Creating a Flight Department (Part 3)

Garnering support from decision makers and stakeholders

Fred Haap  |  27th August 2015
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Fred Haap
Fred Haap

Fred Haap is an IS-BAO accredited auditor and past Chairman of NBAA. During his distinguished career...

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Management 1

Leveraging statements of Vision, Mission and Guiding Principles described previously by Fred Haap and Jack Olcott, the person tasked with formulating a Flight Department should structure a business unit that serves the overall enterprise.

Business Aviation has matured since days long past when the CEO snapped his fingers and like magic a business aircraft appeared. Perhaps establishing a flight activity was never quite that simple, but there was a time when one or two key influencers would decide if the firm would use a business aircraft.

Now this form of air transportation is subject to far more scrutiny, especially from senior management and divisional heads likely to share in the allocation of costs for operating the Flight Department. Thus it is essential to present a business plan and Flight Department structure that garners broad support.

As emphasized in the preceding articles of this series, the person responsible for creating a Flight Department should prepare a comprehensive Business Plan that leaves no doubt that use of a business aircraft serves stakeholders and will be well-implemented.

The most efficient and ultimately effective tool for conveying that message is the Plan’s statement of Vision and Mission, which should have been generated from discussion and consultation with the individuals likely to benefit from the firm’s use of the aircraft. Such discussions enable the Plan’s author to build support for Business Aviation within the enterprise. The greater the participation from heads of company business units in the formulation of a Flight Department governing documents, the broader will be the understanding of what the Flight Department can do for the firm and its stakeholders.

Support through Structure

Business Aviation has matured sufficiently to offer a variety of delivery systems ranging from full ownership of a business aircraft to occasional charter. Aircraft can be purchased, leased, co-owned with another, or shared. Fractional ownership, a popular form of Business Aviation, is simply shared ownership allowable under the provisions of Federal Aviation Regulation 91.501 coupled with operational support provided by an aviation management company. Charter can be purchased by the mile or flight hour as required, or arrangements can be made to acquire a specific number of flight hours during a calendar year, thereby assuring aircraft availability.

A Flight Department can be structured to incorporate one or more of these delivery systems, depending on needs to be satisfied.

Thus it is possible to serve the diverse requirements and expectations of stakeholders, provided those needs are identified and the Business Plan presents a Flight Department structure that is credible and cost-effective.

Such an approach, shaped by the Department’s Vision, Mission and Governing Principles, builds support throughout the enterprise. The broad array of options and the likelihood that the Flight Department could deliver such a menu of capabilities must be communicated to stakeholders, however. Never assume that the benefits of Business Aviation are obvious to the uninitiated.

Consider the following scenario: From interviews with decision makers and stakeholders (those most likely to use Business Aviation), the predominant need for a business aircraft is meeting with current and potential customers situated within 500 miles from company headquarters, many in remote locations. Additionally, management and division heads want to travel efficiently between the firm’s various manufacturing locations. Yet the CEO sees great opportunity for expansion overseas in Africa and possibly China.

Should the Flight Department be structured to serve the CEO’s need for flights across 10 time zones non-stop, knowing that a business aircraft capable of such international flights is not the best choice for the shorter flights that represent the bulk of demand?

Meeting only the CEO’s wishes is no way to build support for Business Aviation throughout the company.

Nor is it the best way to deal with shareholders demanding the best balance between opportunity and quarterly profits. Support for the flight department can be broad by structuring a department that operates the aircraft most capable of fulfilling the majority of travel needs and chartering a long-range business jet for the limited times when special capability is required.

Business today—prompted somewhat by employees’ use of social media, a probing press and activist shareholders—no longer operates in a vacuum. For Business Aviation to gain traction within an enterprise, there must be support for this unique form of transportation. A compelling Flight Department Business Plan is the key to developing that support.

Dealing with Details

To use a business aircraft safely and efficiently requires specific knowledge of what is available as well as a modicum of experience with Business Aviation. Furthermore, preparing a compelling Flight Department Business Plan is in itself challenging. Thus it is not uncommon for an enterprise considering Business Aviation to either hire someone who has strong and relevant credentials to develop the Business Plan or engage one of the several competent consulting firms with a track record of Flight Department development.

Even firms with Business Aviation experience often turn to outside experts when restructuring an established Flight Department to acquire and operate a new model of business jet.

For example, when transitioning from a turboprop to a business jet offered by the same manufacturer, a Fortune 100 company with more than a dozen years of Business Aviation experience prepared a strong case for restructuring its Flight Department for jet operations and hired a seasoned aviation specialist with jet experience to provide assistance.

The individual, company or enterprise considering Business Aviation has a wealth of options that can be identified in the Business Plan and managed by the Flight Department. Designing insightful and compelling statements of Vision, Mission and Governing Principles through direct involvement with decision makers and stakeholders, and using that process to gain support for Business Aviation, you have the foundation on which a Flight Department can be formed. You can offer a structure that blends the best of each aspect of Business Aviation, thereby expanding the breadth of support.

Next month we’ll add additional specifics to complete your Business Plan and launch a successful Flight Department.

Find more Flight Department Articles 


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