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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

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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