February 22, 2016

Trips may last days, but schedulers and dispatchers work from shift to shift. Logically, a successful trip hinges heavily on how schedulers handle handoffs at the end of the day or the end of a shift. Schedulers say that communication is key to a successful handoff. It really amounts to briefing the next person on what to expect during the following shift.

Handoffs can be accomplished faceto-face or even by email, but a 24-hour look ahead is essential, said Winston Carter, a dispatcher at the Gulfstream Aerospace plant in Savannah, GA. After a Gulfstream is given a custom interior, for example, it’s tested to observe its performance with the added weight of the installed interior. Communication becomes vital.

When handing off to another dispatcher, “crew orientation is the biggest consideration,” said Carter. “Everyone needs to be in the loop on fuel loads, time aloft and the reason for the flight.”

The next Gulfstream dispatcher is not only briefed on these particulars, but is responsible to keep those “in the loop” informed about the status or changes in the mission. The “loop” can vary depending on the flight, and it’s not just the crew and schedulers who are included, but also maintenance, the customer program manager, operations managers, technical supervisors and the customer.

What can go wrong and how to avoid delays and weather should be part of any handoff discussion. Communication and being proactive for the next day are essential.
– EVE GREGORY, Dispatcher, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc. Aviation Services

“The dispatcher facilitates information [flow] and ensures all these people are talking,” said Carter.

“Seamless,” is how Eve Gregory, a dispatcher at C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., Aviation Services in Keene, NH, defines a proper handoff. Regardless if it’s done in person, by telephone or email, the handoff should include what to expect in the day ahead and take care of any open items, she said.

C&S, a wholesale food distribution company, operates its Challenger 300 and Hawker 850 mostly within the U.S., but the flights are prolific – nearly 1,600 hours per year, with lots of legs. With all that activity, handoffs include possible contingencies, such as passenger delays, maintenance issues and who is readying the aircraft for the next day’s schedule, Gregory explained.

What can go wrong and how to avoid delays and weather should be part of any handoff discussion. Communication and being “proactive for the next day” are essential, she added.

To improve communication, C&S uses an email network that is shared by the vice president of aviation and the scheduling team. “Our passengers [also] use it, starting from the trip request and continuing throughout the trip,” Gregory said.

“This creates a trip chronology so we can keep the entire team in the loop. It doesn’t matter who is in [the office] or on call because everyone is informed. The network is especially helpful after hours.”

Ultimately, the handoff is an opportunity for different teams within the flight department to collaborate and break down functional silos so that everyone’s skills, while distinct, can together make the operation safer and more efficient.

To learn more, refer to the NBAA Management Guide.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Business Aviation Insider.