What Does Your Flight Department Say About You?

How intentional are you in achieving excellence in your flight department? Andre Fodor shares how your operation could be conveying unintended messages, and offers thoughts on the importance of intentional management processes…

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Andre Fodor
Andre Fodor

With a focused approach on global excellence and creativity, Andre Fodor has managed flight operations...

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Private Gulfstream jet with pick-up car at airport


After almost thirty years in corporate aviation, there are telltale signs you see giving away whether an operation is well run or not. It can be seen in the fine details, such as whether the operation is attentive to reducing personal cash outlay and paying for travel, hotels and meals – even for temporary crew.

When I hear throw-away phrases like “find your way here”, “get yourself a hotel”, and “we’ll figure it out when you show up”, warning bells sound a note of caution.

Whenever I board a different airplane, I look for clues as to what type of operation I’m seeing. For example, a dirty, disorganized airplane is tell-tale sign of an operation lacking leadership, pride, empowerment, and morale. Finding stock closets full and disorganized, or a messy cockpit are warning indicators that more is amiss than meets the eye. Is the crew overworked and disenfranchised?

Considering that any component in an aircraft cockpit costs thousands of dollars, its disconcerting to see someone flipping switches and banging levers as though they’re garden tools – these are actions betraying a lack of finesse and professionalism.

Some may claim I’m being hypersensitive. I disagree – and here’s why…

The Importance of Clear Intentions

Setting clear intentions towards our actions and setting high standards for our personal and professional behavior affects the level of excellence that we deliver.

Tasked with building a team within my flight operation, I choose the best people for the job. But it is also my responsibility to provide the team with opportunities for empowerment and ownership - attributes that I expect from my teammates. From the hangar-keeper through to our most senior captain, everyone has a say in the process.

The intention is to deliver a unique private aviation service that’s safe, excellent, effective, and on-budget. When everyone is engaged, there’s always room to evolve.

And that empowerment goes beyond our own hangar door. For example, when our airplane goes into the maintenance shop, we meet with the technicians that will be working on our aircraft, reminding them that we share common goals. As our chosen maintenance provider, we understand their commitment to deliver excellent, on-time service. As customers, we want our aircraft to be returned in perfect condition, squawk free.

In communicating with the maintenance team, we eliminate, as much as possible, the confrontational undertone that often surrounds the process. We remind everyone that if there are roadblocks, we work together to overcome them.

Our providers have shared that typically they only hear from customers when something goes wrong. We celebrate the end results, praising the right people and being good at paying on-time. If there are criticisms, we make sure that these are solution-based, and we seek to offer constructive feedback to the maintenance facility.

The Apple Never Falls Far From the Tree…

Recently, I read about a generational shift in attitude within the workforce where employees no longer define themselves by their work, only giving as much as their job specifies they must.

That’s a worrying trend, since much of what makes the services Business Aviation offers is driven by a workforce that’s passionate about, and engaged in, what we do. But as the saying goes, ‘the apple never falls far from the tree’.

How many companies still have long-standing CEOs who dedicate decades of their careers into making great companies greater? If today’s CEOs and top leadership have become temporary, what is there to keep everyone else bound to a long-term vision?

Even when I worked for a large aircraft operator, instilling a sense of cooperative leadership was as simple as briefing efficiently from the heart. I always began with reminding everyone that we follow our standard operating procedures, but that we had a common responsibility for the success of a flight.

And the debrief was never forgotten, since there is always something to be learned. It doesn’t have to be lengthy: Kudos should be given wherever it is due. My principal never leaves the airplane without a few words. “Another good flight” enables us to know that all we have been doing is on-target. And feedback drives people to want to do better every day.

Keeping it Fresh

There’s no escaping the fact that jobs get dull over time. After hundreds of Atlantic crossings, the fun of an all-nighter is gone, and I look forward to arriving home. Even so, as a crew, we never forget to put our best efforts into practice.

Even after nearly a decade traveling with the same team, we’re finding opportunities to improve and do things differently. That helps to keep a freshness about the next trip.

It takes a driven person to look for ways to do better every day, but that is the key to intentional living. And being intentional, translates into caring enough to offer excellence.

As Flight Department managers, it’s crucial that we guide our passengers and leadership in acknowledging the importance of this intentional processes, since it also keeps the way we retain and deliver excellence up-to-date.

As leadership coaches, pilots and crew, setting (and reviewing) best intentions provides us with a pathway towards delivering outstanding professional and personal outcomes.

Read more articles on Flight Department Management

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