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Aviation Consultants—Who Needs Them?

Tips to maximize a Business Aviation consultant's value to your flight operation...

David Wyndham   |   24th March 2016
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David Wyndham David Wyndham

As an Instructor Pilot in the U.S. Air Force- Dave's responsibilities included aircrew...
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David Wyndham offers an insightful look at the work of consultants in Business Aviation with reference to the practice of his firm…

There’s an old joke that a consultant is someone you pay to borrow your watch so he or she can tell you what time it is. In some ways, there is truth in that statement. It depends upon how you approach and use a consultant.

Is the consultant simply telling you what’s obvious, or able to uncover latent facts that are being overlooked? Oft times we are too close to our ‘watch’, so instead of reading the time we stare intently at the second hand ignoring the larger impact of the minutes and hours.

We all have preconceived concepts and ideas, and sometimes those ingrained opinions blind us to what’s going on. A consultant objectively looks at the issue from different angles and may offer fresh insights to a situation. Getting the complete picture and exploring competing points of view are reasons to work with consultants.

Client Needs

Our clients appreciate the value of early planning for key issues such as aircraft replacement. They also have intimate knowledge of their company’s operations, requirements and future opportunities.

In a typical scenario, an Aviation Manager’s boss, the company CEO, asked him about follow-on aircraft, to which he responded two new jets were needed. “Great”, said the CEO. “Get me a report making the case for your recommendation, and do so as soon as you can.”

The Aviation Manager had all the data—in his head, not in document form! He knew that with his busy schedule, he did not have the time to prepare a thorough report outlining the follow-on aircraft that was suitable to the CEO and the Board of Directors.

Furthermore, he felt that a second opinion from an independent third party added credibility to the recommendation.

He called us in, we asked the questions, listened intently and talked with the boss. Then we did the analysis, and in the end we delivered a report stating that the company needed two new aircraft, and that the selection the Aviation Manager suggested indeed was the best option.

Did our client waste his money by having us “borrow his watch”? Obviously we felt we added value and that funds spent on our consultancy were worthwhile. The Aviation Manager saved himself a few weeks of his time, got a third party review of his requirements, and had all the documentation needed to secure the CFO’s and Board’s support for the new aircraft.

Most of all, the company’s due diligence served the shareholder’s best interests.

Dealing with Consultants

It is a relationship. Treat it as such. While consultants provide a fresh view, they still need to relate to you and be able to read your situation well enough to understand what you and your company executives are really asking.

In some ways, the consultant is your aircraft therapist—one who listens, asks questions and keeps your best interests (and that of the company) in mind. How far do you want the consultant to go in the analysis? Is it just an advisory consult or will this relationship extend all the way through contract negotiation and aircraft delivery? You decide.

The consultant needs to be able to understand your world view and the reasons why your company needs an aircraft.

“The aircraft costs too much” can really be asking “Are we using this valuable asset of transportation mobility to its best capability?”

A consultant’s recommendations should be objective and focused on the choices you need to make. A consultant who also sells aircraft can be very knowledgeable and a source of valuable insight, but there is at the very least the appearance of conflict of interest in the relationship.

If the consultant is also brokering a great mid-size business jet and your company’s need might be met by such a jet, maintaining objectivity is paramount. Be sure the aircraft being offered is right for your firm. Trust is the key issue in a successful engagement with a consultant, whether independent or part of a brokerage.

Experience Matters

No one consultant has all the answers, but professionals in the field of Business Aviation know the questions to ask, and they have (or are able to find) the answers you need.

Your consultant must be ‘bilingual’, speaking the language of business to understand the financial concerns and asset management involved in the aircraft decision. They also need to be able to talk with the pilots and discuss operational issues like runway lengths and range.

A typical engagement comes to mind, when I was called in by the CFO to look at the company’s aviation operation and make recommendations for the future air transportation needs of the firm. On short notice the Aviation Department was introduced to me, the hired gun, without their knowing exactly why I was there or why I should be trusted.

As the chief pilot and I walked into the hangar, I could sense his reticence. In the corner of the hangar was the owner’s personal light aircraft. I commented favorably on the machine and its level of sophisticated ‘glass cockpit’ instrumentation that seemed suitable for a big jet. We talked flying for a bit, and once the pilot knew I could understand his position, we were off to a good start.

A consultant is just that—a consultant, not a decision maker. When we work with people on an analysis of their aircraft needs, acquisition or tax strategy, we give them options.

Recently a client asked, “If it were your money, which aircraft would you purchase?”

I replied, “It is not my money, so you need to be happy with what you choose. All three aircraft under consideration will do the job. Take the demo flights and go from there.” If I really thought there was a clear best answer, I'd have pointed in that direction, but since it is not my money, the final call is always the client’s to make.

When done well, relationships with consultants give an impartial perspective, add value and save time.


Read more about: Flight Department | Flight Department Management | Business Aviation Consultancy

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