Oct. 17, 2022

Now in its seventh year, NBAA’s Small Operators Symposium traditionally addresses safety concerns for managers and pilots of smaller flight departments. This year’s event, held Oct. 17 prior to the opening of the 2022 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE), was no exception. The symposium looked at potential effects to operational safety caused by top talent moving on to what they consider to be better opportunities.

Workforce retention is a concern throughout business aviation, but can hit smaller flight operations particularly hard. In an audience poll, 59% of symposium attendees said they experienced turnover in their flight operation over the past year.

“There’s a sense of FOMO, that fear of missing out and that the grass may be greener elsewhere,” said Jenny Showalter, founder of Showalter Business Aviation Career Coaching. “A lot of my clients want to know [about other opportunities] even if they’re happy, even if they’re content, even if their job is relatively secure.”

NBAA Business Aviation Management Council (BAMC) member Chris Broyhill, CAM, previously published an extensive study on business aviation job retention. “The No. 1 reason people left business aviation was quality of life (QOL),” he said. “They wanted to be able to predict their lives. ‘Can I be at my kids’ soccer game next week? Can I be at the medical appointment for my spouse?'”

Those employees often move to the airlines, but even moving to a larger flight operation may offer QOL benefits. Driving that point home, one symposium attendee reported he’d received a first officer’s resignation letter just today. “He wants to be able to say ‘no’ to a trip, so he’s gone contract,” Broyhill said.

One step smaller flight operations can take to stem such issues is to change their mindset about time off. “Vacation has to occur when the employee wants it to occur,” Broyhill said, “not when it’s convenient for the operator.”

However, that also requires the flight department to have sufficient personnel to cover for vacationing employees. In another audience survey, 65% of attendees said they would rather the department hire another employee rather than getting a 30% pay raise.

Raising these topics with the company principle may also pose challenges. In an ‘Ask the Experts’ panel discussion, Gray Stone Advisors founder Jim Lara emphasized employees must not be discouraged when the initial response is ‘no.’

“Count yourself lucky. That’s your first step to ‘yes,'” Lara said. “A senior executive’s first defense mechanism is to deny, but you’re going to come back again and have that discussion again [and] you might see a little crack. And then you’re gonna come back a third and maybe even a fourth time.

“Eventually you’ll get to ‘yes,’ because both of you want to avoid turnover,” he added. “That is a big problem but is something that can be mitigated.”

Review NBAA resources on workforce initiatives.

Learn more about NBAA-BACE.

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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