Technologies tested and proven by remote workers during the first years of COVID-19 have added a new layer of safety and security for handoffs by dispatchers and schedulers.
“Emails didn’t always provide us with the quickest responses, especially on international itineraries, but these newer technologies have helped us overcome that issue, especially with the chat features,” said Kayla Mickler, dispatch manager, corporate aviation at Dow. “Also, we now have the ability to maintain live documents that everyone can access. This ability to update documents in real time really enhances handoffs,” she said.
Of course, roles and responsibilities of dispatch and scheduling vary, but as the hub of communications for all aircraft movements, successful management of handoffs is critical to the safe and secure operation of every flight.
Dispatchers and schedulers are uniquely positioned to manage handoffs – also known as pass-downs – said Duke LeDuc, strategic development director at UAS International Trip Support. “Nobody is more involved in the workings of each flight, or more understanding of the details of a trip than dispatchers and schedulers, so it is essential that they coordinate and manage the pass-downs,” LeDuc explained.
“Making pass-downs easy to use goes a long way to offset the potential for human error.”
Duke LeDuc Strategic Development Director, UAS International Trip Support
Handoffs maintain the continuity of oversight critical to flight safety, said Andrew Stylianou, flight operations manager at Pfizer. “With most jobs, you can clock out at 5 p.m., go home and treat the next day as a brand-new day,” Stylianou said. “We have to take a different approach, one where every day is a continuation of yesterday and pass-downs ensure that this continuity is unbroken and that everyone is fully informed and stays on the right track.”
Standardizing handoffs and checklists improves safety, said LeDuc. “Pass-downs give us the processes to limit the human factors involved in each flight,” he added. “Making pass-downs easy to use goes a long way to offset the potential for human error, and errors at this stage can completely unravel a trip. That’s why pass-downs are so critical.”
According to Stylianou, effective handoffs need to be comprehensive while balancing ease of use and conciseness.
Each pass-down is specific to the flight and the company’s individual needs, Stylianou said. They should consider contingencies as well as the fundamentals, such as:
- Flight times
- Fuel loads
Stylianou said end-of-shift checklists can include:
- Airports that need to be approved
- A note indicating which airports and FBOs need to be informed that you’re coming
- Contact information for catering and ground transportation
Also, it’s a good idea to ensure that contract pilots and flight attendants have the most up-to-date trip sheets and to check NOTAMs and TFRs daily, Stylianou said.
According to Mickler, handoffs need to be an evolving document.
“Always be looking for new ways of doing things more efficiently. Work with other departments within your organization to see if they are doing things better or applying different technologies,” Mickler advised. “And look to the industry, too, for guidance. Business aviation is an open community and contributing to that openness is what helps our industry become safer and more effective.”