Professional development is a given expectation within management. Within aviation, this expectation clearly extends to aviation-specific training. Pilots get recurrent training in simulators, maintenance technicians get recurrent training on the airframe, engine or avionics. But we do these men and women a disservice when we promote them from a technical position into a managerial position without giving them the tools they need to be successful managers.
I have seen instances where a senior captain who has done an exemplary job in the cockpit is congratulated and promoted into the aviation department manager position. What seems like a logical move turns sour when the pilot-turned-Manager finds himself facing a budget cut, a problem employee, and OSHA regulatory issues in the hangar. None of these situations was addressed during engine-out training! They got frustrated and either seek a return to the cockpit or leave for another flying position with no management duties. Future aviation leaders need training and experience in the managerial arts.
Commanding a second person in the cockpit takes special skills. But those skills need additional development for leading a large team. Corporate aviation leaders need to understand the vision and mission of the corporation and how aviation is an essential business tool. They need to know how to align their aviation department goals with the overall corporation's goals. They then need to develop a leadership and communication style appropriate to their personality that will inspire they aviation team.
Aviation department leaders need to develop skills in operations management. This extends well beyond aircraft operations to include business risk analysis, cost benefit analysis, record keeping and audit requirements, OSHA and hazardous materials regulations, and more. As part of their operations management the aviation leader is often a facilities manager.
Lastly, the aviation manager needs skills in all the remaining business management skills. The aviation manager is running a small business. They need financial skills in budgeting, forecasting, cost management, and taxes. They need to know what the record keeping requirements are and to be able to understand asset management of the aircraft and facilities. The aviation manager needs to understand the corporate HR domain, and be able to communicate those policies to all the employees. This training combines both regulatory requirements and personnel management skills, or soft skills.
Within business aviation, we are fortunate to have a customized program geared to develop aviation professionals into management professionals: The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Certified Aviation Manager (CAM).
The NBAA CAM certification and education program offers credit for professional experience, college courses, and professional development programs offered within the aviation community. The CAM program is a rigorous professional certification that is designed to maximize a busy aviation professional's time in developing the skills need to be managers in leaders.
Don't overlook maintenance technicians for this CAM training. I see the pilot career path progress from First Officer to Captain to Chief Pilot to Aviation Department Manager. But too often the maintenance technical career path ends at Chief of Maintenance. Even that position requires management and leadership skills. Maintenance Technicians are an overlooked source of future aviation department leaders. They often have a significant understanding of the aviation operation beyond the toolbox that the pilots have yet to learn.
Promote personal development for your flight department personnel, just as a company does for middle managers seeking career advancement.