Oct. 6, 2016

In its first survey, the NBAA Small Flight Department Subcommittee identified the unique concerns for operators of three or fewer business aircraft. Budgeting is a top issue, as is navigating the relationship with owners and parent companies. Small flight departments also deal with human resource issues and regulatory compliance.

Nearly 200 small fleet operators representing 376 aircraft submitted data for the survey. Dave Keys, chair of the Domestic Operations subcommittee and chief pilot at a small flight department, said the survey allows NBAA to better serve these operators “by honing in on their needs.”

“Our hope is that through the study, and focusing on the results of the study, that we’re going to bring real tools to small flight department operators to help them operate better and safer,” said Keys.

Explaining the need for the survey, subcommittee member Karen Henriques said, “The idea was that if we’re going do something to help out this large and important group, we better make sure we’re fixing the right problems. So let’s ask them: what are your biggest problems?”

After analyzing hundreds of responses, the subcommittee categorized the most frequently mentioned concerns into four topics. These areas were:

  1. Budgeting: After reviewing all the responses, Henriques said finances were the clear number one issue. “So many responses were around, ‘Hey, I need help creating a budget for my department, working with my owner on my budget, justifying expenses, planning ahead and managing my maintenance costs versus my staff costs,’” she said.
  2. Compliance: The second most common area of concern was adherence to rules, regulations and safety standards – many of which change frequently, requiring operators to be proactive in keeping up with industry news. “Rules are constantly changing, which can make it difficult for flight departments with fewer personnel to stay on top of new regulations,” said Brian Koester, NBAA manager of operations.
  3. Communicating with Corporate: Building and maintaining constructive relationships with owners, principals and corporate parents is critical, but it requires a deft understanding of how to communicate aviation principles to non-aviation personnel. “Ninety-nine percent of them won’t be aviation experts,” said Henriques. “So it becomes, ‘How am I going to talk to them in terms that are relevant to them but that also meet the needs of the flight department?’”
  4. Human Resources: Survey participants frequently mentioned issues related to staffing. “It’s hard to find qualified people, maintain the top performers, find the money to compensate people appropriately, cover training costs and find time to schedule training,” said Henriques, adding that much of this difficulty ties back into budgeting.

The report on the survey results, available now for download, further breaks these four categories down into 12 subcategories highlighting specific areas of concern within each general topic. It also includes statistics on flight department personnel and the number and type of aircraft operated in each flight department.

Download the small flight department survey and analysis. (PDF)