What are the best practices for achieving technical excellence in Flight Departments?
Concluding his series on the foundations for Flight Department safety, as identified by NBAA, Mario Pierobon discusses the importance of Technical Excellence to an operation’s safe procedures…
The common denominator for excellence in Business Aviation is training. High-quality training helps reduce accidents. Specifically, training programs should address the skill sets required of Business Aviation professionals in such a way that new skills are taught and old ones are sharpened.
Training is a core business function within corporate Flight Departments, in large measure because there are very thorough regulatory requirements for training.
Yet some Flight Departments may decide to train their personnel to the bare regulatory minimum and risk losing the benefits of knowledge and skill that enable the pursuit of technical excellence.
So, how can a Flight Department develop its training system to maximize the benefits of training.
Building on the Baseline
The regulatory requirements, as well as any guidance coming from the aircraft OEMs, provide the baseline of an overall practice that should be followed to develop training programs.
Training for excellence, however, requires an organization to commit to customizing the regulatory requirements, and adapting them to the specific needs and ambitions of the operator.
The success of customizing training requirements depends on adherence to three main best practices, as detailed here...
Best Practice #1: Pursue optional training opportunities beyond the regulatory minimum. This may include the use of instructors to deliver training in lieu of distance-learning opportunities.
It may be the case that distance-learning is currently used as a way to save the trainees’ time as well as reduce the costs of running training sessions.
Deploying an instructor, however, allows trainees to address more of the concerns they have in the line environment, and the overall learning experience can become more targeted to the current operational needs and challenges of the organization.
Best Practice #2: Address any specific training needs. A gap analysis of training needs should be used to assess requirements of the workforce. The advantage is that real needs can be identified and addressed whereas prescriptive requirements may not recognise the existence of such needs.
Every individual and every organization is different and has varying needs due to specific operational environments and/or specific customer requirements. Running a training-needs gap-analysis offers an opportunity to reveal where training is needed and how to pursue highly targeted technical excellence.
Best Practice #3: Provide training to foster desirable behaviours in the workforce on top of specific technical skills. Operatives should not just be trained to handle a particular type of operation, emergency or contingency, but also to develop behavioural competencies (i.e. communication, leadership and decision-making) in order to foster consistent and appropriate responses at all times while within the line environment.
Agents for Change
Having summarized what a training system pursuing technical excellence should look like, it should still be remembered that in some organizations it may not be that easy to ensure management buy-in to upgrade the training system.
Thus Flight Department Managers need to become creative agents for change within their companies. The top layer of management may be distant from the operational reality and not understand the importance of training to ever improve safety performance.
Working with Senior Management
It may seem natural to maintain bare minimum requirements, but it is the responsibility of training managers to convince senior management of the value in upgrading the training system. Convincing senior managers to make budgetary concessions may seem a difficult exercise, but should nevertheless be attempted.
A case should be raised that emphasizes less the benefits of upgrading the system (and spending money in the process) and more the possible losses if the training system is not upgraded.
Senior management may believe the existing training system is working fine, and subsequently struggle to reconcile a request for extra funding without a thorough case being presented.
Of course, such a case should not be designed to alarm; it should simply be balanced to raise the awareness among senior management of what is needed to pursue technical excellence.