June 5, 2024

Small flight departments see workforce management, training, safety and maintenance as the areas where they face their most pressing concerns, with hiring and retention, training, scheduling, building a safety culture and accessing the right parts being the specific issues that most concern them. That’s the conclusion of a recent survey conducted by NBAA’s Small Flight Department Subcommittee, which saw 525 responses.

View the survey results (PDF)

“The survey was designed to help us to better understand where exactly small flight departments are likely to be falling short of best practices,” explained Noah Yarborough, NBAA’s manager of flight operations. “With what we’ve learned, we can provide our members with the best possible resources and advice moving forward.”

Four out of five NBAA members operate a small flight department, with three or fewer airplanes.

For the NBAA Small Flight Department Subcommittee, the survey’s most surprising finding was that while 60.9% of respondents have a safety management system (SMS) in place, and about a third are in the process of implementing a new SMS, the vast majority – 74.1% – do not participate in the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP), a voluntary FAA program in which employees report safety data with the goal of improving aviation safety for all.

For John Foster, chief pilot of Texas-based aviation service provider Paladin Jet, FAA designated pilot examiner and co-chair of the subcommittee, the most important conclusion to take from the survey is that many small flight departments would benefit from leadership-focused guidance and resources.

“A lot of pilots in small flight departments are looking for resources to become better leaders,” Foster said. “They need guidance for more training, mentoring and networking opportunities. The NBAA Small Flight Department Subcommittee gives small flight departments resources to meet these goals, plus have a voice in the association.”

Members should look for guidance and resources addressing the areas of concern surfaced by the NBAA Small Flight Department Survey in the months to come—everything from webinars and articles to training tools.

Meanwhile, NBAA offers several resources to assist small flight departments, including the Small Flight Department Safety Guide, the Small Operator Learning Series and resources for small flight department maintenance personnel.