January 2011 Aviation Articles

Three Tips For Effective Communication

I grew up in Dover, New Hampshire. Most locals tended to drop the letter R when it was at the end of a word. So I was from “Dovah,  New Hampshah.” We were not as bad as our neighbors from Boston (“Pahhhhk the cahhhh”), but you could see the influence. As I aged, traveled, and lived in different areas, the letter R returned.  Other than a raised eyebrow or two, the dropped R never really caused a problem with communicating. 

Within the cockpit, we need to speak clearly and concisely so that any pilot or controller can understand what is said. "Taxi to Runway 18" is not clearance to taxi onto runway 18. In the business world, we also need to communicate clearly. Major decisions can go awry because of misunderstandings. 

Aviation, like other professions, comes with its own tech-speak. Abbreviations and jargon can shorten sentences but can also cause confusion. Mention MSG-3 to the director of maintenance and you get conversation about maintenance philosophies. Mention that to an executive and they may think it is an ingredient in Chinese take-out. NPV gets a blank stare from the pilot and a smile from the CFO. As long as we stay within our discipline, communication can be tough enough, but when the pilot, the executive, the lawyer and the CFO sit down, things can easily be misunderstood or worse. Guess who we need for a successful aircraft acquisition?

The whole point with communication is to understand and be understood. Here are three tips to get everyone on the same page. 

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Explain it to me like I'm an eight-year old. 

Eliminate the jargon, or explain it. Jargon only serves to exclude people who aren't in the club and can easily make someone feel resentment over being left out. BFL is not a football league in Belgium. While replacing BFL with "runway needed for take-off" isn't 100% technically correct, it does get the point across. Don't dumb it down, just be clear. Simplicity works.  

Stay focused. 

With regards to an aircraft selection or recommendation, make sure you focus on the requirements for getting an aircraft. If the aircraft is for business use, make sure that all the requirements connect the aircraft with the corporate mission. Why do we need this non-stop range, why do we need this cabin size, why this many seats? The answer to these aircraft questions needs to end up at why you need the aircraft in the first place. 

Keep it short. 

Lincoln's Gettysburg address was 268 words. I know the lawyers don't/won't/can't do this, but in general, brevity helps with communications. When you communicate with individuals with different skill sets, keeping it straightforward keeps everyone on the same page. Did you ever read a seven page email? I know I never did and never will. A seven page report might be too short. A two page summary is too long. Brevity is using just enough words to convey the point.

We routinely work with the aviation department and the executive team at the same time. The pilot understands the technical information regarding why we are recommending a certain aircraft. The executive team understands why the recommendations make business sense. The cost and financial analysis needs to pass the scrutiny of the CFO. 

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." Robert McCloskey 

 

Find aircraft for sale listings and pilot resources for U.S. airports on GlobalAir.com.

FAA Relaxes, Slightly, The Prohibition On Company Reimbursement For Part 91 Flights By Certain Officers/Employees



As you may recall, back on July 8, 2010 the FAA published a Proposed Interpretation seeking public comment regarding a proposal to modify the FAA's broad prohibition on pro-rata reimbursement for the cost of owning, operating and maintaining a company aircraft when used for routine personal travel by senior company officials and employees. After receiving comments, and in response to the National Business Aviation Association's ("NBAA") request that the FAA modify its longstanding prohibition, on December 10, 2010 the FAA issued a Modified Interpretation in which it agreed that, under certain circumstances, it would allow "a company to be reimbursed for the personal travel by an individual whose position merits such a high level of interference into his or her travel plans."

What does that mean? Well, for those limited number of employees who are so important to a company that they can be called back to work at any time upon a moment's notice, even during personal travel, then the FAA will consider their travel on the company aircraft as "within the scope of and incidental to the business" of the company operating the aircraft. However, the Modified Interpretation warns that not all personal travel will meet the conditions for reimbursement, such as "when the high-level employee or official may have personal travel plans that are unlikely to be altered or cancelled, even for compelling business reasons." By way of example, and for purposes of guidance, the FAA cites travel for a significant event, such as a wedding or funeral of a close family member, or for necessary or urgent medical treatment, as instances of personal travel that would not likely qualify for reimbursement.

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It is important to note that this interpretation applies to reimbursement under FAR 91.501(b)5 which specifically regulates "large airplanes of U.S. registry, turbojet-powered multi-engine civil airplanes of U.S. registry, and fractional ownership program aircraft of U.S. registry that are operating under FAR 91 Subpart K in operations not involving common carriage." However, companies operating other aircraft may be able to take advantage of the regulation under the NBAA's Exemption 7897, as amended. Exemption 7897, or the "Small Aircraft Exemption" as it is called by NBAA, allows NBAA Members to operate small civil airplanes and helicopters of U.S. registry under the operating rules of FARs 91.503 through 91.535.

In order to take advantage of this interpretation, the company will need to make a written determination that the flight in question was of a routine personal nature. The FAA also advises that the company should maintain a list of individuals whose position with the company require him or her to routinely change travel plans within a short time period. The company must then provide that list to the FAA upon request.

With the proper documentation, companies will be able to provide their select few executives with personal travel on the company aircraft and receive reimbursement while still operating under Part 91. Not a big move by the FAA, but certainly a move in the right direction.

 

Find aircraft for sale listings and pilot resources for U.S. airports on GlobalAir.com.

Update on Eurocopter X4, potential replacement for Eurocopter Dauphin

Eurocopter Dauphin
The X4 could replace the Eurocopter Dauphin (above).

The replacement for the Eurocopter Dauphin helicopter series could be a “game changer,” says the CEO of Eurocopter. However, the amount of technological advancement for the rotorcraft could depend on partial French funding of the project, according to reports.

AIN Online reports that company CEO Lutz Bertling has set the bar high for the Eurocopter X4 project, offering a higher payload and increased performance in a safer, greener model. AIN reports that fly-by-wire controls might be a feature in the new model, which is expected to launch this year.

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Flight Global reports this week that Bertling said an X4 will be “a totally different aircraft” if the French government declines a financial support application.

A previous AIN report said the French financial support could cover up to 30 percent of the program’s cost. In Fall 2010, Eurocopter began testing its X3 model, a turboprop hybrid.

Piper Aircraft discontinues PiperSport LSA; other U.S. Sport Aviation Expo highlights

Despite announcing earlier this month that it would discontinue sales of its PiperSport LSA, ending a relationship with manufacturer Czech Sport Aircraft, Piper Aircraft decided it would still field an exhibit at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo held this past weekend in Sebring, Fla., to show its support for the sport aircraft industry.

Piper executives cited “cultural differences” in severing ties on the PiperSport project. Read more on the development from AOPA Online here.

AVWeb recaps the highlights of the expo in this article. Among the biggest stories during the event included the selling of Gobosh Aviation to a group of Denver-area investors that also own Skyraider Aviation, a sport pilot club based in Colorado. More from AOPA here.

Get local coverage of the Sport Aviation Expo, as well as a few photos of the event, from this Florida newspaper article. Find new and used light sport aircraft for sale listings at GlobalAir.com, or list your own aircraft for sale, by clicking here.

GENERAL AVIATION NEEDS A ZIPCAR OF THE AIR

Where does the general aviation industry go from here? Well, this looks to be a year of transition, from the old economy that we knew prior to 2008 to the new economy that should start to really see growth in 2012. Growth will come with a different look than it has in the past, driven by technology innovation in the market and increased globalization. The United States will no longer be alone in the drivers seat. Traditional market general aviation growth will happen in China, India and other developing economies.

Growth here in the U.S. has to come from market innovation. We need to do more than get used to it. We need to adapt and embrace it, and determine where the opportunities are for those of us in general aviation in the U.S. and in Europe.

Our company finished 2010 with a strong run to the end of December, and the first few months of 2011 look strong in aircraft charter and FBO fuel sales. Is this a sustainable trend? I hope so. My major concern is the volatility of fuel prices. We don’t know if the economy, let alone the aviation industry, can stand oil prices 30% to 50% higher than they are today.

Setting concerns aside, when I look out to 2011 and beyond, I see opportunities for general aviation to capture the traveler in a new way. The number one reason more people don’t fly general aviation aircraft is price. I have written a lot about this over the past 18 months. I’ve thought about this problem (opportunity) for many years prior, as I talk with people who use or want to use our service almost every day for the past 28 years. There are some ideas worth considering in a good book I’m reading right now called “What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption” by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers.

Wikipedia says the following about this term I had not heard of until recently:

The term collaborative consumption is used to describe the cultural and economic force away from ‘hyper-consumption’ to re-invented economic models of sharing, swapping, bartering, trading or renting that have been enabled by advances in social media and peer-to-peer online platforms

The authors propose that in order for “Collaborative Consumption” to work, four underlying principles must be present:

* Critical Mass
* Idling Capacity
* Belief in the Commons
* Trust Between Strangers

Conditions one and two definitely exist in General Aviation and the subset of Business Aviation. We sit on a fleet of underutilized aircraft (idling capacity) , many parked and not flying at all, and even the active aircraft are not used anywhere near optimum levels. Critical mass is present but not properly managed and accounted for. In the U.S. there are 17,000 aircraft available for hire in charter service. Many more aircraft could be available if demand was sufficient to put them to work. Where are they and how do they work together as a synergistic fleet to serve the market? Today the fleet doesn’t work in a synergistic way.

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The charter industry is fragmented and not optimized, but technology companies like Charter X / Avinode are making strides in providing a global distribution system for supply of aircraft availability across the fleet. The bigger problem seems to be finding the customer.

That customer is currently being pushed and shoved around by the airlines in a system that seems to become profitable only at the expense of efficiency, comfort and happiness of the traveler (the customer).  If Zappos is in the business of delivering happiness I sometimes wonder if the airline system is in the business of delivering misery.

On conditions three and four, we don’t know if there is a belief in the commons and trust between strangers in General Aviation. Are we willing to share a ride or flight, and do we trust who we are sharing with to sit next to them? The defining technology that will push us through these hurdles will be social media. I can see a day when we share a flight with others to a destination of common interest and long before we board the aircraft we know who we are flying with because we know them online. We see their Facebook profile and we are connected to them on LinkedIn. We have tweeted and texted them and maybe even used email (outdated) to connect to them, to discuss our common travel intentions.

And so our belief in the commons and trust between strangers centers on sharing a flight in a private aircraft together to safely and efficiently travel. And more than that, it will be enjoyable travel because the travel itself will have a social component to it that we don’t get when we travel on the airlines today. Traveling with old and newfound friends and business associates and family will be the new order of travel.

This is not going to happen on a large scale in 2011, but it will begin this year. By 2015 it will absolutely change travel by air in ways that most people cannot even imagine today.

Early adopters from the supply side will be those charter companies (new and established) who are not afraid to adopt new technologies and business processes to meet the new economy. As the critical mass increases and more travelers find this way of air travel, more suppliers will fill the demand.

From the demand side, those who are fed up with the current system of air travel are hungry, maybe even begging for a better solution to meet their need to travel. Social technology may discover that demand for what we have to offer far outpaces our ability to meet it with the supply where it sits today.

Eventually the airlines will have to reorder their business model when they discover that travelers don’t want to go when and where they are being forced to through the current system. It will take them a while to realize what is happening and some airlines that do understand innovation will figure it out. Many will not, due to their inflexible business models.

The next few years will be an exciting time in our industry as disruptive technology changes the way we travel. I look forward to seeing it happen and hopefully being in the midst of it.

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