A huge demand for business aviation services combined with a limited workforce of skilled industry professionals can stress employees at every level, particularly flight crews.
This predicament is forcing some operations to take a renewed look at the use of hard days off to give crews predictable time away from work to enjoy the benefits of regular rest and relaxation.
“With all the pressures on business aviation these days, it can be easy to forget the demands of a job that requires you to be on call two weeks, maybe three weeks, straight, and how that impacts a person’s home and family life,” said aircraft scheduler Tyler Newman.
“From a safety and mental health perspective, crew members need to have the time most of us get every week to do things for themselves and their families,” Newman said.
“There are many ways to accomplish that, and one option to consider is hard days off, which can give people the peace of mind that they will not have to monitor their phone or be ready to take a trip request and really get to have some time away from work.”
It can be difficult for a business aircraft operator to build hard days off into a schedule, so it’s important for the people managing the schedules to be flexible.
“Talk to your people, ask them what they need and how you can help them with their work/life balance, and show that you are fighting for them.”
Duke Leduc Strategic Development Director, UAS International Trip Support
“Beyond the typical pressures of more trips and the difficulties finding skilled professionals, we now have to accommodate long delays gaining access to training slots,” Newman said.
“Also, pilots need to be healthy to fly, so a sudden illness can mean an unexpected change in the schedule. You have to be creative, anticipate these possibilities and have alternatives – like contractors and supplemental lift – already prepared,” said Newman. “The difficulty is trying to look at every angle to provide the best service our colleagues expect.”
Collaborating with trip planning can also provide some relief for a flight department, said Kayla Mickler, dispatch manager, corporate aviation at Dow.
“If you can be involved at an early stage of the trip planning process, you can help guide the schedule to incorporate the appropriate number of hard days your crew needs by showing how flights could be combined or how some trips could stress the operation,” said Mickler. “At the same time, you are building a relationship where you can explain the realities of operating a flight department and build trust in your safety culture.”
Communications with crew members should also be transparent, said Duke LeDuc, strategic development director at UAS International Trip Support.
“You have to meet many needs – those of the client or principal, your budget and your staff – but always appreciate that you are working with human beings and not units of production,” said LeDuc. “Talk to your people, ask them what they need and how you can help them with their work/life balance, and show that you are fighting for them.”
According to Newman, if it’s fiscally and operationally possible, business aircraft operators should consider the crew’s type rating.
“It’s a recommended practice rather than a best practice,” said Newman. “But if you can accommodate cross-type ratings for all crew members, that will give you the largest pool of pilots, and that should allow you to provide some structure and reliability to properly crew each flight.”