Business Aviation Insider nameplate

Avoiding Mistakes When Buying Business Aviation Software

Whether a flight operation includes one or 100 business aircraft, today’s fleet is largely dependent on software in some form. While some operators may feel they already have all the software they need, rapid changes in requirements often make it necessary to upgrade to higher capabilities.

“We’ve evolved into a hybrid work environment, so having the right software is key to our operation today,” said Andrew Stylianou, who co-chairs NBAA’s Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee and serves as flight operations manager for a large Part 91 operator. “Our flight operations team can be in different locations, but we need to maintain close collaboration. That’s a challenge without the right software integration.”

“One of the biggest game changers is software that allows flight departments to run passengers against the ‘No-Fly List.’ That’s been a nice addition,” said NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee Co-Chair Jennifer Dow, director of client services for Part 135 operator AB Jets. “There is also software that enables the completion of the APIS [Advanced Passenger Information System] work in one place, instead of having to visit multiple websites. That saves operators a lot of time.”

Many flight department managers say it’s not practical to maintain an efficient operation without the right software support. The questions then become: Should you rely on one system to handle everything, or should you have multiple applications that communicate with each other?

Consider Your Business Aviation Devices

It’s important to recognize that software and apps aren’t the same thing. In its simplest form, software is a collection of data or instructions that tell the computer what to do. It can include multiple capabilities or functions. An application, or app, is a more straightforward package that is created to meet specific user requirements. All apps may be a sub-category of software, but software is not an app.

The simple way to look at it is that software is better suited for desktop use, and an app is designed for mobile applications.

“We’ve had to take all of the capabilities that we needed for our desktop environment and find ways to make it portable,” Stylianou said. “The big push is to automate everything today by integrating everything through an API [application program interface] to allow everything to be done on a mobile platform. That has its own challenges.

“I understand that everyone wants to go in that direction – it’s a global workforce today,” Stylianou added. “But sometimes, that full software functionality doesn’t translate over to mobile applications.”

Dow shared a recent “one size doesn’t fit all” experience she had when AB Jets installed a new software package. “I made a video demo to show our crews how to use the new software, but I demonstrated it on my desktop. I didn’t take into account that our crews would be using it on their iPhones and iPads. The pages look totally different between the desktop and mobile formats.

“I had to go back and modify the tutorial video using my iPad,” she said. “So, when you are shopping for software or applications, take the device it will be used on into consideration.”

Shopping Tips for Business Aviation Software

“There are a ton of options out there today, but there are a few good starting points you can use,” explained Ryan DeMoor, CAM, chair of NBAA’s Tax Committee and head of aviation tax, for MySky. “The first thing is to determine exactly what you need to do – and then find a software solution that can help you do that.

“Also, don’t overbuy,” he continued. “If you have one airplane, you don’t need – or want to pay for – a top-of-the-line software package that does 20 airplanes. If you shop smart, you can probably accomplish what you need for a tenth of the price.”

Another tip: Keep in mind, there is no perfect software solution that can do everything everyone wants, according to the experts. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask. “If you have something on your list that their software doesn’t do, always ask if they can add it,” said Dow. “Maybe it’s never been brought up to them before, and the fix would be easy or cost-effective. I’m not shy about asking.”

Whether it’s commercial off-the-shelf or custom, never buy any software without a rigorous road test. You must make sure it’s not only capable of doing what you want but is compatible with your other programs. Make sure it’s easy to use. Some managers like to test new software by finding the least tech-savvy person on their team and have them try it. If they can use it, it gets a thumbs up.

“Today, data is the new ‘gold.’ So don’t ever give the control of your data away to anyone.”

Ryan DeMoor CAM, Head of Aviation Tax, MySky

Make Sure What’s Yours Stays Yours

While there’s no getting away from the growing reliance on software aimed at improving operations, there are a few dark clouds to the silver lining, including data protection.

“When shopping for any new software, make sure you and the developer are aligned on the concept of who owns your data,” DeMoor said. “Today, data is the new ‘gold.’ So don’t ever give the control of your data away to anyone.

“We believe that your data is your data, but some firms don’t share that belief,” DeMoor added. “They think if you use their software, they ‘own’ that data. So, make sure you read the contract very carefully. You can accidentally sign over the rights to all your data to that company, and you don’t want to ever do that.”

Business Aviation Software Cybersecurity

Another must-do regarding data is always making sure that the new software you are looking to import into your network has the proper cybersecurity features in place.

“We make sure our IT department reviews and approves any new software or app before we bring it on board,” Stylianou said. “From what I hear, many of the newer software companies don’t have the most robust security features in their early versions. That’s a big thing to take into consideration when choosing a package.”

Yes, for all its ups and downs, our reliance on software and apps is here to stay. The key to success lies in each operator’s decision-making process.

March/April 2024

Earn Your Scheduler Certificate on Your Schedule

Take your career to the next level. Earn your Business Aviation Scheduler Certificate on your own time with an online course provided by NBAA.
Read More

March 13, 2024

SDC2024 Attendees Empowered to Engage

The 35th edition of the NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference (SDC2024) kicked off March 13, 2024, with inspiring speakers urging attendees to engage and empower themselves to soar in their careers.
Read More

Jan/Feb 2024

Schedulers: Remote vs. Office – Which Is Best?

Do the advantages of working from home outweigh the upsides of being on site? Veteran schedulers share their opinions.
Read More

Jan/Feb 2024

Managing Passenger Expectations: Communicate and Offer Options

Smart planning, constant communication with principals and offering options for unexpected contingencies can prevent logistical headaches for business aircraft operators.
Read More