Quality transportation is the product of planning and implementation, with comprehensive attention to quality control, note Fred Haap and Jack Olcott in their ongoing series on building a flight department from scratch...
Companies need a process for positioning the right person or team in the right place at the right time. Business aircraft are one of the tools a firm uses to achieve that goal, and the Flight Department exists to implement the process of moving people safely and efficiently to meet company objectives. Thus creating a Flight Department is an exercise in process management, with a clearly defined starting point and a set of desired outcomes.
The Department’s Business Plan presents the overall structure from start to desired outcomes, and the Department’s ops manual provides the procedures and processes that will be followed.
Conceptualizing a Flight Department as a process provides a framework for monitoring performance and controlling quality (including safety and efficiency) of transportation services via business aircraft.
To assure that a suitable level of quality is being achieved and that there is continuous improvement, the results of the Flight Department—the safe and effective movement of people and possibly high-priority goods to meet corporate goals—must be measured and reviewed. Business guru Peter Drucker observed, “That which is measured, improves”.
Quality assurance requires two basic actions: an established means for measuring outcomes, and a system for reviewing (i.e., auditing) behaviors.
The Flight Department’s Operations Manual specifies the desired outcomes for each step along the path of fulfilling the company’s transportation needs in Business Aviation. That document also provides the actions, based upon industry-best practices, to be taken at each phase of the transportation process to achieve a satisfactory level of performance.
A means of measuring costs is established, either within the ops manual or in a separate manual related to auditing departmental performance, so that each flight can be assessed using a consistent scale. Thus the costs of trips are compared on an apples-to-apples basis. Costs, however, are only one aspect of Business Aviation’s impact on a firm’s ability to serve shareholders. There is a value obtained from resources applied to operating business aircraft, and that performance should be measured.
While costing metrics are commonplace, many Flight Departments do not have an established protocol for measuring the value and efficiency of the transportation they provide to meet corporate goals. Yet each flight does produce a quantity of value consisting of several components, and each flight can be evaluated against other forms of transportation (such as airlines) to access the efficient use of travel time:
• Travel time saved has value;
• Cost of overnight stays in hotels minimized or eliminated has value;
• A business team working together while traveling, thereby adding to the efficiency of time spent traveling, has value.
There are many payoffs to be considered, but the major value of Business Aviation goes far beyond reduced travel costs and time saved. Placing the most effective person or team at the right place at the right time—possibly before the competition establishes a solid relationship with a prospective customer, or before an existing client is lost due to poor service or neglect can add measurably to your company’s bottom line. Such performance should be identified, measured and used to evaluate the value and efficiency of Business Aviation.
During the development of a Business Plan and Operations Manual, the person responsible for creating the Flight Department should generate a means of measuring outcomes of value and efficiency; obtain “buy-in” for such a measurement; and apply that yardstick to each trip. A consistent set of data based upon an agreed-upon metric will be highly useful in managing the company’s use of Business Aviation.
We urge companies creating a Flight Department as well as those with existing Flight Departments to follow the good advice outlined in David Wyndham’s AvBuyer article entitled ‘MOVE Documentation: A System to Capture Business Aviation’s Value & Efficiency’ (https://www.avbuyer.com/articles/business-aircraft-ownership/value-efficiency-in-business-aviation/).
Managing Quality by Reviewing Actions
Broadly, a Flight Department is subject to constant review. Flight crews and maintenance personnel follow FAA regulations. Aviators take pride in their professionalism and strive to perform well in the presence of their peers. Flight Department managers monitor the performance of their team, and they are accountable to someone in the firm’s senior hierarchy.
While self-assessment and peer reviews are necessary elements of good process management, the review or audit function should also include third-party assessments, independent from those who are integral to the Flight Department process.
Support for quality control and continuous improvement should be established from the Flight Department’s inception and pervade throughout the department’s existence.
How the audit process will be conducted should be included within the Flight Department’s Business Plan. Furthermore, the quality control process employed by the Flight Department should be aligned with the policies and culture of the overall corporation.
Best practices call for annual audits, with every other yearly assessment conducted by reviewers not assigned to, or employed by the Flight Department. The aviation manager can establish or lead a review team to conduct the annual audit during one 12-month cycle and seek an outside review every other 12-month period, employing either contracted services from established aviation entities or the company’s internal auditors. In either situation, the department’s ops manual will be the document against which performance will be assessed and recommendations made.
While the Business Aviation community is well served by the protocol known as International Standard-Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) and aviation managers developing a Business Plan are well advised to read and be familiar with IS-BAO, a new Flight Department may prefer to get started before seeking IS-BAO registration. Initially, quality assurance procedures can be integrated into the department’s creation through a well-conceived Business Plan and Operations Manual. Eventually, however, Flight Departments should embrace IS-BAO with its emphasis on a Safety Management System (SMS), and its concept of process management for quality assurance and continuous improvement.
Quality assurance for Flight Departments begins with a comprehensive Business Plan and a well-documented Operations Manual. Yardsticks for measuring the costs of implementation and the value of outcomes are essential. Each step along the path between initiation of a travel request through assessment of trip outcome should be reviewed to measure performance. The end-result will be higher quality and ongoing improvement.
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