Why Business Aviation is in Trouble and What You Can Do to Help


Business Aviation is in trouble.

Pilots and maintainers are voicing concerns about colleagues who refuse to follow Standard Operating Procedures and Best Practices. They are frustrated by owners, managers, and C suite executives who care little about safety initiatives and refuse to lend financial or training support. Apathy is on the rise, and those who recognize this danger are feeling helpless to stop it.

Despite the most advanced simulators, increased training, and strict regulations, a recent report by NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) revealed that an average of 15% of corporate pilots do not fully complete a pre-takeoff flight control check. Procedural Intentional Non-Compliance (PINC)  is more common than we had believed. How can so many be so complacent about even the most basic of safety procedures?

When the Cat’s Away the Mice Will Play

Although PINC and complacency toward safety initiatives are concerning, they are only symptoms of a larger problem. In order to defeat complacency, we have to identify the real problem. The real problem is the leadership model pervasive in most of corporate aviation. It is a top down, authority driven model in which The Experts set the direction and demand others follow by use of disciplinary actions or prestigious recognition and rewards. As the NBAA report reveals, this model can keep people in check as long as the authority is present. But when the cat is away, the mice will play.

So how can we lead our industry out of complacency and non-compliance and renew a passion for safety and professionalism? Odd as it may sound, it starts with aviation training.

Why Aviation Training is Both the Cause of and the Solution to Complacency

Currently, aviation training is the poster child for the Top Down Leadership Model.  The Experts analyze the data and decide which topics will be the focus of this year’s training. The Experts then offer products for purchase based on the focus areas. Once consumed, these products allow The Experts to fill us and our departments full of all the knowledge which they have acquired. Having completed the hours or percentages necessary for meeting The Experts’ satisfaction, we are then free to rest until The Experts notify us that it is time to start training once again. It is so simple. Fatigue Management? Just take an e learning course. Upset Recovery? Take a two day workshop. Whatever the ailment, we just need to take our medicine and the problem is cured. Do as The Experts say and our training is complete.

Rarely, if ever, are we asked for our input or evaluation. Rarely, if ever, is training customized to reflect our needs or to take into account what we already know.  And rarely, if ever, does it draw upon the strengths and knowledge of others within our workplace. Why? Because these perks do not fit into the Top Down Leadership Model.

Is it any wonder that true leadership skills such as effective communication, delegation, problem solving, collaboration and other soft skills are sorely lacking in our flight departments?

So it is bound to happen. Sooner or later, The Experts will determine that soft skills and leadership are the new focus areas! In order to promote safety within, they will begin to create  leadership workshops and e learning courses based on soft skills. “Surely that will fix the problem of complacency,” The Experts will say.

NO! A thousand times, NO!

Much to the surprise of The Experts, training was never meant to be the end all.

Training, when done well, is a means to an end – that end being trust, collaboration, and professional growth. Instead of precipitating complacency, its by-product CAN be leadership.

Leadership Training

Training done in a collaborative environment where people are valued and their input is appreciated and welcomed not only allows for a better training experience and improved skill development and retention but it also builds trust and appreciation among colleagues and departments. It causes people to practice decision making, communication skills, and problem solving. It causes a flight department to look at their SOPs and SMS and determine validity and functionality. It causes people to form ideas, seek out their passions, and pass their knowledge and skills between one another.

The content of the training matters but it is not supreme. What takes precedence is the interactivity among the participants learning together and the leadership skills that are developed. That’s how leadership training needs to be done in business aviation.

What You Can Do Right Now to Build Leadership Skills and Squelch Complacency

Here are some ideas that you can implement in your department that will weaken the top down mentality and start to encourage true leadership in yourself and your colleagues.

  1. Make people feel special – Bring donuts or another item that tells your co-workers you appreciate them.
  2. Remember you work with people, not robots – Talk on a personal level. Get to know your co-workers. Ask how they got started in aviation. Ask about their family. Make them feel an integral part of your team.
  3. Look for people’s strengths and identify their passions – Ask people what excites them about their work. Compliment them on their knowledge and expertise. Make them feel important and valued.
  4. Encourage innovation – Ask people what ideas they have for improving the workplace. Ask them if there are any resources or training experiences they would like to see implemented. Even if you don’t have the authority to implement their ideas, you can still keep dreams and ideas alive by allowing people to share.
  5. Show gratitude – write a note of thanks or give a small token of appreciation to someone who is struggling or when someone has done an outstanding job.
  6. Ask for input – get a second opinion or another viewpoint. Draw upon the wealth of knowledge and the experiences your colleagues provide. You’ll gain wisdom and they’ll be honored you asked.
  7. Make your training interactive – organize activities or lunch and learn programs where people can grow professionally together. Throw out a scenario and ask your colleagues what they would suggest as the best possible response. Practice learning a new skill together. Or just take time to analyze the training you’ve already done this year. What went well, what could improve?
  8. Customize your training – develop your own training or at least ask that workshops or e learning purchases be interactive and tailored to your operation. Don’t settle for common place. If you need ideas or help, Flight Level Training Solutions is willing to listen and support you.

You know the saying. More is caught than taught. The relationships formed in or outside of training are worth more than the knowledge instilled. Business Aviation is in need of good training and strong leaders. You are just the person to fit the bill.

“There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to but because we want to. ” – Simon Sinek (How Great Leaders Inspire Action)

Do whatever it takes to lead your department safely from the dangers of complacency.

This entry was posted in Leadership, Safety Managers, Training Managers, Trust. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why Business Aviation is in Trouble and What You Can Do to Help

  1. Vaughan Leiper says:

    Excellent article! Will be sharing this one.

  2. Kyle and Linda Reynolds says:

    Thanks, Vaughn. It is always an encouragement to know others care about these issues and are willing to take a stand.

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