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Who is your boss? (For the Aviation Department)

by David Wyndham 12. September 2017 13:44
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If you are a new first officer, its obvious that your boss, on any given flight, is the Captain, the pilot in command. Then the day comes that you are on your first trip as a Captain. Yet, you still have a boss. Now it is whoever is sitting in the back of the aircraft, or the person who authorized the trip. You also have another boss, the aviation manager. That individual has a boss, typically the CEO. Even the CEO does not escape having a boss, someone to whom they are responsible. They have many bosses.

A CEO needs to be concerned with the shareholders and their returns.  He or she must listen to the Board of Directors, yet communicate effectively with employees.  The CEO who cannot inspire employees to further the corporation’s Vision and pursue its Mission will face difficulties in meeting corporate goals. For officials of public corporations, there are regulators who also have oversight.   Yes, a corporate CEO has many masters.

Like the CEO, the Aviation Manager also has many bosses, even if the Aviation Department’s sole purpose is to be the CEO’s transportation.  At the end of the day, it is the corporation and its shareholders who must be served. It is where they meet that the Aviation Manager can add value.

The Aviation Department must integrate with the corporate structure and understand how it supports external and internal business units within the entire enterprise.  While it is tempting to cater to the CEO, the enlightened Aviation Manager focuses on addressing the goals and objectives of the company as a whole.  Woe be the Aviation Manager who seeks only the favor of a single executive. A key to longevity of the Aviation Department is how well it is enmeshed into the activity of the corporation.

The Aviation Department benefit the entire corporation at three levels.

- The Shareholder Level: profits, market share, returns are examples.

- The Enterprise Level: quality, asset management, cost control.

- Executive/Employee Level: productivity, team collaboration, product development

One recent client’s experience shows all three levels being met by the effective utilization of the corporate aircraft. The company had a goal to double the number of retail locations in the Northeast US.  The Aviation Department used the corporate aircraft to transport corporate teams to the Northeast to oversee and manage the opening of the new locations and to coordinate the training needed for the new mangers and employees. It flew senior management to speak at the regional meetings. Other times they flew sales and marketing teams to train new employees at multiple sites over a few days.  

The aviation department benefited the corporation at all three levels. They helped meet Shareholder expectations by: increasing market share by opening new stores. At the Enterprise Level they helped the management teams maintain quality of service at the new locations. For the Employees, they helped maintain executive staff productivity while training new staff.

Here are a few tips.

Focus on Corporate Goals and consider how Aviation can help achieve those goals: Relate trip fulfillment to corporate goals.  For the retailer cited above, the utilization strategy was supporting trips to the Northeast US during the corporation’s expansion in that region.  The Aviation Department knew the corporate goals and developed tactics for how aviation personal and resources would support the company. Not all executives may readily see how aviation is able to help.

Use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the efficacy and value-added nature of the Aviation Department. As a quick review, for a KPI to be valuable, it must be understandable, meaningful and measurable. In general, a KPI can follow the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based. Tie KPI’s into the utilization strategy to aid in the measuring of the benefits to the company. 

Beware of measuring activity rather than productivity. One client managed the flight schedule to maximize filling the seats on the aircraft traveling to their main operating locations. Sometimes that strategy meant coordinating trips to fill the aircraft seats. For the Aviation Department, they maximized the productivity of each trip (passengers carried), knowing that the productivity benefit to the company was maintained while managing costs. While hours flown is an important metric, the Aviation Department maximized measures of productivity that supported the executive team and thus the corporation.

With respect to costs, be sure to include costs that are avoided in terms of travel expenses such as overnight stays, lost worked time/productivity and other elements of inefficiency. Time saved results in money saved.

Throughout the process of helping met the company’s strategic goals, the Aviation Department will need feedback from the corporation’s executive leadership. In addition to focusing on corporate goals, feedback is essential to guide the Aviation Department in its quest to serve the many bosses who demand satisfaction. Doing so benefits the company, the shareholders, the employees, and of course, the aviation department.

 

 

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David Wyndham | Flight Department

Top Five Things to Look for in a Flight School

by Tori Williams 2. September 2017 11:00
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So you have finally decided that you will chase your dreams and get your pilot license. That’s great! The next big step in the process is to pick a flight school. However, with the number of flight schools around nowadays (sometimes multiples at single airports) it can be difficult to know which flight school to choose. Ultimately you will be giving a large amount of money to them, so it is very important you find the right fit for your goals and needs as a flight student.

In this article I would like to outline some of the most important things to look for in a flight school, to hopefully assist you in choosing the perfect fit. Sometimes it is worth driving to the next town over for your preferred flight school.

1. Availability of aircraft

One of the number one complaints I’ve heard from my flight student friends is that they are unable to schedule their flights when they need to because there is limited aircraft availability. Having too many students trying to fly too few aircraft can lead to a lot of frustration and unhappiness from all involved. Speak with current students and see how often they are able to fly. Is it flexible or will you be fighting for a plane when the weather is nice? Another important thing to think about is what you will be flying after you complete your training. Does the flight school offer rentals without instructors? Is there a local flying club that has ties to the school? Having a game plan for when you’re flying on your own will save you a lot of work once you achieve your goals to earn your license.

2. Experienced instructors

One of my pet peeves with flight instructors is when they are clearly just instructing to get the hours to move to the airlines. Although this is what the majority of instructors are doing, it doesn’t mean they get to be lazy or haphazard with teaching you. Watch out for instructors who do not take your training seriously, or will cancel your flight for the slightest inconvenience. A good instructor will tailor your lessons to your learning style, and will do the best they can to advance you through the lessons so you aren’t wasting money. Remember, no matter how nice the person is, you have the right to switch to a new instructor if you feel you are not making the progress that you should be.

3. Training Options

The training options that you look for in a flight school have a lot to do with what your personal goals are as a pilot. Do you intend to fly as a hobby or are you ultimately wanting to make a career out of it? There is a notable difference between a Part 61 and Part 141 certified flight school and it is up to you to decide which you prefer. This goes along with the availability of aircraft as well. Do you want to fly the classic Cessna 172 or are you looking for a more “mission-oriented” type of aircraft? Have an open mind about new aircraft if you’ve only ever experienced one type, but be picky if you need certain type ratings or endorsements for your ultimate aviation goals.

4. Good Maintenance

I can assure you that when I first started looking at flight schools, I didn’t think twice about how their maintenance was. However, once I started flying and planes continually went out of service for the most random things, I began to wonder how smoothly our maintenance department was operating. Ask any potential flight schools who is in charge of maintenance, how a student would report a discrepancy with the plane, and how quickly the turnaround time usually is if a plane does go down for maintenance. Keep in mind that aircraft have regularly scheduled inspections, and ask how long they usually take to complete them. You may be surprised to learn that they are not up to standards. Determining the airworthiness of a plane is ultimately up to the pilot in command, so knowing how well the maintenance has been kept up is important.

5. Safety Record

Even if all of the above features of your soon-to-be flight school appear to check out perfectly, safety should always be the number one concern for pilots. Closely tied to maintenance and instructor experience, the safety record of the flight school directly impacts you. Keep your ear to the ground for any stories of unsafe operations and be watchful for regulation compliance. If the flight school ends up getting shut down for operating unsafely, you may be questioned about it during an interview for an airline. In the short term, you won’t have access to the planes you were flying. Keep tabs on the history of the flight school and be cautious if anything seems off.

The time you spend comparing flight schools will always pay off in the end. Don't be afraid to be picky and ask the hard questions. Flight schools would not be around without students so make sure you do your due diligence in the beginning, and enjoy your time training. What do you look for in a flight school? Let me know in the comments below!

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Aviation Safety | Airports | Tori Williams

The Latest Lycoming Engine Airworthiness Directive: What You Need To Know

by Greg Reigel 31. August 2017 08:41
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Are you one of the estimated 778 unfortunate aircraft owners affected by the latest Lycoming airworthiness directive (“AD”)? If you are, I am hopeful this article will help you navigate your current situation.

The Airworthiness Directive

On August 4, 2017 Lycoming issued a “Mandatory Service Bulletin” requiring inspection, and potentially replacement, of connecting rod bushings in certain Lycoming engines that had been overhauled or repaired using replacement parts. The MSB identified the potentially affected engines and replacement parts, and it also included instructions for completing the inspection as well as the installation of replacement connecting rod small end bushings. It also indicated that the inspection and/or replacement be performed within the next 10 hours of engine operation.

As we know, although a manufacturer may state that its service bulletin is “mandatory,” for most operators flying their aircraft strictly under Part 91, service bulletins are not, in fact, mandatory. So, when it was issued, the MSB wasn’t mandatory for most Part 91 operators.

Unfortunately, the FAA received 5 reports of uncontained engine failures and in-flight shut downs due to failed connecting rods on certain Lycoming engine models identified in the MSB. Based upon its evaluation of the information available to it, the FAA determined that an unsafe condition existed or could develop in products of the same type design. As a result, on August 10, 2017 the FAA issued the AD with respect to the Lycoming engines requiring compliance with the MSB in order to prevent uncontained engine failure, total engine power loss, in-flight shut downs, and possible loss of the aircraft.

And, as we also know, an airworthiness directive is mandatory, regardless of the particular regulations under which you are operating. So, if your aircraft’s Lycoming engine is one of those specified in the MSB/AD you have no choice but to comply with the AD if you want your aircraft to be airworthy.

Cost of Compliance

According to the AD, the FAA anticipates that initial compliance with the AD (the inspection of the connecting rod small bushings) will cost engine owners approximately $1,425 in parts and labor. If connecting rod replacement is required, the FAA estimates the additional parts and labor costs will range from $2,170.00 for a four cylinder engine up to $6,850.00 for an eight cylinder engine. Of course, these are just estimates and they do not take into consideration any warranty coverage or variations in the costs of parts or labor.

Fortunately, this AD isn’t as extensive, or expensive, as the 2006 Lycoming crankshaft airworthiness directive. That airworthiness directive required replacement of the crankshaft in approximately 3,774 engines to the tune of about $16,000 per engine.

So, what are your options if your options if this AD applies to your engine?

Warranty Coverage

One option is to pursue a warranty claim with Lycoming. Lycoming has several types of warranties: New and Rebuilt Engine Warranty; New Non-Certified Warranty; Overhauled Engine Warranty; and Replacement Parts Warranty. You will need to determine which warranty applies to your engine and then file a claim with Lycoming. Lycoming will then determine whether you have coverage and, if so, to what extent. Although I haven’t reviewed Lycoming’s various warranty programs, the coverage typically includes parts only. And it certainly does not cover loss of use or other losses an engine owner may suffer as a result of the AD.

Litigation

If you don’t have warranty coverage, or if you are unsatisfied with the warranty coverage applicable to your engine, you could also consider suing Lycoming to try and recover the costs of complying with the AD and any other losses you suffer as a result of the AD. However, given the anticipated cost of compliance, unless you have other significant losses as a direct result of the AD, the cost of litigation would likely exceed your losses with no guaranty of recovery. (Although given the number of affected engines, I wouldn’t be surprised if some owners attempted a class action lawsuit against Lycoming).

Also keep in mind that manufacturer’s warranties typically include language making the warranty your sole remedy and excluding your ability to pursue other claims for recovery against the manufacturer. So I would anticipate that Lycoming would raise this and other legal defenses in responding to any lawsuits. But litigation is certainly an option, although not necessarily a practical or preferred option.

As you may recall, the Lycoming crankshaft airworthiness directive resulted in numerous lawsuits brought by engine owners against Lycoming. Of course the cost of compliance for that airworthiness directive was significantly higher than the current AD, which certainly made the economic analysis for litigation more attractive in that situation. Some lawsuits were brought by engine owners in their individual capacities, and others sought class action status on behalf of all affected engine owners. Lycoming also sued its crankshaft manufacturer, although it ultimately lost the case.


Conclusion

The bottom line for most engine owners affected by this AD is that they will need to comply in order for their aircraft to remain airworthy. How or whether they are able to recover their costs of compliance will initially depend upon how Lycoming handles the warranty issues. If Lycoming doesn’t treat its customers fairly, I would anticipate at least some litigation. However, whether such litigation will be successful is hard to say at this point in time.

Making an Upgrade Decision

by David Wyndham 9. August 2017 09:53
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The owners of a turboprop were facing the possibility of significant avionics upgrades in the next few years. In addition to adding in ADS-B, they were considering a major upgrade to their avionics suite. They also had a good offer on a new aircraft that, when delivered, would have everything they were looking for, albeit at a higher initial cost.

The upgrade would add value to their current aircraft and might make it easier to sell.  What path was best for the owners? When does it pay to do the upgrade, and when doesn't it?

The FAA requires ADS-B to be installed by 2020 to allow aircraft to use the air navigation system. If not done, the aircraft is essentially no longer flyable in its current capacity. Avionics installers have been warning that there is not enough capacity to complete ADS-B installs in all the remaining aircraft before the deadline. With residual values already low for most models, an older, non-compliant aircraft in 2020 may be unsellable except for parts.

Some long range turbine aircraft may require even more avionics upgrades to operate globally, especially in Europe. These FANS requirements and similar also can add considerably to install. But, as with ADS-B, they won’t add value but just allow you to retain the value in the aircraft and keep it flyable in the future airspace.

When to Do the Upgrade

After keeping the aircraft compliant with air navigation standards, upgrades fall into two categories:  adding new safety features and adding new capabilities.   If you need the advantages of a new aircraft, such as more range, speed or cabin volume, but don’t want the acquisition expense, the upgrade path may work.

There are a number of avionic upgrades available from companies like Avidyne, Garmin, Honeywell, Rockwell-Collins and others. Third party specialists are also doing modifications that range from updated navigation gear to a full (glass) panel replacement. When looking at new systems, consider what the current variant of your aircraft (or closest relative) has for its avionic system. Done right, these systems enhance both safety and reliability.

Possibly you may seek to add performance, such as better fuel efficiency or range.  Companies like Aviation Partners, Raisbeck and Blackhawk have been quite popular for many years.  They, and others, have aerodynamic and engine upgrades that allow your current aircraft to fly faster, further, or both. Sierra Industries offers Williams engine upgrades for older Citations that add speed and range. 

In between refurbishment and new is remanufactured. Nextant Aerospace is remanufacturing older Beechjets into Nextant 400XTi's - complete with new engines, new avionics and a new interior. Nextant is being joined by an engine upgrade from Textron. Other companies offer engine modifications as well.

For the passenger cabin, interior specialists offer all sorts of options for in-flight entertainment and airborne Internet as well as new seat designs and modern materials. If you need "more" as in seats, payload or room, your only true alternative is acquiring a larger aircraft.

Considerations

Before you undertake such a major project, consider your current aircraft’s age. Older aircraft cost more to maintain than newer ones. Wear and tear items, aging aircraft issues, and engine overhauls all drive costs up. Your aircraft must be in excellent mechanical condition and essentially free of corrosion, otherwise don't consider the upgrades.  

Do the upgrade if it has value to you. If it has value in the market place, so much the better but do it primarily for you. Unique is great with art, not with aircraft. Stick with established programs with a successful track record. Do equipment upgrades that mirror the new models or closest equivalents. Those will tend to have the best impact on resale value and also maintenance supportability.

For example: upgrading the engines on a King Air C90 can run to over $700,000. Adding in a new avionic system can run to another $750,000 or so.

A stock 20-year old C90B sells for about $1 million.  Looking at today's market, its doubtful that the upgraded C90B can recoup 100% of the upgrade at resale. The engine upgrade will add to the aircraft’s value, but don't do it just to resell the King Air after the retrofit.  The avionics are great and add to the capability and situational awareness of the pilots.  

If you are planning to sell in the next few years, these major upgrades won’t pay a full return and you won’t enjoy them long enough to benefit. Best just to do the ADS-B and start shopping for a replacement. Budget carefully and talk to other operators who have done the same upgrades. Look at the tax considerations as these upgrades may need to be capitalized. Consider the cost of borrowing the funds needed to upgrade or replace.  As long as your current aircraft is in excellent mechanical condition and you plan to keep it for the next few years, the added utility and flexibility of the upgrade may add all the value you need.

The turboprop owner above elected to acquire the new aircraft and retain the current turboprop while adding just the ADS-B.

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David Wyndham | Maintenance

What Should You Do If ATC Asks You To Call?

by Greg Reigel 3. August 2017 08:51
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If you ever find yourself in this position, it is important to understand that you do not have to make that call. You are under no legal obligation (regulation or otherwise) to place the call. The request is not an ATC instruction under FAR §91.123. So, if you don't want to call you don't have to. But just because you don't have to call, that doesn't mean you shouldn't call. You need to analyze your situation and understand the pros/cons of making the call before you decide to simply ignore ATC's request.

Why does ATC want you to call?

For starters, ATC wants to obtain your personal information so they know who was flying the aircraft. Although ATC may have the aircraft's registration number, it may not know who was flying the aircraft. This is especially true if the flight was a VFR flight without a flight plan. Also, if the aircraft is a rental or club aircraft available to multiple pilots, ATC won't necessarily know which of those pilots is actually flying the aircraft. So, ATC wants to identify the pilot and obtain his or her information. And if you make the call, you will be providing the FAA with the connection between the aircraft operation and you, the pilot.

ATC may also want to discuss what happened. Depending upon the circumstances, it is possible that providing ATC with an explanation of what happened will resolve the situation. If the situation resulted from a simple mistake or flawed procedure, ATC may provide some informal counseling to ensure that you don't end up in the same situation in the future, and that will be the end of it. Under the FAA's new compliance philosophy, this would be considered a "compliance action." However, if the situation was more complicated or severe (e.g. an intentional deviation that resulted in loss of separation) that isn't the type of situation that would be handled as a compliance action. In that case, you may not want to make the call.

What happens to the information you provide during the call?

If you decide to make the call, you need to understand a couple of key points. First, the call will be recorded. So, the FAA will have a record of what you say during the call. Second, the FAA will use the information you provide to determine how it is going to handle the situation. That could be good for you or it could be bad, depending upon what happened and what you say. If it is bad, the FAA will not hesitate to use the information you provided against you in an enforcement action.

Should you make the call?

If you are asked to contact ATC after a flight you need to answer a number of questions to determine whether it makes sense to make the call:

  • What happened?
  • Why did it happen? Did it result from a simple mistake, flawed procedure etc.?
  • Is ATC able to connect you, the pilot, with the flight operation?
  • Is it the type of situation that the FAA should handle as a "compliance action"?

When you are considering these questions, it may make sense to discuss the matter with an aviation attorney. He or she should be able to help you analyze the situation to determine whether calling ATC will help or hurt you and, if it makes sense, what you should and shouldn't say if you do decide to make the call. You should also make sure to file your ASRS Form with NASA so you can potentially benefit from the FAA's Aviation Safety Reporting Program.

The good news is that the FAA's new compliance philosophy is resulting in fewer enforcement actions in cases of simple pilot deviations where the pilot does decide to make the call. The bad news is that you now have more to consider before you decide whether you should or should not make the call. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure you think things through and get the advice you need BEFORE you make the call.

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Greg Reigel



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