All posts tagged 'Airport'

Effects of Summer Flying and How to Overcome It

First and foremost, let's state the most obvious effect of summer flying: it. is. hot.

Being a pilot from Texas, I can personally say you should check on your southern friends. There's a good chance we're dehydrated and .2 seconds away from passing out due to heat exhaustion. 

Okay, maybe a little overdramatic....but it is hot. 

When flying in the summer, whether as a student, flight instructor, or any type of general aviation pilot we need to understand the effects of the weather changes. 

Rule number 1: Always carry water. Even if you just hydrated before your flight and don't think you need it, grab water anyways (and by the way, try to go green and make it a reusable water bottle while you're at it). From first-hand experience, dehydration and heat exhaustion can have a bigger impact on flying than you'd think. Your decision-making skills and effectiveness on hand-flying the plane start to deteriorate. If ignored, dizziness and a headache can start to occur. This becomes even more important on long haul flights. Don't be the newest accident statistic due to poor flight preparation.  Even if you're in a rush, take 2 extra minutes and grab that water. 

Rule number 2: Take into account the changes it can have on aircraft performance. If you're taking off from an airport with a short runway, even if a ground roll is normally adequate, double check it. The hotter it is, the longer ground roll you need. That point you're used to rotating at or obstacle you're used to clearing might not be your friend today, especially as the heat rises continuing into August. A great tool to help gauge the temperatures at the surface and at altitude is the GlobalAir Aviation Weather Temperatures Tool. Just click the "national weather" tab, then click "temperature" and see it all illustrated on an analysis chart. A quick tip: if you're using it to plan a flight for later in the future (and not 30 minutes from now) make sure you click for the right time frame! 

Surface Temperature

Rule number 3: Still on the weather subject, check your winds before heading out. You're most likely to encounter gusts of wind on a hot summer day with calm winds at the surface. I've also experienced this firsthand, so it became a learning experience. As soon as I reached 1500 ft the wind picked up, and it didn't stop. The turbulence actually reached moderate for me that day, so I cut my flight short and went back. No sense in taking chances to keep going and fighting the plane the entire time! For any situation with undesirable weather or even maintenance issues remember this: it's better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground. The GlobalAir Winds Aloft Tool is also a great resource in planning for this. Be sure to check this and local METAR/TAF for each upcoming flight to ensure you don't get in a situation making you wish you were on the ground. 

Have any other tips for summer flying? Or maybe just good stories to tell that others can learn from? Feel free to comment them below. In the meantime, have a safe flight and happy landings!

Top 5 Interesting Airport Facts

This semester has been one long lesson into all things airport operations related. When I am not at school taking such classes as Airport Operations and Aviation Administration Decision Making, I am at the Lexington airport soaking up knowledge from my airport operations internship. I have never had a semester where I felt I experienced and could apply the material I was learning in such a way as this. I have been extremely blessed with my internship and the amazing professors at Eastern.

In a strange way, my lessons outside of the classroom have lined up perfectly with the lessons in class more times than I can count. For example, we had a lesson about airport wildlife management at school and then during my time at the airport that day we encountered birds, deer, and checked the wildlife traps. My coworkers are very good at turning things we encounter into learning moments, so I have heard countless stories and gotten hands-on experience with a lot of things my classmates are only reading about.

During this awesome semester I have learned a few airport facts that truly surprised me. I gathered my top five to share here.

1. Airports make an enormous percentage of their revenue from parking

I was surprised to find out that of the overall revenue that airports acquire, non-aeronautical revenue accounts for nearly half of the total. This exact number of their non-aeronautical revenue is 44.8%, according to one study. Parking and transportation alone contribute to 41.2% of the total revenue, putting it in a category of its own. This is one of those facts that make sense if you think about it, after all airports almost always charge for parking and thousands of cars come through every day. Several major airports also contract out parking. Companies will bid on a parking contract and whoever wins is in charge of parking at that airport. This seems to be efficient for both the airport and the parking companies.

2.TSA is under a microscope

Nobody particularly enjoys going through TSA, and it often seems ridiculous to have to remove your belt and shoes to not be a threat to national security. However, one fascinating thing I have learned is that TSA often gets tested themselves. The TSA inspector will occasionally send volunteers, usually new airport employees who have not been seen by TSA yet, though the TSA security line with explosives or other prohibited items stashed in their carry-on. In some cases, they will even strap the prohibited substance to the bodies of the volunteers to see if the TSA screener can find it that way. The supervisor on shift is made aware before testing begins so they will be prepared and not let the screener call airport police on the volunteer. Thankfully Lexington has been extremely successful in their testing, but other airports have not been so lucky.

3. Airports send birds to The Smithsonian

Whenever there is a bird strike and the airport cannot discern the species of bird, they must send DNA to The Smithsonian. That can be feathers, a sample of the bird guts, or both, depending on the state of the animal when they are found. The Smithsonian then analyzes the DNA to accurately identify the species of bird, and returns that information to the airport to include in their wildlife strike report.

4. Airport record keeping is insane

One thing I instantly noticed about working in operations is that there are dozens of large, thick binders filled with papers that they are constantly referencing, updating, and archiving. The airport is required to keep certain records for up to two years. That means that even if someone hasn’t worked at the airport in a year and a half, they still have a massive binder dedicated to them with all of their training records. Other binders include the unofficial version of the airport certification manual, dozens of maps of the airfield, badging applications, and many more that I have not yet seen. Someone could easily spend days reading these binders and not see half of the material the airport keeps on hand.

5. Airport expansion is very complicated

Commercial and GA airports alike face a number of challenges when it comes to growth. Many communities do not understand how great aviation can be for their local economy, so they oppose runway expansion projects and even the simplest changes to the airport. I found it particularly interesting using Lexington as a case study, as their airport is surrounded by horse farms owned by some of the biggest names in horse breeding and racing. It would be extremely difficult for them to expand because of the value of the land around them. Airports constantly have to balance growth with community relations, far more than several other industries.

I hope that you have learned at least one interesting fact by reading this article, and I can’t wait to learn more as I become more knowledgeable on airport operations! It is a whole world of intricacies and innovations that I am lucky to be part of!

FBOs – Putting Ramp Skills to Good Use

High quality FBO staff training can lead to a secondary purpose, especially if your ground staff is truly dedicated, enthusiastic and proud of the skills and experience they have developed.

There are a few volunteer groups of aircraft marshallers who, in their spare time, take these skills and put them to work in a variety of ways.

In the USA there is the Commemorative Air Force – Marshallers Detachment which supports Commemorative Air Force air shows and other events across the country. The Marshallers Detachment members are mainly drawn from former military personnel or in many cases family members have served in the military. The Lone Star Flight Museum, based in Galveston, Texas, has a similar group of dedicated marshallers. Indeed, the CAF Marshallers Detachment and Lone Star teams work closely together at some air shows, most notably at Wings over Houston, a CAF annual show held at Ellington Field, Houston. Incidentally, the Lone Star Museum is in the process of moving to Ellington Field to avoid a repeat of the devastation suffered during Hurricane Ike.

In the United Kingdom the North Weald Marshallers group are based at the former Royal Air Force station of the same name. They support several very large general aviation events each year, including the Light Aviation Associations annual get together at Sywell where they can have 1000+ movements over the four day event.

In Ireland we have Follow Me - Aircraft Marshallers (FM-AM), a small group (just ten members) of professional aircraft marshallers drawn from FBOs, retired FBO or airline staff (Landmark Aviation, Signature Flight Support, Universal Aviation, Weston Aviation, Aer Lingus) , who provide Aircraft Marshalling and Oversight of Airside Operations Areas for special aviation events, Fly-Ins, Air Shows and Open Days. More used as Ground Handling Agents to marshalling or towing Hawkers, Falcons, Gulfstreams, Boeing Business Jets and helicopters of every size, into tight spaces in all weather conditions, they have developed procedures and training to cover not only warbirds, but Class A light aircraft, micro lights and helicopter operations and are proficient at overseeing multiple ramps, e.g. Display Ramp, Visitors Ramp, Rotary Ramp, Refuelling Ramp, Disabled Pilots Ramp or Special Requirements Ramp.

It's Safety First Every Time! Follow Me-Aircraft Marshallers have been trained to international standards at their base FBOs, under the NATA Safety 1st - Professional Line Service Training (PLST) program operated by the National Air Transport Association or other approved safety training systems which are compliant with Irish Aviation Authority Ramp Training Regulations. Apart from aircraft marshalling PLST training covers aircraft ground servicing, fuel servicing, towing procedures, fuel farm management, fire safety, emergency procedures and aviation security with bi-annual recurrent training in place. A small number of members with no ramp training have been inducted since 2015 and they have been put through a mentored based training program. The first two trainees are expected to be signed off when the 2016 Winter Training and Recurrent Training Program is completed.

International Co-Operation: In 2011 Follow Me-Aircraft Marshallers received an invitation to join the CAF Marshallers Detachment at three of their events, TRARON (Training Squadron One) at Odessa Schlemeyer Field, CAF Air Show at Midland and Wings over Houston Air Show, all in Texas. Two senior members from the Irish group attended, underwent some integration training and were “patched”, signed off, the first non-USA marshallers to receive this honour!

Each year since, FM-AM have attended Wings Over Houston and worked the warbirds ramp alongside both CAF and Lone Star marshallers in what surely must be a unique trans Atlantic volunteer exchange of professional co-operation.

FM-AM has also been honoured by North Weald Marshallers with a number of invitations to cross the narrower Irish Sea to attend events in the UK.

I have no doubt there are other such volunteer groups across the globe and would be delighted to hear from them.

What’s in it for an FBO Manager or owner? Well, such coming together of like minded people can only result in the promotion of safety and professionalism within the FBO community. Ramp Ops staff who feel part of an extended professional group will bring a heightened sense of pride to their colleagues at your facility. So, if your staff show an interest in lending their free time and skills to support an aviation event in your region it could have a positive spin off benefit for your company.


Lone Star, CAF & FM-AM at Wings over Houston morning briefing.


FM-AM guide in B-29 Fifi.


Two FM-AM on the Tora, Tora, Tora Ramp


FM-AM team


North Weald crew


FM-AM were entrusted with Heli-Ops oversight for the Dalai Lama visit to Ireland


FM-AM Heli-Ops support

FBO Mergers and Acquisitions What Next?

Not unexpectedly, the subject of FBO mergers and acquisitions was one of the many talking points at this years’ EBACE, the annual European Business Aviation Conference and Expo, held at the end of May in Geneva, Switzerland.

The BBA acquisition of Landmark Aviation at the start of the year and subsequent rebranding as Signature Flight Support took many by surprise. Having divested itself of six Landmark locations, Signature still find themselves with 199 worldwide stations.

EBACE hosted the “Big is Beautiful” consolidation discussion with Mark Johnstone, Managing Director, EMEA region, BBA Signature Flight Support, Laura Pierallini of Studio Pierallini, Patrick Hansen, CEO of Luxaviation Group, Greg Thomas, President and Executive Chairman of PrivatAir and myself representing Global FBO Consult. Moderator was Taunya Renson-Martin. Looking at business aircraft management, the FBO sector and charter operations it became clear quite quickly that there was agreement among the panellists that mergers and acquisitions in the FBO sector will certainly continue for some time. Consolidation in the sector offers advantages of branding, purchasing power and economies of scale. For the smaller FBO chains or independents finding themselves sharing the ramp with a new or rebranded, well-funded competitor, it is not good news and can lead very quickly to a price “race to the bottom”.

 

And BBA are not the only movers in the FBO market place of late. Just a day ahead of EBACE, Dubai based JetEx announced that is has secured a tender from the Moroccan National Airports Authority to establish five new FBOs, the first such facilities in the North African country. It has already begun business aircraft ground support at Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport, Marrakech Menara and Rabat-Salé, where Swissport was also chosen to provide handling services. At the seasonal destinations of Agadir-Al Massira, and Dakhla, Jetex was named as the exclusive ground services provider. Jet Aviation, a General Dynamics company, seemed to be strongly hinting on their stand at two new locations to come very soon!

Luxaviation Group, new owners of well-established Execujet, Unijet (France), MasterJet (France), Abelag (Belgium), London Executive Aviation (UK), sound very bullish, so we can expect them to keep up the momentum for a while yet.

In the week following EBACE, French company Sky Valet announce it has completed the acquisition of JetBase, Portugal’s leading FBO network. JetBases’ ten FBOs, situated at the main Portuguese airports of Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Cascais and Beja, on the islands of Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde and in central Africa in Mozambique and Angola, will now operate under the commercial name of Sky Valet. This move follows on from the acquisition by Sky Valet in Q2 2015 of Gestair, Spain.

The addition of these new destinations consolidates Sky Valet’s international expansion strategy, which aims to create a network of FBOs located in the most iconic areas. The company already provides ground handling support services at Madrid, Barcelona, Gerona, Valencia, La Coruna, Santiago de Compostela, Palma de Majorca, Ibiza and Malaga airports. Dominique Thillaud, chairman of the management board of Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur (ACA) and Sky Valet, commented, “This acquisition allows us to expand our expertise across a new attractive area of the Iberian peninsula with a reach that even extends to Africa.”

Last April, Florida based Sheltair Aviation announced it had given its FBO network in the Sunshine State a major boost with the purchase the Tampa International Jet Center.

In the same month there were further notable indicators pointing to the continuing trend of aviation fuel suppliers actively expanding their services and branding across the industry, working closely with independent FBOs.

Skylink Services, the lone ground handling service provider for business aircraft at Cyprus’s Larnaca International, became the 52nd Diamond Service member of the World Fuel Services (WFS) Air Elite Network, the international group of FBOs established in 2011 from the remnants of the Avitat network.

WFS and Deer Jet Group expanded their eight-year relationship by signing a memorandum of understanding for the former to provide global aviation support solutions for Deer Jet’s eight FBOs in China and business aircraft handling subsidiary Honor Aviation.

Under the agreement, World Fuel Services will allow Deer Jet FBOs and Honor Aviation to accept its Avcard charge card for payment. More than 30,000 aircraft operators and pilots use Avcard worldwide for aircraft purchases such as fuel, ground handling and maintenance. Avcard is accepted at more than 7,600 locations in more than 190 countries.

If you consider the known facts, talk to key personnel, listen to the rumours, filter out the uninformed comments, you will get a broad sense of how the FBO sector will evolve over the next five to ten years. I believe mergers and acquisitions will be accompanied by co-branding, strategic partnerships and franchising. Realistically the worlds’ capitals and most major cities are fully populated by FBOs, restricting expansion for those not already present in these centres, with many airports restricting the amount of FBO licenses they will issue compounding the problem. Other factors to be considered are the forthcoming sale of a number of airports (France, Germany for instance) and the issuing of new FBO franchise agreements by governments (Morocco just completed, Oman in the process and many more in the pipeline). Right now Africa, Central and South America, India and some of the Pacific Rim countries are getting a lot of attention, maybe it will be from these regions that we will see the next exciting developments emanate!

Keeping your FBO customers happy

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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