From the Director
A flight crew is multi-pilots working together as one unit in the cockpit, contributing their best effort to accomplish a common goal. This accomplishes the highest levels of flight safety. Individual prominence degrades cockpit operational performance.
Flight crews are made up of diverse individual personalities, experience, and attitudes. To function as a crew, they must work as one unit with clearly defined and understood assignments and responsibilities. This is commonly called the “crew concept.” Each crew has pilot in-command (PIC) and a pilot in-second command (SIC).
The PIC is in responsible and in charge of the entire operation. Command authority cannot be delegated or shared. Subsequently, command alone does not build the crew. Crew building requires leadership, management, coaching, early situation recognition, and good communication. Crew cockpit roles and task workload assignments should be clearly defined. Standard operating procedures (SOP) should be set and implemented to facilitate operations.
Leadership is necessary to move the entire flight operation toward a safe completion of an assigned flight. Leadership is expected from all crewmembers, unlike PIC authority that is vested. Although, most of the leadership is expected from the PIC, designated leadership associated with specified task
by the SOP or PIC, contributes to crew effectiveness. The perception by other crewmembers that the caption is taking charge through leadership strengthens crew cohesion or team play, thus a better cockpit environment and effective safety.
Situational leadership affects the outcome of flight conditions and events. The crewmember with the highest level of situational awareness of a condition must communicate the concern to the other crewmember. Good communication raises crew awareness and allows them, earlier than later to deal with the situation. This also shows good situational leadership.
Although they are different styles of leadership, a good leader will adapt to crewmember personality, attitude, and experience. The type leadership, in my opinion, depends greatly on how others perceive you, crew relationship, attitude, behavior, proficiency, and experience level.
Good cockpit resource management (CRM) is another element to fight crew environment. Managing cockpit workload requires situation awareness and staying ahead of flight progression. Flying the airplane and not letting it fly you requires good management. Cockpit management reduces workload, improves safety, and helps with good crew relationships. Manage a progressive flight mode workload. Allow time for checklist to be completed without rushing; do not call for a task when the PNF is talking to ATC; allow time for learn the difference between leadership and command. A good commander may not necessarily be a good leader.
Commanders do not usually look for conflict resolution, whereas, a good leader will work toward an acceptable position of agreement.
A preflight briefing sets up a crew to establish the goals and task, as well as provides an open dialogue for feedback, questions, and/or concerns. Once the communication has established, then the crew can agree on a resolution: leadership not authority.
Effective communication enhances cockpit team management. Cockpit advocacy is required for complete effective communication. Post flight briefings are also
invaluable to build relationships, knowledge and applied experience. Post flight briefings are a way great tool for crew (team) evaluation.
All SSC pilots are programmed to advocate in the cockpit regardless of rank, name, or serial number! We believe this contributes to safety.
There are channels set for objective dissent and constructive criticism, but the cockpit is never the place or time. Crewmembers should be able to express themselves through these channels without fear of retaliation. SSC promotes free and open communication to conflict resolution. We also strongly encourage this not to be postponed or disregarded. The sooner the problem is properly addressed, generally the more effective the outcome. Crewmembers should be able to resolve conflicts between themselves, but if not, management should be consulted. This too is in the best interest of safety.
SSC understands the importance and paramount necessity of a flight crew performing as a unit. Flight crew roles and responsibilities must be defined, understood, and performed with a high level of shared situational awareness, duties, and responsibilities as a crew.
Command and leadership are set apart to understand their differences allowing one to enhance the other. Crew ability to evaluate outcomes, using all available resources, and reprioritize accordingly, leads to good decision making.
SSC strives to cultivate an environment that helps develop the practical skills of effective cockpit leadership. The affect breeds flight operation safety and efficiency through a motivated and cooperating flight crew using the “crew concept.”
The matter of fact is that it is never wrong to do right.
This is extremely important to a SSC flight crew.
It’s that time of year. Spring has sprung, the days are longer and there is so much that you need to accomplish. Home for the cook out’s, kid’s sports activities, holidays and vacation. Plus, you have important appointments with clients and meetings with buyers in towns far away.
How can you manage to be in multiple locations at the same time? It’s easy if you have a plane. Think of it as your personal time machine. Forget about looking like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” . . . you have business to accomplish.
The Business Aircraft can help you compound your time and productivity. With creative scheduling you can visit multiple cities in the same day and still be home for that special event with the family. Try that on the airlines.
What’s on your schedule? How can you cover more territory? The Business Aircraft is the answer. It’s easy to arrange and very economical when compared to the time you will save.
VP Aviation Accounts
In the following article, I want to continue to look into how a type certificated airplane can legally be altered from its original design. We have seen how easy it used to be to alter an airplane by using the field approval. But today, field approvals are a rare method of altering an aviation product.
I recently had an FAA Inspector tell me that he knew of no Inspector that would approve a field approval request. He explained that modern day Inspectors are very leery of the legal profession, for the obvious reasons. If an FAA Inspector approves an alteration to an airplane, that FAA Inspector is now liable (“his neck is on the chopping block” were his exact words). While this hesitancy to take the responsibility for an alteration based on a field approval is real, there is another reason why FAA Inspectors are reluctant (read refuse) to use field approvals. And that is, the FAA. FAA Inspector A might see nothing wrong with a proposed field approval, and have no problem approving that field approval. But now, FAA Inspector A is relocated (moves away) and a new FAA Inspector, FAA Inspector B, shows up at the hangar where the proud airplane owner is located. FAA Inspector B notices the modification to the airplane and asks to see the supporting paperwork. The proud airplane owner fearlessly shows FAA Inspector B the approved (by FAA Inspector A) field approval. FAA Inspector B realizes that FAA Inspector A allowed the modification to be made with .032 bare aluminum when .040 alcalad aluminum should have been used. FAA Inspector B grounds the airplane, the airplane owner is more than a little upset, and FAA Inspector A is in big trouble (with the FAA). The bottom line is that there are just too many details that have to be checked (known about), and today’s FAA Inspectors know this and they therefore refuse (in general) to approve a field approval. As I understand it, the “easy” field approval basically ended after a cargo conversion field approval event. Several years ago, certain Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO) were allowing, via a field approval, Lear Jets and Citations to be converted from carrying passengers to carrying cargo. These field approved conversions did not meet all of the requirements that the FAA has for such (cargo) airplanes and apparently there were several FAA Inspectors who did not have enough answers for all of the questions that their superiors had. Because of the penalties brought against these FAA Inspectors by the FAA, FAA Inspectors now shy away from field approvals. It is just too easy to overlook something, and the consequences are great (either from lawyers or from the FAA). So now, any application for a field approval is probably going to be sent to the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Office (ACO). If the ACO will approve the field approval application, the FSDO will also approve the field approval application.
Basically then, the field approval no longer exists. So how does one get approval for a modification to his airplane? You start with an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanic that has his/her Inspection Authorization (IA). Then you hire an FAA Designated Engineer Representative (DER). After receiving the agreed upon sum of money, and discussing your desires for the modification, the DER will design the modification and supply you (read the IA) with all of the drawings and approvals that you will need to satisfy the FAA ACO. Having done this, you basically have an STC (which we will discuss in my next article).
SSC has IA mechanics on staff and would be glad to consult with you on your next modification.
DOM, Special Services Corporation
I have recently had a privilege few parents get to experience, but before I tell you what it was, I’ll give you a little history. It starts back in 1997, when I was still doing flight instruction on a daily basis. For those of you who have instructed, you now what that is like. You put in very long days, trying to squeeze as many students in as you can, trying to “strike while the iron is hot”. You also tend to overlap students, knowing that your next student can get the pre-flight done as you finish up with the previous one. Well, after instructing for three and a half years, I had the opportunity to move into the world of Air Taxi (charter). At the time, I worked for someone who also owned this charter company, so for a while, I continued doing the instruction, while transitioning into the charter company. After about six months of doing both (instruction and charter), I made the transition completely over to charter, all of this taking place about the same time my first son, Jonathan, was born. For those of you who are parents, you know what kind of changes take place when you have children. You start to make plans for your children as you wonder what the Lord has planned for them as they grow up. Well, without boring you with all the minor details, we fast forward 16 years to Friday, April 26th. Over the years, I have been maintaining my flight instructor certificate by renewing it every two years, just in case any of my children would want to learn how to fly. As it turns out, my oldest, who turned 16 just a few days before the 26th of April, told me he wanted to learn to fly. I took him for his medical 30 days prior to his birthday just to make sure he would qualify with no issues and then we began the lessons two weeks before his birthday. Unfortunately, we ran into a few days where we were unable to fly, due to low ceilings or excessive spring winds. Finally, on Friday the 26th of April, we were able to finish up and my son was able to SOLO. For me, it was very different than soloing any of my previous students. The fact that it is your own son, makes it an entirely different experience. However, for my wife, it was a terrifying event, that she was truly thrilled to have completed and now behind us. There are very few 16 year olds that can say they have flown an airplane by themselves. My son is very excited about continuing to fly over the next 12 months as we prepare to complete training on his 17th birthday, when regulations allow him to get his private license.
Chief Pilot, SSC
Hangar Talk – For Your “Trans-ponder-ance!”
When I began my employment here at Special Services Corporation, I was not completely sure what I was getting into! Sure, there had been multiple opportunities in a dynamic and challenging environment like SATSair, but after spending the past three years and 9 months at Donaldson Center as a sheet metal mechanic at Lockheed Martin I was not sure how things were going to work out at Special. For those who never have had the opportunity to work for a large military contractor like Lockheed, it is a very different environment compared to the world of general aviation. In many ways, the transition from GA to Lockheed and back again was a tremendous culture shock initially, but there were three valuable lessons learned in the process:
First, humility is an absolute necessity when it comes to aviation. This has never been easy, particularly because all of us struggle with pride, but the truth is that the knowledge base in aviation is so broad that it is difficult to master even a fraction of what is out there. A lot of excellent mechanics I knew struggled with working with and relating to others, and getting them to pass on some of what they knew was sometimes a real challenge. One particularly cantankerous fellow was the unquestioned expert on the installation of a P-3 chaff dispenser mod. Nobody wanted to work with him because of his manners, but whenever we had questions, the pride had to be swallowed and his advice sought. Working with others and learning from others is a real virtue indeed!
Second, there is value in hard work. Achieving that was a struggle in a government contract environment, but at the end of the day, the feeling of accomplishment of a job well done with the appropriate margins of safety is priceless.
Third, the success of a company is absolutely dependent on its people. The future depends primarily on the character and secondarily on the skills of its workforce. Attracting and retaining talent is always difficult for any company, particularly when the company is in the middle of layoffs like Lockheed was when I was there, but it hurt us tremendously when we lost some of our best and brightest to other companies in the process. By the way, we have the best team at Special Services that I have ever worked with. It really does make a difference!
It has been good to be back in general aviation again, and I thank Jim Alexander and the team at Special Services for giving me the privilege to take part in our mission here. The future looks bright, I love it here, and I look forward to taking part in accomplishing our goals!
Safety is simply an environment free from danger or injury. Flight departments are tasked to create operational safety.
Among the many elements to manage operational safety is human fatigue. Physical and mental fatigue is weariness resulting from exertion or prolonged work and stress.
Fatigue’s affect on aviation safety becomes an effective operation weakness. Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) set explicit guidance for pilot rest and duty times, but do not clearly define or require guidelines for aircraft maintenance personnel. The irony to me is that both jobs are officially, and correctly I may add, identified as safety sensitive positions and regulated for alcohol and substance abuse.
The result is that more often than not, flight departments adhere to stringent pilot fatigue considerations and standards, while most do not have any set guidelines for maintenance personnel.
Many departments outsource their aircraft maintenance and have little to no knowledge of maintenance personnel’s duty and rest or fatigue status. Other departments do have their own full-time maintenance staff, which generally has some positive influence on safety, yet they still do not have set standard operating procedures (SOP) for maintenance duty times.
The safest structured departments have set duty procedures to help combat human fatigue for both flight and maintenance personnel. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and all good Safety Management Systems (SMS) recognize and encourage operators to implement best practices for conducting aircraft maintenance.
When considering what may set an operator apart form another, ask what guidelines are in place to help fight the weakening human fatigue challenge for their safety sensitive personnel, as well as other SOPs that contribute to operational safety. “Safety is not accident, flight departments are tasked to create operational safety and must work at it from top management down.
SSC guidelines are set, not only for operational safety, but for the safety of our personnel. The SSC maintenance safety guidelines apply both to our own managed fleet and the outsourced customer. This ensures that our maintenance team applies the best practices toward the highest aircraft maintenance standards.
Please, consider sharing your comments and thoughts.
Jim Alexander, CEO
I just got home last night from Atlanta, Georgia where I spent the weekend in a class with about thirty other Flight Instructors. Like the rest of them, I was there to renew my own Certified Flight Instructor certificate (CFI). Renewing my certificate is a ritual that I have done every other April since I first received my CFI back in 1985. So, let’s see, starting with my first renewal in 1987, that’s (counting on my fingers now), fourteen times that I have driven to Atlanta to spend a weekend in a Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC). The FAA gives a flight instructor a few options to renew their certificates. One of the ways requires that you receive 16 hours of Continuing Education (CE) each two years. The FIRC does this in just two days. Although these weekends can be grueling, this is the way I have always chosen. I enjoy meeting with the other instructors and sharing ideas and stories (mostly stories).
But let me tell you, I have to admit that these weekends can be a downer too. You see, almost every time I go, I notice that the FIRC attendance is declining. There used to be more than a hundred attendees at these courses. The last few times I attended, the head count has been down to around thirty instructors. And something else I noticed is that that the room is full of gray hair, including my own. Out of the thirty in attendance, only ten or so were actively teaching students. Most were no longer flying and were hanging on to their instructor certificates just because it took so much work to get it, and it would be a shame to let it go. I think I agree with that. I think they also enjoyed coming to these courses and expressing their opinions. And let me tell you, a room full of older flight instructors is a room full of opinions.
But why were there no younger instructors in the room? I like to think that maybe the younger flight instructors, being more computer savvy than my older group of colleagues; decide to renew their CFI certificates by taking the course online. I sure hope that is the case. I would like to see this time-honored tradition of teaching others to fly airplanes continue.
As I think back on my own experiences as a flight instructor, it has been very rewarding for me and my family. I listened to so many of my colleagues talk this weekend about how there was no way to make a living as a flight instructor anymore. They spoke of doubled fuel prices. And how student starts were down because of the bad economy. Granted all of that is true, but I have always made my living as a flight instructor. Though maybe not in the way you might expect. When I first became an instructor back in ‘85 I instructed up to eight flight hours a day (the limit). At the same time, I was also the FBO General Manager. Granted, it was a small FBO which allowed me to apply so much of my time to flight training. What I was doing was investing in my future customers for the FBO where I received my pay check. After I taught these fine folks to fly, I then sold them an airplane, rented them hangar space, and sold them avgas. When their new airplanes needed an inspection or maintenance I provided it for them. Whenever they outgrew their airplane I sold them a newer, bigger, and faster airplane. Now, here is where my flight instructor certificate came into play again: they would need someone to teach them how to fly their new, faster and more complex airplane. And the cycle continues. This is just one example of how maintaining my CFI has been a key ingredient to my success in other areas of aviation.
So the moral of the story is: Invest your time in your students-you will both benefit in the long run!
Director of Aviation Accounts
Who flies private and why? What a loaded question. If you look to our political leaders and ask this question the answer is only wealthy fat cats that use their personal aircraft to take luxurious trips all over the world. I am sure that is sometimes the case. In our own state we have a governor and politicians who are afraid to use our state airplane because of the stigma that accompanies using the aircraft and wanting to avoid the hype and fire storm from the media. Businesses and individuals use private aviation everyday and the same politicians that complain about everyone else using it know they could not perform the business of this state or the country without utilizing private aviation. How else could you make multiple stops for multiple meetings in a single day?
Individuals and companies see one important factor which is the need for fast, flexible, safe, secure and cost-effective access to destinations across the country and around the world. Meeting clients, bringing new clients to your office, inspecting factories, delivering critical parts, and the list goes on for the reasons private travel or business aircraft are needed.
There are over 5,000 airports available for private jets versus only 500 airports that serve the commercial airlines. 166 million people in the U.S. use general aviation private jets and corporate jets each year. It adds $417 million dollars to the economy of South Carolina alone and generates $11.2 million in taxes for the state. Studies by the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) show companies that utilize business jets financially outperform companies that do not use business jets. This reason alone demonstrates the best positive effect. Let the nay sayers look at the facts to make an intelligent and informed opinion.
Warren Buffet says it best, “Berkshire has been better off by having me in a plane available to go and do deals.” We at Special Services continue to serve companies and individuals that need aircraft to travel private and have been doing so since 1958. Let us know what we can do for you.
Vice President Marketing & Sales
Oh! No! What will we ever do? The sky is falling . . . ! At least some would have you think that it is.
It seems as if the last few years have had us bouncing from one disaster and emergency to another. The media and politicians are claiming the issues in today’s headlines are the most important the world has ever faced and we’ll be doomed if a solution isn’t found immediately!
First, one must understand that today’s social and financial problems didn’t just crop up over night . . . and a solution will not be implemented immediately . . . it takes time for problems to develop and be solved. Second, our government doesn’t operate like a business or a household. It ‘s constantly in a state of growth and we can only hope that it’s growth can be slowed. We must understand – to the politicians, a budget cut is not a reduction in spending . . . it’s a reduction to the increase in spending.
Some of the sequester imposed budgets cuts will lead to the most devastating events we’re being told. How will life be able to continue as we know it?
Well . . . these cuts are just a very small drip compared to the fire hose of spending by our government. Yet, the government will actually spend more this year than last. Any agencies that close will be due to the political allocation of resources.
This leads us to the issue of 149 Air Traffic Control Towers that are slated to be closed soon – entirely due to the “sequester.” How will planes be able to fly without these control towers? How will will our industry survive . . .?
Our industry will survive, and planes will fly. Life will go on and we’ll be just fine. Unfortunately, the level of safety for some operations at some of these airports will be diminished. Another set of eyes and ears watching out for air traffic is always a good thing, but the procedures for operating at un-controlled airports have been around for a long time and have served us well.
Unfortunately, there will be many in our industry that will feel the impact of these political decisions. Unfortunately, the government has not learned from the success of these 149. It appears that these Control Towers are all contract towers, meaning a private company operates them with civilian employees. It appears that that these towers have been able to perform a great job over the years. Providing the same service as a government control tower for significantly less cost. I wonder why that is?
Unfortunately, there will be a number of aircraft that will no longer fly into the airports once served by these contract towers, feeling that safety has been compromised. Unfortunately, some flight schools that are based at theses airports will move to other locations for the same reasons. Unfortunately, there will be many in our industry that suffer needlessly due to these political decisions. The contract towers should be held up as an example of efficiency and a model for our government to follow.
Will there be any accidents or mishaps? I hope not. As an industry, we must do our very best to utilize our freedoms as safely as possible. We must also voice our feelings to our representatives about the decisions they make about these issues. Let them know not to play politics with our transportation system.
VP Aviation Accounts