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Aviation Manager: Do you have what it takes?

Through hard work we strive to achieve success, prosperity and advancement in social status. As a member of a corporate flight department, how are expectations realized? Of course a co-pilot wants to become a captain, perhaps to earn more pay, self-pride and professional recognition, so it makes sense that a captain would want to become the chief pilot or flight department manager, right? Similarly the line mechanic wants to become an inspector, who then wants to become the Director of Maintenance

AvBuyer   |   1st January 2013
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By Walter Kraujalis

Through hard work we strive to achieve success, prosperity and advancement in social status. As a member of a corporate flight department, how are expectations realized? Of course a co-pilot wants to become a captain, perhaps to earn more pay, self-pride and professional recognition, so it makes sense that a captain would want to become the chief pilot or flight department manager, right? Similarly the line mechanic wants to become an inspector, who then wants to become the Director of Maintenance and possibly be considered for Director of Aviation.

Though advancement is a normal desire and career goal for an aviation professional, the reality is that moving into the corner office is not the same as moving from the right seat of the cockpit to the left seat, or moving from the rolling stool on the shop floor to the desk chair. A management position is a completely different job from flying or fixing an airplane. Working with an aircraft’s complex systems, its limitations, and its normal and abnormal operational procedures has little to do with being an aviation manager.

DIFFERENT SKILLS
A manager can set goals, break these goals down into actionable steps, calculate a budget, and use good communication, training and motivation to shape well-qualified individuals into a productive team. Managing a flight department has very little to do with altitude, pressure, voltage, or initial approach fixes. Further, management is not about telling people what to do or taking all the cherry trips or only the ones with the CEO on-board.

Fortunately the attributes necessary for management can be learned. No one is really a natural-born manager. Before setting your career goal of becoming the boss, you should pause and reflect upon your personal abilities, qualifications and motivations. Compare your current knowledge and skills with the qualifications of a manager and then chart a path for getting trained in the areas where you come up short.

We have all heard the story of dashed expectations: the expert pilot who aspired to be the department manager and finally obtained that coveted position only to be disappointed because all he or she really wanted was simply to fly aircraft. Sometimes when the best pilot is made the aviation manager, the company loses the services of the best pilot, gains a poor manager, and everyone is miserable. No one emerges a winner.

The qualifications to be an aviation manager are well-described in the NBAA’s Certified Aviation Manager program (CAM). These core knowledge areas are:

• Leadership
• Human resources
• Operations
• Technical and facility services, and
• Business management.

Plugging into the CAM program is an excellent way of gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to be an effective manager.

THRESHOLD ISSUES
There are several basic tenets to be considered before pursuing management training. First, managers must have concern for others, not just themselves. You succeed as a manager when your entire team succeeds. Quite simply, you have to be able to deal with people. This advice may sound simple and trite, but being self-centered is often one of the major reasons individuals fail as managers, or become tired of management.

Can you put the needs of others ahead of your own needs? You don’t have to be a martyr, but you cannot ignore the members of your department.

Second, a manager must regularly communicate with those above and below his or her position. Most often poor communication skills lead to people-problems. Don’t let the fear of communicating keep you from considering management; these skills can be developed with training. But if you don’t see yourself talking and writing to others as an integral part of your career development, you should rethink your intentions.

Finally, as a manager you will likely do less of your first passion (flying or fixing airplanes). Time needs to be dedicated to management responsibilities. Are you ready to leave the cockpit or the maintenance shop? Or even worse, do you believe you can handle a full schedule of technical tasks and be an effective manager? It is not possible to manage on the fly (pun intended). Management tasks that get little attention often run amok. Also, attempting to be jack-of-all-trades is a well-worn path to burn-out.

Read more about: Management

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