Does Your Flight Department Meet Corporate Expectations?

Author By Steve Brechter
two shaking hands corporate business jet

Very often in conversations among Business Aviation leaders, the topic of corporate expectations arises.

It usually goes something like: ‘Hey, Joe, what does your CEO expect from Aviation?” Or, “How’s Corporate treating you?”

Or even,“Do you think you’re going to be outsourced?”

The responses range from “I have no idea so I keep my head down” to “They don’t know what they want so I tell them.”

And everything in-between.


Do You Know What Corporate Expects?

Many Business Aviation leaders think they know, but either are not reading the tea-leaves correctly or not reading them at all. Surely, every company is different, but the basic expectations of a corporate flight department are usually quite similar.

So, what does your Corporate office expect from your Business Aviation organization? Are you clear about it? I mean, do you 100%, beyond the shadow of a doubt, absolutely know what’s expected of you and your flight department?

3 Ways to Help Your Flight Department Meet Corporate Expectations

To find out, here are three basic operating practices that may appear deceptively simple, but by focusing on them, your flight department will be well on its way to meeting the expectations placed upon it:

1. Execute

Many Business Aviation professionals make the mistake thinking that they’re friends with the senior executive passengers. Flight crews often relate to the executives in a different way because they share a very intimate space and time with them as compared to most others in the Company. They see them in a way that the vast majority of the employees in the Company never have and never will. Left unchecked, that can create a privileged or relaxed atmosphere back at the hangar.

To quote a senior executive in a Fortune 15 firm, during comments he made at an All-Hands meeting with the flight Department team, “I’m not your friend and the airplane is not your living room.”

That sounds a bit hard-nosed and dispassionate, but what was his real message? ‘Put your nose to the grindstone and let me see the backs of your heads.’

In other words, ‘execute.’

Senior corporate executives lead hard-charging and fast-paced lives. They work nearly continuously and expect everyone around them to do the same. And that includes the flight department.

They primarily expect a safe operation and crisp execution. Whatever else it might be for your senior executive(s), deliver it. Execute without them having to even think about it.

Execution also applies to the ‘business of Business Aviation.’ That is, run your flight department like a ‘business within a business.’

  • Meet all of your operating and financial commitments.
  • Outperform your budget at each reporting period.
  • Meet or exceed your maintenance cost targets.
  • Ensure that the aircraft is crewed and available and ready for dispatch whenever an executive requirement arises.

Practice the ISO or IS-BAO mantra, ‘say what you do and do what you say’ and do so without exception.

2. Anticipate

Let’s face it, nobody likes surprises. We covered that quite comprehensively in a prior blog about how to avoid surprises while earning the trust of your executives.

Your senior executives expect predictable outcomes, no matter the circumstances. In Business Aviation, sometimes that’s hard to deliver, especially when the weather goes down. The antidote, in such instances, is to stay on top of the situation,anticipate what can go wrong, and have any number of workarounds ready to go.

For instance, let’s say that the weather at your primary destination for the time of arrival is uncertain. Skies are clear now, but may be below minimums in blowing snow at arrival time. The nearest workable alternate airport is 50 miles away, but all of the executive vehicles are at the primary destination. What to do? You need to make a decision to pull the plug by a certain time and move the vehicles to the alternate. You need to have someone on-site at the alternate airport tending to the vehicles so that when the aircraft arrives and the passengers disembark, they walk a few steps right into their running, warm and snow-free cars.

While this may be standard practice to many, it’s amazing how many flight departments fall into ‘analysis-paralysis.’ They may wait too long and get into deep yogurt…many times at 3 a.m. following an 11-hour return trip from Europe.

Corporate does not expect you to control the weather. But they do expect you to look ahead, anticipate outcomes and make their experience seamless.

3. Make Business Aviation Shine

Reporting Executives are busy people and usually have a myriad of responsibilities, in addition to overseeing the Business Aviation Team. That’s why they expect the flight department to self-manage, which includes executing upon your mission as well as any and all organizational issues that occur. You need to be effective in resolving issues at the airport. Bubbling issues up to Corporate that should have been handled locally is often career limiting.

Your Reporting Executive also expects that Aviation will not provide reason for a peer executive to bring a problem to them, such as a bad experience on a flight.That creates a ‘splash effect’ on the Aviation Reporting Executive, or a gotcha.You need to ensure that you do not place your Reporting Executive in that position.Your Reporting Executive is your advocate at Corporate and you must make Aviation,and them, look good.

‘Fly cover’ for your Reporting Executive. Be aware of what’s going on, be quietly effective in resolving issues and place your Reporting Executive in a ‘no splash zone’ by making Aviation shine.

Where Do You Stand?

Ask yourself, with brutal honesty, where you stand against these deceptively simple criteria:

  • Are you executing your Mission each and everyday in a way that meets each and every expectation of your senior executive travelers?
  • Does everyone in your Flight Department feel empowered to make tough calls that anticipate and proactively resolve problems?
  • Do you ‘make Business Aviation shine’ by addressing issues locally and creating a ‘splash free zone’ for your Reporting Executive?

If you answer’no’ to any of these questions, refocus your Team around these criteria. Get an outside perspective, if necessary. Be relentless. Then, get ready to realize new and positive perceptions—and expectations — for Business Aviation.

Your Turn

We’ve come up with three ways to ensure you’re meeting expectations at Corporate.What are other solutions? Similar to our weather example, what experience(s) have you had where you needed to make a tough, last-minute call to meet corporate expectations?