5 Keys to BizAv Flight Department Operational Improvement

Looking for some insights in key areas for your Business Aviation Flight Department’s operational improvement? Check out these pointers from experienced Aviation Director, Andre Fodor...

Andre Fodor  |  10th July 2024
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    Andre Fodor
    Andre Fodor

    With a focused approach on global excellence and creativity, Andre Fodor has managed flight operations...

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    Tips to improve your flight departments operations

    As teams of professionals in aviation, Flight Departments strive to deliver private flying as an essential service, with its benefits tightly aligned towards a form of “profit” as opposed to merely being seen as an expensive luxury cost center.

    We accomplish this by providing a level of service that’s second to none. We provide efficient and flexible travel, and unfettered access to destinations that are harder to reach by other transportation means, whether for work, pleasure or both.

    The business of delivering corporate and private flying services is undoubtedly complex, requiring continuous reassessment to maintain the expected level of customer service, safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

    As Flight Department Managers, it is our responsibility to continuously explore strategies for incorporating operational improvements, and keeping our attention attuned to the areas of safety management, cost control, maintenance, technological enhancements and integration, and staff training. These are all essential for delivering ongoing operational improvements.

    1. Aviation Safety Improvements

    The cornerstone of any Flight Department's operations is safety. Implementing a robust Safety Management System (SMS) can significantly enhance outcomes. An effective SMS encompasses proactive hazard identification, risk assessment and the establishment of safety policies and procedures.

    One key aspect of SMS is fostering a safety culture without fear of retribution. This includes an open communication process which can help identify potential safety issues before they escalate into serious problems.

    Safety audits and compliance checks within your flight operation should be comprehensive, covering aircraft maintenance, pilot training, pilot proficiency, and operational procedures.

    This may sound complex, time consuming and expensive – especially for smaller Flight Departments where two pilots and a flight attendant make up the team – but I assure you these are all applicable and achievable through simple and concise programs.

    The key to accomplishing – and then building upon – excellence in your safety procedures is your attitude, awareness and action. Your determination to achieve safety excellence is what forms the foundation of best safety practices within your Flight Department. If you are lacking in determination, your safety practices will also be lackluster.

    2. Operational Cost Control

    Cost control is another critical component of operational improvements in your Flight Department, and fuel is one of the largest operational charges in your Flight Department’s variable cost budget.

    Implementing fuel-saving measures can lead to significant cost reductions. How can this be achieved?

    Perhaps a review of your operations would reveal room for optimizing flight routes, the need for a more fuel-efficient aircraft, adjusted flight and cruise profiles, and need to adopt fuel management procedures and data-gathering to provide real-time information on fuel consumption and purchasing practices.

    Although I have used fuel costs as a focal point for cost optimization, there are many other areas of your Flight Department’s operations where a strategic review could yield other savings.

    A well-run flight operation should ultimately be extremely lean, not having an ounce of unnecessary fat pulling on the purse strings.

    3. Aircraft Maintenance Planning

    Related to cost control, but essential in ensuring consistently high levels of service, is aircraft maintenance. Left unmanaged, maintenance will unbalance your budget while simultaneously lowering your dispatch rate, creating frustration and dissatisfaction for the aircraft’s owner.

    Predictive maintenance is a new tool that every flight operation should be exploring. By using data analytics to predict when maintenance should be performed, it’s possible to reduce downtime and avoid the higher costs that come with unexpected repairs.

    And by scheduling required and predicted maintenance during periods of lower demand on the aircraft and consolidating inspections, your flight operation can maximize the aircraft’s availability when it is in higher demand.

    But even then, the unexpected can happen – in which case, what’s your back-up plan? In the event of an AOG, a short-term lease, charter or fractional share could legitimately be considered as a cost-saving measure, since these provide access to aircraft without the high costs associated with full ownership (e.g., depreciation, insurance and storage).

    Hence, Flight Department Managers truly invested in operational improvements in their operation will have a thorough set of contingency plans to draw on when needed.

    4. Updated Technology

    Incorporating advanced technologies into your flight operations can help streamline processes and enhance efficiency. For example, flight management software is a vital tool that can handle scheduling, maintenance tracking, crew management, and compliance reporting.

    Such systems can automate many administrative tasks, reducing the team’s workload and minimizing the risk of human error. But the data must still be carefully monitored. Don’t just assume it all adds up. The systems are only as good as the data you enter, so it’s vital to ensure excellence by double-checking the accuracy of the input you provide.

    Implementation of automated data-gathering and analytics can further improve operations. By analyzing flight data, maintenance records and fuel consumption, we can more easily identify trends and areas for required operational improvements.

    Data analysis might reveal a higher than usual failure of aircraft components, for example, or help you monitor the impacts of age on your aircraft’s dispatch reliability. It’s well worth becoming a data gatherer to assist with your operational excellence.

    5. Team Training & Development

    Continuous training and development of the team is essential for maintaining high operational standards. Regular training ensures pilots and other personnel are up to speed with the latest regulations, technologies and best practices, and should also include simulator training as a safe environment to practice emergency procedures and complex flight scenarios.

    In addition to technical training, soft skill development is vital. Effective communication, leadership, and decision-making skills are critical for pilots, mechanics and Flight Department Managers.

    Workshops and seminars on these topics are designed to enhance the overall performance and efficiency of the Flight Department. Meanwhile, cross-training staff improves operational flexibility. By training your team to be multi-faceted you can help safeguard against the Flight Department becoming overly dependent on specific individuals.

    Even I need to find people to do my job – and that should be part of an effective succession plan someday...

    Other Areas for Flight Department Operational Improvements

    While we’ve considered five key areas for any Flight Department to make operational improvements, there are others, too. For example, environmental responsibility is a growing concern. Personally, this is an entirely new field that I am overdue coming on board with.

    Corporate Flight Departments can contribute to sustainability efforts by adopting eco-friendly practices, including using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) where it’s available. 

    Though it’s currently more expensive than traditional jet fuel, SAF usage could demonstrate a Flight Department’s commitment to the environment, enhancing a company's reputation as an environmental partner.

    Carbon offsetting is another way to mitigate environmental impact. By investing in projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a Flight Department can offset the emissions produced by its operations.

    And, finally, focusing on customer service and satisfaction helps drive operational improvements. After all, it’s crucial that we understand the needs and preferences of the people who use our services.

    Client feedback will provide valuable insights into areas where we can improve. But be ready to act on the feedback you get! By ensuring that the users of the Flight Department's services are satisfied, we can justify the operation’s existence and secure continued investment from the company and its principals.

    Read more related articles on Flight Departments by Andre Fodor 

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