Flight Department Management
Harmonizing the Assignment of Departmental Duties
Recently, Aviation Director Andre Fodor concluded the sale of one of his company’s Large Cabin business jets to an overseas buyer as part of a fleet upgrade. That transaction proved enlightening for him with regards to the effective running of a Flight Department. Here’s how…
As transactions go, the sale of our Large Cabin jet was fairly painless – but it wasn’t devoid of peculiarities and surprises. From our first meeting with the prospective buyer, we were told how ready and eager they were to close on the transaction as their previous airplane had already been sold.
We provided assurances of full support and speedy collaboration towards accomplishing the pre-purchase inspection (PPI), along with the remainder of the closing process. For our part, we delivered as promised, anticipating the roadblocks and correcting the issues that were found during the PPI even before the final inspection report was delivered to the buyer.
Yet throughout the process, I noticed that anytime the buyer’s side needed to act, the process ground to a standstill. Responses tended to be scattered and slow, although the buyer’s team appeared well qualified and ready to perform the tasks.
It was during a meeting with the buyer’s Chief Pilot that I was able to gain better insight into the situation. We were selecting new blankets and cabin equipment for the airplane and I made the suggestion that we place the order to expedite aircraft inception into service.
The Chief Pilot explained he would need to get his Principal’s approval for the $200 purchase, and ‘Voila’ – I was able to identify the bottleneck!
Through gentle probing, I learned that every aircraft decision required the Principal’s approval. His mechanics, for example, had been late to travel to the PPI because the Principal needed to approve the cost of the airline tickets first.
Many critical decisions remained unresolved because the Principal was either busy running his company, or was unreachable for other reasons. To summarize, the aircraft remained on the ground well after closing, unproductive as a result of the lack of authorization for even minor decision-making as qualified and trusted people awaited the upshot of their Principal’s micro-management.
This story is likely familiar to many aircraft managers. There can be no denying the need for company management to be ‘in the know’ with regard to the Flight Department, but the focus should essentially be on empowering Flight Department personnel through coaching, which leads to an autonomous, energetic and efficient team within which people thrive.
There will, of course, always be people requiring specific guidance to perform well within the Flight Department. These are not necessarily bad employees - they’re just not skilled at self-managing.
Many years ago when I worked for an OEM, we were asked to decide on our own schedule. It was eye-opening to note the high proportion of pilots who preferred exact guidelines over schedule flexibility, and it taught me lessons that enable me to better manage and distribute Flight Department duties going forwards. Within most Flight Departments there will be some team members who require very specific and detailed guidance. By understanding those personality-types, assignment instructions can be tailored and checklists followed rigorously, eliminating potential frustration and setting specific expectations.
Nevertheless, tools such as The Predictive Index (PI) can assist within the Flight Department to help tailor the assignment of responsibilities and more effectively encourage and manage personnel, based on their individual personalities.
Flight Department staff who know their responsibilities and can anticipate new ones, work ahead of deadlines, meet commonly-agreed high standards, and keep their line-manager informed of the main goals can essentially become ‘boss’ free. Within the Flight Department, where schedules are fluid and there is likely to be no daily card punching at the office, it is a useful exercise to encourage staff to set their own schedules, wherever possible, until it’s time to fly a trip.
In team-building, a Flight Department Manager must learn how to best manage the people within the team. Being cognizant of your team’s individual personality traits will help harmonize the assignment of workplace responsibilities.
An essential area of managing a Flight Department is to develop clear guidelines and goals for the team to know the expectations. Empowerment, creative problem solving, team- and self-growth, attention to detail and customer service are all core skills to be encouraged and worked into the operational mindset.
Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. With the absence of a ‘blame culture’, even these can be shared and learned from to help the department move forward as a whole.
Your Flight Department is comprised of several gifted individuals with the ability to change and grow in skill and potential. If you can manage that right, you will always be closer to providing your customers with the ultimate flight experience.
This article features in AvBuyer's 2018 Yearbook. Read the full edition here.