- is that it has provided a suitable foundation for you to write your own.

Of course I would be delighted to assist you in this- if you have yet to hire your own aviation ‘go-to’ person. You may reach me as always at JetBrokers on the details below. May I wish you the best possible luck as you create; staff and optimize your own flying organization geared specifically for your personal air-transportation.

If you have any questions regarding this article- or would like to receive some free advice- you are welcome to contact Jeremy at JetBrokers- Inc. at +1.636.449.2833- or email: jcox@jetbrokers.com

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