Aug. 15, 2016

Training a new scheduler to perform confidently and proficiently in a flight department can be a challenge for any scheduling supervisor or flight department manager, but add in the fact many new schedulers have very limited or no business aviation experience and the challenge is magnified. In some cases, the new scheduler comes from another part of the company, or their only aviation experience is as a passenger on a scheduled airline.

Scheduling requires a certain aptitude, including the ability to think quickly, creatively problem solve and diplomatically deal with passengers, but once you’ve chosen the right individual for your scheduling department, how do you bridge the gap in perspective and knowledge to help ensure the scheduler’s success within your organization?

1. Start with Exposure to the Company Culture

Jackie Hampton, supervisor of flight operations for a Part 91 flight department, is responsible for training new schedulers and is part of the company’s training development team. Hampton uses a job-specific training checklist, familiarizes the new employee with company manuals and standard operating procedures, and organizes one-on-one meetings with the new hire and at least one person from each area of the flight department.

“Immerse new schedulers in your company culture first,” said Hampton. “Our new hires meet with leadership, cabin safety representatives, maintenance staff and pilots to learn how scheduling integrates with those departments and to help understand the role scheduling plays.”

These orientation meetings help new hires more clearly understand the organization’s values, appreciate the relation-ships necessary to be successful in their new position and recognize the flight department’s role in ensuring the company’s success.

2. Explain the Unique Service Aspect of Business Aviation

If a new hire’s aviation experience is limited to being an airline passenger, it’s especially important to explain the flexible nature of business aviation and the focus on passenger service and accommodation.

“The most significant difference when considering the experience as an airline passenger compared to the business aviation sector is customer or passenger service,” said Vinton Brown, program manager of specialty curriculum at FlightSafety International, which pro-vides corporate scheduler and dispatcher training at its own training centers or at the customer’s location. “Airline customer service is diluted by its commodity nature, while business aviation is much more accommodating to the passenger, within the limitations of regulations, company policies and so on.”

3. Don’t Assume

Don’t assume a new scheduling hire understands aviation lingo. A new hire with no aviation experience will need to learn the acronyms and terms commonly used in aviation. Speaking the language is a critical step in understanding more complex ideas, such as aviation weather and aircraft performance.

Hampton notes that flight departments tend to develop “tribal knowledge” over time. An experienced scheduler might assign a task, assuming some knowledge is known by the new hire. Clearly documenting flight department policies and procedures can help mitigate the risks of assumed knowledge.

4. Meter the Training, but Don’t Underestimate Capacity to Learn

Be cognizant of the complexity and volume of information provided to a new scheduler, but also be sure to teach new schedulers about weather, runway limitations and basic aerodynamics. Unlike the airline world, in which a passenger receives a text message or email advising of a flight delay or cancellation, a business aircraft passenger typically receives flight-related information more directly and many want to know why a departure will be delayed, why an airport is not appropriate for a particular aircraft, or even why an aircraft can perform in weather that seems “bad” to a passenger.

“Giving a new scheduler this knowledge helps improve communication and the individual’s value in the team by improving their understanding of the industry,” said Brown.

5. Use Real-Life Scenarios to Demonstrate Knowledge

Hampton’s flight department sends new scheduling hires on a multi-leg, over-night trip. “This enables the new scheduler to see a trip from the pilots’ perspective,” said Hampton.

New schedulers with Hampton’s organization also complete a period of job shadowing to learn from more experienced schedulers.

The experts agree that seeking feedback from recently trained schedulers is critical to improving the training experience for future new hires.

FlightSafety International’s approach to training helps new schedulers understand and maximize the benefits of business aviation through creative problem solving. Courses use real-life scenarios to enable schedulers to implement their new knowledge. Students plan an entire flight, including weather analysis, basic weight-and-balance calculations, etc.

Schedulers who attend training at one of FlightSafety’s Learning Centers are also able to complete a “ride along” in a flight simulator, which Brown says provides insight into the pilot’s ‘office and emphasizes operational subjects covered in class.”

6. Utilize Outside Resources and Industry Events

New schedulers at Hampton’s flight department also receive training from their aviation software provider. After about a year on the job, they attend more formal training at FlightSafety International. The formal training is scheduled after the new hire has some exposure to business aviation and the flight department’s culture and policies.

Hampton also makes plans for new hires to attend business aviation events, including NBAA’s Schedulers and Dispatchers Conference.

7. Seek Feedback and Work for Continuous Improvement

The experts agree that seeking feedback from recently trained schedulers is critical to improving the training experience for future new hires.

“We are always tweaking our training program,” said Hampton. “[We ask] how could we improve the training for the next person who comes in?”

Failing to provide a newly hired scheduler with sufficient training not only can lead to employee discouragement and higher turnover in the department, but unsatisfactory performance results in terms of higher costs due to lower utilization of aircraft and crew resources and passenger inconvenience.

“Detail-minded, proactive schedulers, determined to do their part to contribute to world-class passenger service, are truly worth their weight in gold,” said FlightSafety’s Brown. “Always be on the lookout for opportunities to use examples in your operation to emphasize the value of scheduling decisions, and use these tips to develop a successful scheduler training program. Investing time and resources to properly train new schedulers will benefit the company in the long run.”

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Business Aviation Insider.