Oct. 22, 2019

Issues facing small flight departments, typically defined as flight departments with one or two aircraft, were spotlighted during the second annual NBAA Small Operator Symposium held the day before NBAA’s 2019 Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE).

With NBAA survey results indicating budgeting and scheduling are top concerns for small flight department personnel, this interactive half-day event honed in on practical tips to increase efficiency while dealing with limited resources.

“Budgeting is where the rubber meets the road,” said moderator Louis Sorrentino from Aviation & Marine Safety Solutions International, a consultancy specializing in identification and management of risk in transportation systems. “When we need technology, training, or another resource for small flight departments, it’s important to present a thorough and well-thought-out budget.”

Jeff Agur, CEO of the VanAllen Group, and Julianne Christensen and Angel Houck, co-founders of Houck and Christensen CPAs, LLC, encouraged attendees to develop a detailed budget customized to their organization’s needs.

Explaining the basics of small flight department budgets, these financial experts cautioned attendees to not rely too heavily on previous years’ flight history while developing budgets, since an increase in actual flight hours over predicted hours can have a significant impact on budget throughout the year.

“Have that dialogue with the folks who use the aircraft on a regular basis,” said Agur. “The more insight you can get from your owners and users on anticipated use for the year, the more accurate your budget will be.”

In the next session, Lindsay Dyer, CAM, and Lori Knoper of L/D Aviation Services, Inc., briefed attendees on scheduling solutions specific to small flight department needs. Topics included choosing appropriate software, consideration of variables such as security and ease of use, and the importance of balancing critical functions with available resources.

Additional focus areas included an presentation from Dave Keys, chief pilot of Peace River Citrus Product, and James Stone, CAM, director of aviation services for Aflac, about time management and the critical importance of hiring people who can take tasks off of a flight department manager’s plate.

Attendees also received updates from NBAA’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown about timely regulatory issues, including safety data collection, avionics mandates, unmanned aerial systems and a potential slowdown in rulemaking stemming from the upcoming presidential election.

“U.S. regulators will likely continue to be the lightest-touch regulators,” said Brown. “Increasingly, foreign regulators are likely to adopt standards like SMS and other mandates.”

In addition to the annual Symposium, NBAA’s Small Flight Department Subcommittee offers a number of resources for small flight departments, including an upcoming series of online learning modules. Learn more about the subcommittee’s work to aid small flight departments.

Any person who attends an NBAA convention, conference, seminar or other program grants permission to NBAA, its employees and agents (collectively "NBAA") to record his or her visual/audio images, including, but not limited to, photographs, digital images, voices, sound or video recordings, audio clips, or accompanying written descriptions, and, without notifying such person, to use his or her name and such images for any purpose of NBAA, including advertisements for NBAA and its programs.

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