How to Assess Your Flight Department’s Health

Author By Steve Brechter
how-to-assess-your flight department's health

It happens to nearly every newly-appointed aviation director. You get the job of your dreams and you’re ready to “hit the ground running” and imprint your style on the flight department.

It’s typically a time of lofty aspirations and high energy.

But, inevitably, the questions arise, “Where do I start? What’s most important? Where do I focus my attention?”

The most seasoned business aviation leaders know that it’s important to do a health check of their flight department at regular intervals.

But, even among the most highly experienced flight department directors, the question often lingers about how best to handle it.

So how do you check the vital signs of a flight department, both from a technical and business perspective?

Here are 3 Ways to Assess your Flight Department’s Health:

1. A thorough, end-to-end review of the entire flight operation by an experienced and objective set of eyes from the outside, such as through Gray Stone Advisors’ Current State Assessment™

2. An assessment using IS-BAO criteria

3. Regular evaluation using “The Seven Essential Keys of Success in Business Aviation”

A Current State Assessment™ provides the most comprehensive review of a flight department, because it uses an outside set of eyes and an unbiased perspective.

It is completely confidential and covers both the technical and business aspects of the operation. Additionally,you gain the advantage of a comparison against industry best practices.

Much has been written about the merits of IS-BAO registration (which we highly endorse) because it ensures that you’re incorporating the latest in business aviation safety practices.

Every flight department should seek and maintain IS-BAO registration, if only to stay abreast of the latest practices in safety and risk mitigation. An IS-BAO review is technically focused in nature and, although it touches many areas of the flight department, it is primarily flight operations-centric.

In this blog, we’ll cover a highly effective and innovative way to conduct a comprehensive review of the non-technical and business aspects of running a flight department using “The Seven Essential Keys of Success in Business Aviation.”

This will help ensure that you’re operating the flight department like the “business within a business” that it truly is.

We invite you to review these Seven Essential Keys and determine how you would answer all of the questions, honestly and objectively.

The 7 Essential Keys of Success in BizAv

1. Alignment
Is your business aviation operation totally aligned with and acting as a true business partner for corporate or your owner? How can you be sure, and how is alignment measured?

Are you viewed as an up-front partner in the corporate strategic planning process? Do you have a “seat at the table” when business plans are established?

2. Leadership Development
Are you building business aviation leadership skills at all levels of the aviation organization? How do you measure that? Are the members of your aviation team equipped with the right tools to find their most effective “fit” and career path in business aviation?

Are Individual Development Plans (IDPs) in place and being effectively used? Do your people feel they can grow and develop where they are in the aviation department without having to look for advancement opportunities elsewhere?

3. Operational & Financial Modeling Tools
Are you achieving precision in operational and financial modeling for your flight department? Do you have tools and techniques in place that enable you and your aviation team to develop flight department budgets and operating forecasts with precision and ease?

Is your operating budget fact-based and assumption-driven? (It should not be last year’s budget with a factor applied.) And, most importantly, is your budget discussion with corporate focused on a table of assumptions, or on a spreadsheet of numbers? (The budget spreadsheet is strictly a multiplier of the table of assumptions.)

4. Value Creation Metrics
Are you identifying and expressing key aviation performance indicators in a clear way to achieve optimal corporate and internal flight department communication?

Are you expressing the value being created by your business aviation operation in dollars? Can your corporate office or owner express, in dollars, the value proposition that is being returned on their business aviation investment?

5. Process Management
Are you building your aviation organization’s structure and operating system for optimal performance? Are you fully synchronizing internal expectations with external best practices?

Are you maximizing business aviation operational efficiency through process optimization across the flight department? Are all flight department processes documented, mapped and accessible to all aviation team members?

6. Fleet Planning
Are you ensuring optimal fleet utilization and asset mix based on historical and projected demand and factual utilization data? Do you have an advance “heads-up” on the strategic direction of the parent company, so that aviation can be ready to meet all emerging needs?

Do you regularly interview your key users of business aviation to ensure that their needs are being met? Are you providing business aviation stability and leadership during times of organizational transition or transformation?

7. Benchmarking
Are you providing a detailed depiction of your aviation organization’s position with respect to industry best practices? Are you assessing your performance relative to business aviation peer groups? Can you clearly depict and communicate your relative position in business terms, not aviation jargon?

Each of the “Essential Keys” listed above is an important measure of your ability to lead your aviation operation like a business, and communicate it clearly among all your stakeholders.

We urge you to consider these questions very carefully and take them seriously. You must be able to provide answers with objective evidence for each and every one.

If you review your aviation organization from this perspective and respond proactively, you will be amazed at how differently you will be perceived by your corporate office or owners. Your flight department will advance many steps up the credibility ladder and will increasingly be seen for exactly what it is: an effective revenue generation enabler, value creator and indispensable business partner.

what is a current state assessment? Gray Stone Advisors aviation consulting firm
Want a health check of your flight department?
Watch this 3-minute video and then request a quote for our Current State Assessment program.


Share Your Approach

If you have other ways that you position your flight department as the “business within a business” that it truly is we’d like to hear about them. Please submit them as requested below and we’ll share everything we receive in a future blog.

And, as always, if you’d like to discuss any aspect of the above with us, please let us know.