Metrics and Measurements for Business Aviation

A metric is nothing more than a measurement.  It is used to gauge or measure some sort of performance. Metrics for pilots can include flight hours flown, instrument approaches flown, cross-country or IMC hours, and landings. All of these metrics can be used to measure the level of proficiency of a pilot. If a pilot has not logged an instrument approach in the past 90-days,  how proficient would she be to fly an approach on a windy, rainy, foggy night?

In a business, metrics are used to measure the company's performance, typically connecting it to costs and profitability. Metrics like return on investment (ROI), employee turnover, the cost to acquire a new customer are a few.  For a pilot, hours flown can be connected to proficiency. Fly more hours and you should have a higher level of proficiency. For a business, generating more revenue per square foot of retail space is a sign of proficiency in profitability.

In business aviation, we tend to stick to the pilot-centric type of metrics. We report hours flown per month, average trip lengths, passenger loads and perhaps unoccupied legs (deadhead). But how do these measure the level of effectiveness for the business aircraft? If a business aircraft flew 35 hours in September and flew 45 hours in November, is it doing a better job or increasing its level of performance for the business? How does flying 10 more hours this past month justify the effectiveness of your business aircraft?

Metrics, by definition, must be measurable. But they must also be valid. A metric that is valid can be used as a predictor of performance. You could have flown 10 more hours last month in holding patterns due to ATC and weather delays. Or you could have flown 10 more hours helping the executive leadership earn a new client for the company. For a charter operator, were the 10 hours billable-hours or non-revenue positioning hours?

What metrics to have for the flight department depend entirely on the missions assigned to the flight department. For a corporate shuttle, passenger-miles flown could be an important metric.  That can mean that the aircraft is serving its corporate customers and saving them travel time. Hours flown per business unit might be a good indicator. If the sales team is flying more hours, might that be indicative of a future increase in sales? If legal and accounting are flying more hours, is that good (a major acquisition) or bad (trouble with Wall Street)?

Costs should factor into your metrics.  Are we getting value for the money? For a charter operator, cost per hour when compared to revenue per hour is vital.  But for the corporate shuttle, cost per hour might not be enough. What about cost per passenger mile? That is handy when looking at a 10-seat aircraft versus 15 seats.  A Gulfstream G150 costs less per hour than a G450, but if your travels take you transcontinental or longer, is cost per flight hour telling the story?

What does your company need to know to show that the business aircraft is being properly utilized? Are the priorities with the use of the aircraft aligned with the overall corporate priorities? Depending of the role of the business aircraft, many metrics will be different.

One metric I think every flight department should follow is Aircraft Availability. This metric is the amount of time an aircraft is available to be flown or is scheduled to be flown as compared to the total operating period. 

Hours aircraft available / Total hours of schedule

This metric is expressed as a percentage. The key is defining the operating period. For an emergency medical EMS helicopter, they need to be available   24 hours per day, seven days per week. For the senior executive transport, the business aircraft may be needed 12 hours per day, six days per week. Regardless of the schedule, if the measured aircraft availability rate is declining over time, that can indicate an increased maintenance load.  I have seen an operator who had such poor aircraft availability, in order to meet a two-aircraft per day flight schedule, they operated five aircraft. 

What is the role of your business aircraft as it relates to the goals and mission of the corporation? How best can you measure the effectiveness of your aircraft as it relates to the corporate goals? Seth Godin said that when you step on the scale, you'd better be prepared to do something about it. So in choosing metrics for your flight department, choose ones that tell the story and that you can use to show how well you are serving the company.

What do you see as an important metric for your operation and whay? Tell us in the comments.