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Three Tips For Effective Communication

by David Wyndham 31. January 2011 15:58
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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. 

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 


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David Wyndham


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