“Schedulers and dispatchers are the nerve center of business aviation operations, and proper staffing can impact every aspect of operations and safety,” said Ann Widay, summarizing her decades of experience in the field. Dealing with planned scheduler and dispatcher (S&D) time off was easier before the pandemic introduced unexpected absences that require a substitute on short or no notice, she said.
Lindsay Dyer-Ancora, CAM and president of L/D Aviation Services, recommends that operators looking for a contract scheduler “start a relationship with a contractor before they need one, because it is almost impossible to do it at the last minute.” By networking at S&D gatherings, you can find a qualified scheduler who purposely seeks the work/life flexibility of contract employment.
“Bringing in this person as a team member keeps the operation running smoothly,” continued Dyer-Ancora, “especially if the operator uses them periodically – a half-day every couple of weeks or so – to keep them in the loop and familiar with the company processes.”
Like the other members of the aviation team, contract S&Ds are professionals and deserve to be paid as such because, unlike employees, they must provide their own equipment, internet connection, insurance and taxes.
First among the contractor’s qualifications should be proficiency with the operator’s scheduling software, such as Professional Flight Manager, said Jackie Charles-Spears, aviation scheduling manager for Mente-LLC. Learning the operation-specific procedures can be challenging, but a detailed SOP manual can help significantly.
“Bringing in this person as a team member keeps the operation running smoothly, especially if the operator uses them periodically – a half-day every couple of weeks or so. ”
LINDSAY DYER-ANCORA CAM, President, L/D Aviation Services
When Charles-Spears joined Mente two years ago, schedulers learned procedures on the job.
“We had a complete change of staff, which led me to be promoted to scheduling manager,” said Charles-Spears. “One of the first things I created was a scheduler’s SOP to help with the onboarding process. It gives the scheduler a word-for-word guide for scheduling a flight, how you put it in the system, how you communicate with the other [aviation] team members, so anyone proficient with the software can come in, open the manual, and plan a domestic trip.”
Given the complexity of international missions, planning overseas trips requires greater knowledge, skills and experience. When looking for a contract scheduler, “look at where you travel and how often you travel, and if it has a heavy international component, it is essential that this person has the necessary skills,” said Charles-Spears.
The candidate vetting process should include checking for any required certifications, business licenses, taxes and liability insurance, especially if the candidate resides out of state, said Widay. “Schedulers have access to a lot of confidential company information, so run a background check and require a nondisclosure agreement.”
Hiring a scheduler to work full-time is a possible alternative to hiring a contractor. Carolyn Yatsu, CAM and Nike’s manager of flight scheduling, looked at supplementing her operation’s scheduling coverage with a part-time contractor. But after interviewing some very competent candidates, “I realized that they would need onboarding similar to an employee. In considering the work the contractor would do for us, especially during times of high workload, we decided to hire instead of offering a contract.”
Review NBAA’s independent contractor resources at nbaa.org/contractors.