How Management Should Assess Their Flight Department (Part 1)

A series overview...

David Wyndham  |  28th February 2017
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David Wyndham
David Wyndham

David Wyndham is the founder of David Wyndham + Associates. He was previously a Co-owner and President...

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To be successful, businesses must make efficient use of resources in the effective pursuit of corporate goals. David Wyndham offers an approach that management can use to examine the core issues of Flight Department safety, efficiency and effectiveness.

How does the Board or the Aviation Manager know when the Flight Department is operating safely, is being effective in supporting the needs of the company, and is efficient in the use of its allocated funds?

In the months following this introduction, AvBuyer will address how top management can assess the success of its Flight Department.


We examine the overarching goal of Business Aviation—providing safe transportation. Achieving safety, however, is challenging. There are rarely simple questions with Yes/No answers. There are degrees of safety. Just as your business has risk management practices when evaluating new opportunities or products, Business Aviation also requires risk management.

Deciding whether a flight can depart or should be cancelled can sometimes be a very gray decision. But being safe has no gray areas—safety must never be a roll of the dice. Formalized risk management practices must be employed.

Training is the cornerstone of Business Aviation safety. Not only does each nation’s regulatory authority require training, so does your insurer. Similar to requirements for other professions such as accountants, lawyers and physicians, flight crews as well as maintenance personnel must receive initial and recurrent training to practice their trade.

Best practices recommend recurrent training in 6 to 12 month cycles. Flight Attendants, Schedulers and Dispatchers also need training.

How does management know what level of training is appropriate and when proficiency has been achieved? A Flight Department’s Safety Management System (SMS) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should be verified or audited by an independent and knowledgeable third party.

A corporation’s senior management, preferably at the CEO level, must embrace the concept of safety. Best practices dictate that a Flight Department’s SMS and SOPs include a statement from top management clearly supporting the flight crew’s authority to implement documented safety procedures.

Does your aviation department have senior leadership’s “signed” buy-in on what your aviation department safety policies are? It should.

Business Aviation Metrics


The following month we address the effectiveness of the company’s Flight Department. Before you can measure effectiveness, however, there must be Executive and Team alignment with respect to the corporation’s goals.

Does the use of the company aircraft support those goals? How often does the Flight Department Leadership meet or interact with the Executive Leadership to stay informed about current and future business opportunities? Is there understanding and trust among all relevant parties?


This series will address how efficiently the firm’s resources of people, capital and time are applied to implement Business Aviation. What are suitable metrics for value creation, performance and costs of the Flight Department?

We explore defining and agreeing on assumptions. What is success for a firm’s use of Business Aviation? A Flight Department structured to provide only executive transport will have different measures of success than a corporate shuttle or an aviation activity only used for emergency or standby operations. In the words of business guru Peter Drucker, “that which is measured improves”.

What is measured receives attention. The wrong measurements will divert focus from the important areas that impact success.

Metrics need to be relevant, measurable and relatively simple to collect. But they must also be valid. Only a valid metric can be used as a predictor of performance.

Efficiency involves costs. Since the Flight Department is a business unit that typically consumes funds rather than directly generates revenue, how do you know if the company’s business aircraft are being operated efficiently?

While the Flight Department Manager collects operating and cost data, what metrics are most meaningful to the Executive Team at Corporate headquarters? The concluding article in this series identifies the metrics that should be available to assess the successful use of Business Aviation assets.

Relative to the entire corporation, the Flight Department is small. But the dollars invested can be significant, and when properly utilized the impact can be significant—far greater than the use of similar amounts of capital, personnel and time spent on other corporate endeavors. AvBuyer addresses what numbers should be available to Flight Department managers when making their case for Business Aviation.

Our four part series, beginning with this overview, provides management with a framework for assuring that the corporation’s use of Business Aviation is safe, efficient and effective, beginning next month with the specifics of safety…

Read More About: Safety | Flight Department | Leadership | Flight Department Management


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