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Keeping your FBO customers happy

by Joe McDermott 4. May 2016 16:57
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Whether you run a small regional airport GA FBO or a major BizAv corporate facility there are many things you can do to keep your customers happy, be they crew, owners or trip support providers.

Here are just a few often over looked areas worth considering:

Billing: Must always be prompt, transparent and complete. Airport fees such as landing, parking and security fees should be clearly displayed as such, ideally shown as a sub item, right up the top. FBO fees should always be accompanied by a full description. Third party fees, such as catering, taxis, chauffeurs etc. again should be in one section & accompanied by a full description. If a flight department or trip support service provider supplies special billing instructions they should be followed. Nothing is worse for a crew (billing wise that is) or trip support provider than a late or incomplete invoice. For the FBO, it can result in late payment, part payment and even loss of the customer. Every FBO needs to have a front line staff member in the billing loop as accounts department staff very often do not have any understanding of what happens on the ramp and probably could not care less. Almost every FBO I have consulted for was found to be losing out on significant revenue due to a disconnect between the services provided by the ramp agents and the accounts department processing of the bill.

Aircraft: All aircraft owners or flight crew are concerned about their aircraft while left on the ramp or in the hangar. Security, hangar rash (minor incidents involving damage to aircraft that typically originate due to improper ground handling in and around a hangar, other aircraft or objects on the ground) and FOD are a constant consideration. A well kept hangar and tidy ramp will always be noticed by pilots and will instil confidence.

Ramp staff: Your front line defence! Well trained, courteous and knowledgeable staff will always stand out. Clean, tidy and with matching uniforms suitably selected for ramp operations will catch the eye but also ensure your team are provided proper PSE and always ware/carry it.

Customer service: “Going the extra mile” is often cited as the mark of a good customer orientated operation. Frankly, the simple things come first, reading, understanding, confirming and carrying out the handling request instructions. Have everything in place and be ahead of the curve at all times. Get all of this right and it’s a great start. When the customer throws a curve ball, that’s when your team need to be able to fall back on training, back office contacts lists, excellent communication and a will to source a solution. Sometimes the customer will be unreasonable, looking for something that is just unavailable or not possible at that time. This is when team members get the chance to either pull out all the stops to comply with such a request or to fully explain why the request cannot be fulfilled and to explore all the alternatives. Above all, staff should try to anticipate clients needs, learn what specific clients likes, dislikes and patterns are for future reference.

Pet hates: Owners or passengers can react badly to staff for what they may see as over familiarization, inattentiveness, sloppiness, unkempt dress, cheap aftershave/perfumes or abrupt manner. Handling their baggage with due consideration is paramount. If an owner takes a dislike to a member or members of staff it can cause all kind of problems and can lead to a change of FBO and loss of business.

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Keep Your Banker Happy

by David Wyndham 4. May 2016 13:19
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Financing rates for loans and leases are very low. Yet it isn't easy to get financing and the paperwork can be daunting. If you are looking for a lease or a loan for an aircraft, here are a few tips to help you help your financier.

Educate your financier as to how your lease or loan is a great risk. There is plenty of money to lend and financial institutions want and need to do business. They need to do transactions, but they also need to carefully manage their risk. It is up to you to provide them the information they need demonstrating you are a good credit risk. That means lots of financials of course. But is also means that the individual you are working with needs to understand your business.  Much of the decision is based on analytics, but there is room for judgment.

Your local banker with whom you have had a long term business relationship may be more likely to support your need for financing, even if they don't know much about aviation. Educate them on the lower depreciation that aircraft have relative to other transportation forms. Yes, since 2008 aircraft resale values have not fared well, but relative to trucks, they are a much better risk with a much longer life. That may not be obvious to your banker.

Pick your aircraft like a banker or risk manager. New aircraft are easier to finance, but older aircraft do get financing. Turbine financing rule of thumb: aircraft age at the start of the lease/loan plus the length of the term should not exceed 15 years. Example: your should be able to get a five year term on a 10-year old aircraft. Don't expect the five-year term on the age 20 aircraft. Also expect to put 20% down on the loan - more if the aircraft is older. That down payment is the cushion the banker needs to keep what is owed well under what the outstanding debt is at any time.

Reducing financial risk also means that the banker will favor, or even require, a guaranteed hourly maintenance program on at least the engines. This is routine with leases. Lease return conditions generally require all components have at least 50% of their useful life remaining or you pay a detriment adjustment. The engine guaranteed hourly maintenance program both covers the time to overhaul adjustment plus makes the returned aircraft at lease-end more popular in the resale market, either in another lease or as a sale.

Plan on time to research and secure your financing. Talk to your banker early in the acquisition process and see what information they will need. You may need to check out several sources. One banker that deals with turbine equipment up to $5 million in value isn't likely to want to do a deal on a new mid-size business jet. Know who and what your options are.

There are a lot of financial uncertainties in any time. Right now the oil/energy markets, China, the Middle-East, and the US election are in the front of their anxieties. When looking for financing or a lease, don't add to them! And yes, cash is and always will be King. 


 

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David Wyndham | Leasing

Taking out the Guesswork

by GlobalAir.com 4. May 2016 09:47
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By Adam Doyle – Paint and Interior Sales Manager
Elliott Aviation

For a customer, a large paint and interior project can be very intimidating. In many cases, the aircraft is not planned to look anything like it does when it comes into the shop. However, when doing a project with a major paint and interior work scope, it is critical that there are minimal surprises along the way.

With a mid sized jet or larger, it is impossible to imagine what your paint and interior will look like without help from your paint and interior team. A good team can put projects together on the front end so you can visualize your custom aircraft interior from day one. In addition to visualizing your aircraft, a good team will have everything taken care of for you from ease of communication, to having materials in stock and ready to review.

3D Software
There are programs that are focused on having full 3D renderings of what your interior will look like before you start the project. You pick a variety of materials, woodwork samples, leathers, plating and you are able to have a really good handle on what your aircraft will look like upon completion. Our proprietary system, Envision 2.0, even lets you virtually walk around the cabin and compare different materials in real time.

Materials In Stock
As paint and interior professionals we know that even with advanced technology, it is essential to actually have material on hand to get the most accurate representation possible. A reputable shop will have a large catalog of options for you to choose. That way you don’t just get to see it, but you get to feel it and understand the unique qualities that leather or material may posses.

Design Expertise
The problem that many people may have is that there are TOO many options. That’s why it is important to have a team of designers to really understand your preferences and help guide you through the process. Aircraft paint and interior designers follow all of the latest trends not only in color, but in things like LED lighting, ink-resistant ultra leather, custom carpets and new seat designs. They cannot only save you a lot of time and headache trying to come up with designing a modern cabin.

Paint Chips and Spray Outs
As certain colors like metallics are impossible to properly visualize on a screen, your shop should be able to aid you with paint chips and spray outs. This would be very important to doing something like matching the colors of a logo, or seeing the color-changing effects of a chromalusion stripe. You can also request multiple so you can see how multiple colors will look together on your aircraft.

Improved Communication Flow
During the project, communication is key. A good shop will not only give you a single point of contact Customer Service Representative, but allow you access to talk directly with the technicians that do the work. This helps the customer to get detailed technical questions answered to help them make a more informed decision. It is also critical that your representatives respond to you in a timely manner. You are paying a lot of money and may have uncertainties. A good team will make sure that when your project is in house, you are the number one priority.

Summing it All Up
As aircraft professionals, we all understand that when going into a major paint and interior refurbishment you have many uncertainties. It is our job to try and not only address all of them up front, but to be proactive about any issues that may arise along the way. During the project, you need proper communication to make sure everything turns out better than you could even imagine.

Adam Doyle joined Elliott Aviation in 2000 as an interior technician after graduating from Wyoming Technical Institute. While at Elliott Aviation, Adam has earned many different promotions on the shop floor including Install Team Lead, Soft Goods Team Lead, Assistant Interior Shop Manager and Seat Shop Manager. Adam’s most recent promotion has been to Paint and Interior Sales Representative for Elliott Aviation. He uses his experience with various vendors, products and processes to educate our clients by providing direction and helping plan for future investment with realistic and accurate figures.

Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA). More information can be found at www.elliottaviation.com

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I Toured the UPS Worldport and it Changed my Life

by Tori Williams 1. May 2016 18:53
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One of the major perks of attending the only flight university in Kentucky is that we have a great relationship with UPS. Seeing as their worldwide air hub is located about an hour and a half down the road, it only makes sense that a partnership was created and has been growing for several years now.

I consider myself a Kentucky girl and anyone from here knows what a huge deal UPS is for our state. Most of the pilots who are training at EKU that are originally from Kentucky started their piloting education because UPS inspired them. It is hard to miss a giant Airbus, MD-11, or Boeing 747 flying through the air on any given day in UPS livery.

They allow a group of students from EKU Aviation to come tour once a year. Getting into the Worldport was a big deal. We each had to provide personal information so that they knew exactly who was on the premises at what time. Our tour began at 10:00 PM on a Friday night and lasted until 3:00 AM because they wanted us to be there during their “rush hour,” so we could see everything in action.

We met our point of contact and tour guide in the parking lot and he ushered us into the building that was clearly designed for touring groups. Large dramatic photos depicting their fleet and operations hung from the walls and a screen showed a live feed of where all of their planes were currently positioned. The first impression that this place gives off is awe-inspiring. We all checked in and filed into the next room where they had models of all of their aircraft types. Our guide gave us a quick overview of the planes and their capacities. Our group knew a little bit more about airplanes than a typical group would so he told us some mechanical facts too.

You could tell that the people who were in charge of public relations were the best of the best. They were courteous, friendly, professional, and seemed to really love their jobs. Their enthusiasm for sharing the UPS Worldport with us was amazing and they continually encouraged us to someday join their company as pilots or employees in another capacity. This was a huge deal for most everyone on the tour, who has an end-goal of flying for UPS.

They showed us a video presentation about their production capacity and it literally gave me chills. They have the capacity to process 416,000 packages per hour, and process an average of 1.6 million packages a day. They turn over approximately 130 aircraft daily, and they keep 2.5 million gallons of fuel on site. During their peak season they will use all of that fuel during one 4-hour period. These are just a few of the quick facts that they presented on the video.

After the video we split the group in half, and one half went to tour the Worldport while the other half went to fly the simulators. I ended up being in the group that did the simulators first, and it was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in aviation yet. They took us to the training building and we got to fly in the Airbus A300. All five of us fit comfortably in the simulator because it was as large as a room. There was the part for the pilot and co-pilot, a large chair with controls on it for the simulator operator, and two jump seats in the back for observers.

The simulator was full motion so everyone could feel every control input. I flew in the captain seat first and he guided me on how to takeoff, fly to some headings and eventually fly an ILS down to the runway. It was so amazing applying everything I have learned from my training thus far to try to understand the complex systems of the A300. Just as my experience from flying a RJ simulator a few years back taught me, using the trim was extremely helpful and necessary for flying this beast.

After we flew in the simulators the instructors offered to write the time in our logbooks. I am so happy to say that I now have actual simulator time logged flying the A300! We thanked our instructors and headed off to the maintenance hangar. They had the 747 and an A300 sitting in this maintenance hangar that appeared to go on forever. We did a walk around of the A300 and they pointed out a few interesting features. The one that fascinated me the most was the large red dot that was located under the tail. Our guide told us that during the preflight inspection, pilots look to see if any of the paint on this red dot was scraped off. If it was, the previous flight had a tail strike!

From here we went out to the actual ramp and road around in a tour bus to see different phases of the operation. With a steady stream of flights coming in as our background, we saw employees unloading the giant containers of packages and transporting them to the package sorting area. They stopped the tour bus where we had a perfect view of the active runway. UPS planes were landing every two minutes, touching down only a few yards away from where we were. It was so fast and high-energy that we could not help but stare in awe for as long as they would let us stay.

Our tour of this side of the Worlport ended with us walking around the package sorting area. This particular part of the premises has been on television specials such as Modern Marvels, Ultimate Factories, and many more to showcase how it is the number one most efficient factory of its type in the world. I could write an entire article just about this place. It boasts over 100 miles of conveyer belts and takes up an area equal to more than 90 football fields. There was so much going on that it made my head spin. They have truly perfected the monumental task of sorting and tracking thousands of packages every minute.

We got back in our bus and headed to the Global Operation Center (GOC) across the road. This building contains offices for crew scheduling, flight dispatch, maintenance control, contingency functions, and their meteorology department. The operations here control every UPS flight worldwide. It was amazing how every department was situated in the same room, so that if something were to happen in flight dispatch that needed assistance from crew scheduling, they only had to walk a few feet away and talk to the person in charge of that department. Perhaps most importantly, they have an entire meteorology department located about 10 feet away from the flight dispatchers.

They gave us a briefing on each of the functions of the departments and allowed us into the main room after an intense security screening. The lights were very dim so that employees would keep their voices down and have an easier time focusing. There was no photography allowed at this point of the tour and it was a very serious environment. The safe and successful operation of their entire fleet was dependent on the people in this room so it gave us all a bit of a tense feeling.

Although it was almost 3:00 AM at this point, I was wide-awake from all of the amazing things I had seen during our tour. UPS is truly one of the most advanced and efficient companies in the world. I was continually blown away by their innovation and professionalism in all aspects of their operations. I hope that some day I am able to work for UPS, or any company of such high caliber. It truly changed the way that I see possibilities for the future and what a passionate group of hard workers are capable of achieving.

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Airlines | Aviation Technology | Airports | Tori Williams

A Few of My Favorite Warbirds

by Lydia Wiff 30. April 2016 08:00
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In the distance you hear a deep hum – as it gets closer, you see a gleaming aircraft appear on the horizon and suddenly you break out in goose bumps as a gleaming vintage World War II (WWII) aircraft passes over you at top speed.  Maybe I’m the only one that gets giddy when I hear those old war birds, or maybe there are more out there that can barely contain themselves when old aircraft come to life once again.  Today, I’ll list my three favorite warbirds from WWII along with a little history about their important role in our history.


#1: The B-29 Superfortress

Quite possibly the hardest-working aircraft ever designed in WWII, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress was designed in response to a request from the United States Army Air Corps for a pressurized, long-range, bomber aircraft.  Clocking out at over 350 miles per hour (mph) in cruise, the Superfortress could attain altitudes at over 30,000 feet with a wingspan at over 140 feet long. 

The Superfortress also came equipped with four, remotely controlled turrets – the General Electric Central Fire Control System.  Among the first of its kind, these turrets were controlled via analog electrical instrumentation.  Additionally, the B-29 was the first fully-pressurized bomber aircraft providing safety and comfort for its crew.  Almost 4,000 of these “super bombers” were built by Boeing to aid in the war effort.

Today, only 22 B-29s are in existence with one still flying which you may have seen at places such as AirVenture in Oshokosh, WI – this B-29 is affectionately dubbed “Fifi”.


#2: The P-51 Mustang

Next up we have the P-51 Mustang.  This gleaming gem was used as a long-range, single-pilot fighter, and a fighter-bomber during WWII, the Korean War and various other conflicts.  Designed in 1940 by the American company, North American Aviation, it was in response to the licensing requirements of the British Purchasing Commission. 

First flown operationally by the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Mustang was used as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and a fighter-bomber.  Due to the Rolls-Royce engine in the P-51B/C model, the fighter could perform at altitudes above 15,000 feet allowing it to match or better the Luftwaffe’s fighters – I wonder what they did for oxygen up there?


Not limited to just Europe, the P-51 was flown in many conflicts including the North African, Mediterranean, and Italian theaters and was used in the Pacific War against the Japanese.  During the Korean War, it was used as the main fighter aircraft until jet aircraft took over that role with the advent of new technology.  Despite the new technology, the Mustang was used until the early 1980s in conflicts. 

Now, these amazing fighters are owned by private collectors, on display in museums, and still flown in many airshows all over the country.  It just goes to show one that after even 50 years, this amazing aircraft still exists – what a testament to American engineering!


#3: The B-25 Mitchell

Dubbed the “Mitchell Bomber” after Major General William “Billy” Mitchell, the B-25 is another bomber that served in every theater of WWII in addition to remaining in service which spanned four decades.  With nearly 10,000 of these twin-engine bombers built, like many other aircraft, this design came at the request of the Army Air Corps.

Going up against other aircraft manufacturers such as Douglas, North American Aircraft (NAA) went on to design the most military aircraft in United States history.  NAA was also the only company to simultaneously produced bombers, fighters, and trainers.  Among some of the most notable missions the Mitchell flew was the “Doolittle Raid” in 1942 led by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle on the mainland of Japan four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Over the years, the B-25 had a few variants in design that included equipment for de-icing, anti-icing, and gunship modifications making it a versatile war-time platform.  The B-25 proved to be a formidable airframe and was used around the world for war-time activities in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Netherlands. 


And Your Favorites Are?

While many of these aircraft were designed to subdue our enemies overseas, I can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of American aerospace engineers and the sheer beauty of these aircraft.  My favorite part about being in Oshkosh for AirVenture is watching the reenactment of the Doolittle Raid and the tributes to aerospace egineers, not to mention all the privately restored warbirds on display.

So, what’s your favorite warbird?

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Aviation History | Lydia Wiff | Vintage Aircraft





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