BIZAV’S PI­LOT SHORT­AGE

IT AF­FECTS MORE THAN THE AIR­LINES

Flying - - CONTENTS -

It’s not just the air­lines that are hurt­ing for qual­i­fied pilots. We ex­plore the la­bor cri­sis cor­po­rate flight de­part­ments are fac­ing. By Rob Mark

IT WOULD BE TOUGH

for any­one even re­motely close to the avi­a­tion in­dus­try not to re­al­ize there is a short­age of well-qual­i­fied pilots here in the United States. The ef­fects of the age-65 re­tire­ment ad­just­ment in 2009 re­ally be­gan grab­bing air­line pilots out of the cock­pit the past few years. Adding to the prob­lem is an air­line in­dus­try ex­pan­sion world­wide that Boe­ing be­lieves will de­mand nearly 800,000 cock­pit crewmem­bers, 117,000 in the United States alone, over the next 20 years. Just for good mea­sure, let’s toss in the 2013 change to Part 121 that re­quires all air­line pilots to hold an ATP cer­tifi­cate, a tight­en­ing of re­quire­ments that hit re­gional car­ri­ers par­tic­u­larly hard. Work­ing in the air­line’s fa­vor to at­tract pilots over the past few years are sev­eral re­cent quar­ters of se­ri­ous prof­its, enough to throw fresh money into the com­pen­sa­tion and ben­e­fits pool needed to at­tract new tal­ent.

So crit­i­cal has the need be­come for qual­i­fied pilots that the FAA in mid-Septem­ber held its first work­force sym­po­sium in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to be­gin ad­dress­ing so­lu­tions de­signed to per­suade more young peo­ple to give the avi­a­tion in­dus­try a sec­ond, or per­haps even a first, look. The sum­mit fo­cused in part on re­cruit­ing civil­ian and mil­i­tary pilots, as well as main­te­nance tech­ni­cians. Act­ing FAA ad­min­is­tra­tor Daniel El­well said, “We’re go­ing to look at how new and ex­ist­ing part­ner­ships be­tween the air­lines, gov­ern­ment and academia can sup­port all of these ef­forts.”

While the air­line pi­lot short­age has pretty much found its way to nearly every news out­let, the real story is that the air­lines aren’t the only seg­ment star­ing down the bar­rel of a severe pi­lot short­age. Busi­ness avi­a­tion, the men and women who fly Gulf­stream 650s, Bom­bardier Glob­als, Das­sault 8Xs and Cessna Ci­ta­tions do­mes­ti­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally for some of the na­tion’s largest and most suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies, is fac­ing some of the same hur­dles as the air­lines, ex­cept, of course, bizav isn’t wor­ried about age65 re­tire­ments or nearly out-of-con­trol in­dus­try ex­pan­sion.

Jad Don­ald­son, di­rec­tor of avi­a­tion at Har­ley-David­son and chair­man of the Na­tional Busi­ness Avi­a­tion As­so­ci­a­tion’s Busi­ness Avi­a­tion Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee (BAMC), says busi­ness avi­a­tion lead­ers view the hu­man cap­i­tal short­age as “an im­me­di­ate prob­lem de­mand­ing a long-term fix.” In­dus­try sources con­firm some se­nior bizav pilots have jumped ship for the air­lines, but not in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers — at least not yet.

Ad­mit­tedly some­what late to the re­cruit­ment ef­fort, busi­ness avi­a­tion has gath­ered lead­ers to­gether such as NBAA’s se­nior di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tional strat­egy, Jo Dam­ato. “Our first work­force sum­mit in 2017 in­cluded lots of con­ver­sa­tions and plenty of peo­ple nod­ding their heads in agree­ment about the prob­lem,” she says. Now, in­dus­try lead­ers have be­gun work­ing more closely to­gether to de­velop re­ten­tion and re­cruit­ment strate­gies be­fore they ex­pe­ri­ence a mas­sive per­son­nel ex­o­dus to the air­lines.

While bizav seems to have a lit­tle breath­ing space be­fore the in­dus­try be­gins reg­u­larly los­ing highly qual­i­fied pilots

to the air­lines, the seg­ment has had to ad­mit it’s also part of the re­cruit­ment prob­lem. Busi­ness avi­a­tion se­ri­ously avoids pub­lic­ity, par­tially so as not to stir up share­hold­ers about the use of ex­pen­sive air­craft as­sets, but also to avoid the kind of dam­ag­ing pub­lic­ity gar­nered, for ex­am­ple, when the Big Three au­tomak­ers ar­rived in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., dur­ing the re­ces­sion a decade ago in their busi­ness air­planes, ask­ing Congress for bil­lions in bailout money. The air­lines had a field day with that one. Now, a decade of low-pro­file op­er­a­tions later, busi­ness avi­a­tion must cope with the fact that it’s also cre­ated a gen­er­a­tion of young peo­ple who have lit­tle idea what bizav is or does.

Sh­eryl Bar­den, a BAMC mem­ber and pres­i­dent and CEO of API, a busi­ness avi­a­tion re­cruiter, says so­lu­tions to the prob­lem are only just be­gin­ning to emerge, yet she’s con­cerned. “I’m wor­ried that we’re go­ing to miss an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of pilots be­cause it’s

very hard for some­one in their 30s to turn down a lu­cra­tive air­line con­tract. [They’re think­ing], If I join the air­line,

I’m fur­lough-proof,” Bar­den says. “We need to bring pilots into these [Part 91] or­ga­ni­za­tions ear­lier and part­ner up to cre­ate a ca­reer path sim­i­lar to what’s in place at the air­lines.”

Re­cent re­search shows the top rea­son busi­ness avi­a­tion pilots jump ship for the air­lines. Don­ald­son says, “We con­ducted a sur­vey of the busi­ness avi­a­tion com­mu­nity through the BAMC and learned the num­ber one rea­son pilots are leav­ing is qual­ity of life.” He cites the air­line’s abil­ity to of­fer ad­vance pi­lot sched­ules that al­low em­ploy­ees to bet­ter plan their work as­sign­ments around their lives, in ad­di­tion to sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in com­pen­sa­tion. As an ex­am­ple, Don­ald­son says at Har­leyDavid­son, the flight de­part­ment has learned to op­er­ate with three pilots per air­plane, rather than a leaner two, in or­der to have the flex­i­bil­ity to en­sure reg­u­lar time off for crewmem­bers. Don­ald­son says he hasn’t lost any pilots re­cently. Some smaller or less well-funded flight de­part­ments, how­ever, don’t have as many op­tions other than try­ing to lo­cate a con­tract pi­lot on short no­tice to fill in when needed. Don­ald­son says small flight de­part­ments with just two pilots per air­plane prob­a­bly don’t of­fer a great qual­ity of life.

But com­par­ing air­line fly­ing to that of busi­ness avi­a­tion is not as sim­ple as com­par­ing the size of the air­planes. Air­line and busi­ness fly­ing are vastly dif­fer­ent. New air­line pilots earn se­nior­ity num­bers right out of train­ing that dic­tate their work sched­ule (gen­er­ally lousy early on). The longer they re­main at that air­line, the higher they climb the se­nior­ity lad­der. That

trans­lates into bet­ter se­nior­ity, more money, the abil­ity to choose a base city and, of course, in what po­si­tion and in which air­craft they can fly. It’s all planned out. At the air­lines, pilots go to work, en­ter the cock­pit, lock the door and fly their trip, and go home with no real col­lat­eral du­ties. That’s be­cause the air­lines hire sched­ulers, dis­patch­ers, fu­el­ers, air­craft clean­ers and other ground ser­vice per­son­nel for many of the ex­tra chores. Most air­line pilots truly en­joy this kind of punch-in, punch-out, same-10-citieseach-month kind of fly­ing ca­reer.

Busi­ness avi­a­tion pilots ex­pe­ri­ence a dif­fer­ent kind of life — not nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter or worse, just dif­fer­ent. A Teter­boro, New Jersey-based Gulf­stream G650 crew that re­ceives a trip re­quest to Lon­don Lu­ton Air­port, for in­stance, plans many of the flight’s de­tails it­self, or per­son­ally in­ter­acts with a flight planning provider. The bizav crew de­cides the nec­es­sary fuel load and is usu­ally around the air­plane while the fu­el­ing is be­ing con­ducted. Bizav pilots of­ten act on the cater­ing re­quests of pas­sen­gers and are re­spon­si­ble to be sure ground trans­porta­tion at the des­ti­na­tion is in place upon their ar­rival. It’s also not un­usual for the ju­nior pi­lot to see that the pas­sen­gers’ lug­gage is safely stowed be­fore take­off or that the boss’s fa­vorite bev­er­ages are on board. It’s also typ­i­cal for bizav pilots to hang around the air­port on days when they’re not sched­uled to fly to help with col­lat­eral du­ties, such as re­stock­ing the air­plane’s bev­er­age cooler.

Of course, most busi­ness avi­a­tion pilots en­joy the kind of fly­ing they ex­pe­ri­ence, which can mean not see­ing the same city twice in the same month and never re­ally know­ing where they’re headed next. The life is never bor­ing. Most im­por­tantly, busi­ness avi­a­tion hires peo­ple for their per­son­al­ity, not sim­ply their stick-and-rud­der skills. That means an ATP might not Busi­ness avi­a­tion is work­ing on the re­la­tion­ships it needs so air­craft won’t lack pilots. The search for new bizav crewmem­bers can be­gin while stu­dents are still in school.

be a hard and fast de­mand ev­ery­where for those with fewer hours in their logbook. But the per­son­al­ity de­mand is es­sen­tial be­cause bizav pilots of­ten spend a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time in­ter­act­ing with the com­pany c-suite or mid­dle-man­age­ment peo­ple in the cabin. Most busi­ness air­planes do not have lock­ing doors to the cock­pit. For busi­ness avi­a­tion, a great pi­lot with zero per­son­al­ity or an in­abil­ity to in­ter­act with oth­ers is a deal breaker for a hir­ing man­ager. If air­line fly­ing can be over­sim­pli­fied by com­par­ing it to a bus driver’s job, busi­ness avi­a­tion is sim­i­lar to driv­ing a lux­ury limou­sine.

NBAA’s Dam­ato says the as­so­ci­a­tion is work­ing closely with or­ga­ni­za­tions like the Air­craft Own­ers and Pilots As­so­ci­a­tion, EAA, Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, Women in Cor­po­rate Avi­a­tion and Women in Avi­a­tion In­ter­na­tional. Of­ten men­tioned too is AOPA’s avi­a­tion-based STEM cur­ricu­lum for high school stu­dents, which de­buted last fall in 81 schools across the United States. GAMA has been work­ing with Build-a-Plane for years on a pro­gram where high school­ers use soft­ware to de­sign air­planes.

Don­ald­son says, “The air­lines have done an out­stand­ing job of part­ner­ing with many of the big avi­a­tion uni­ver­si­ties out of sheer de­sire to keep their air­planes fly­ing.” Ma­jor air­lines have cre­ated agree­ments that guar­an­tee jobs to grad­u­ates from Em­bry-Rid­dle, the Uni­ver­sity of North Dakota, Pur­due and oth­ers as soon as they’re qual­i­fied for a Part 121 air­craft. Un­til re­cently, busi­ness avi­a­tion had al­most no for­mal school af­fil­i­a­tions. But there have been a few, and those num­bers are grow­ing. Dean Wal­ters, Jack­son Life’s di­rec­tor of avi­a­tion in Lans­ing, Michi­gan, says the Michi­gan Busi­ness Avi­a­tion As­so­ci­a­tion be­gan reach­ing out to col­lege stu­dents through reg­u­lar vis­its to cam­puses like Western Michi­gan Uni­ver­sity, North­west­ern Michi­gan Col­lege and East­ern Michi­gan Uni­ver­sity. “Just a few weeks ago, we sent sev­eral of our air­craft down to a re­cruit­ing day at Western Michi­gan in Kala­ma­zoo and parked our Hawker 850 right next to one of the re­gional air­line’s RJs.”

Wal­ters says re­cruit­ing events usu­ally mix food with busi­ness jets and chatty pilots from the ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers to en­gage stu­dents. He says his re­cruit­ment group uses a round­table for­mat that al­lows po­ten­tial stu­dents to sit with pilots and learn, of­ten for the first time, how busi­ness avi­a­tion flight crews spend their day, in ad­di­tion to ex­plain­ing cor­po­rate train­ing, com­pen­sa­tion and ben­e­fits pack­ages. “We sug­gest our pilots talk about what they don’t like about their jobs, as well as what they do,” Wal­ters says. “It still amazes me though how many times we’ll get into a class of 30 or 40 stu­dents and re­al­ize that none of them have ever heard of, much less con­sid­ered, busi­ness avi­a­tion as a ca­reer op­tion.” Adding to stu­dent in­ter­est in busi­ness avi­a­tion is data from NBAA’s re­cent salary sur­vey that shows com­pen­sa­tion is climb­ing. The as­so­ci­a­tion’s most re­cent data shows top-end salaries for some avi­a­tion de­part­ment man­agers have risen to just over $200,000 in to­tal cash com­pen­sa­tion, with a se­nior line pi­lot’s wages ris­ing 12 per­cent over last year to nearly $165,000. Of course, salaries al­ways vary by re­gion, air­craft type and whether fly­ing is pri­mar­ily do­mes­tic or with some in­ter­na­tional routes mixed in. And of course, the cor­po­rate check­book has lim­its and takes time to be up­dated, which means many bizav hir­ing man­agers have needed to be­come much closer to their hu­man re­sources peo­ple.

Cor­po­rate re­cruit­ing also of­fers the chance to meet new po­ten­tial can­di­dates who will later ap­ply for in­tern­ships and schol­ar­ships of­fered by some flight de­part­ments. An­other ben­e­fit could be a cor­po­rate avi­a­tion flowthrough, sim­i­lar to the ones that al­low air­line pilots to flow up to Amer­i­can Air­lines from En­voy. A num­ber of NBAA mem­bers have cre­ated an in­for­mal flow-through agree­ment among

“We con­ducted a sur­vey of the busi­ness avi­a­tion com­mu­nity through the BAMC and learned the num­ber one rea­son pilots are leav­ing is qual­ity of life.” JAD DON­ALD­SON, DI­REC­TOR OF AVI­A­TION, HAR­LEY-DAVID­SON

them­selves to help keep en­er­getic pilots in the bizav seg­ment. While it’s not a for­mal agree­ment, Wal­ters ex­plains, some Michi­gan flight de­part­ment man­agers of­ten talk to­gether when one of them finds a wor­thy can­di­date. They might help a young pi­lot get hired by a lo­cal char­ter op­er­a­tor will­ing to add a new pi­lot who doesn’t yet pos­sess the hours nec­es­sary for an ATP. Once that pi­lot is sea­soned with a few years of char­ter fly­ing, the man­agers chat again to find a good cor­po­rate flight de­part­ment in need of a pi­lot with those qual­i­fi­ca­tions be­fore they have a chance to run to the air­lines. Later on, they might help that same pi­lot move up again. The NBAA’s BAMC is try­ing to fig­ure out how to roll such a pro­gram out na­tion­wide. The big ques­tion, of course, is why would one man­ager help an­other? Bar­den ex­plains that “while we used to be com­pet­ing for the best pilots with other flight de­part­ments, busi­ness avi­a­tion now re­al­izes we’re ac­tu­ally com­pet­ing with the air­lines.”

Chris Quiocho, a for­mer Army UH-60 Black Hawk pi­lot and now CEO of Of­fland Me­dia, is rel­a­tively new to busi­ness avi­a­tion. He also rep­re­sents the new wave of busi­ness avi­a­tion pilots, hav­ing been named one of NBAA’s “Top 40 Un­der 40.” Still in his 30s, Quiocho ac­knowl­edges many of the prob­lems ex­pressed by the more ex­pe­ri­enced BAMC mem­bers, but says it’s time for fresh think­ing about how to solve the prob­lem, at least when it comes to in­ter­act­ing with mil­len­ni­als. And who bet­ter to help than a mil­len­nial bizav pi­lot who also co-cap­tains NBAA’s work­force de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee.

When it comes to how busi­ness avi­a­tion needs to change to re­late to mil­len­ni­als, Quiocho says, “Few peo­ple know much about busi­ness avi­a­tion be­cause the in­dus­try is so frag­mented.” But suc­cess is more than sim­ply work­ing to­gether. “We [mil­len­ni­als] live in an on-de­mand, in­stan­ta­neous, dig­i­tal world where peo­ple have ac­cess to enor­mous in­for­ma­tion re­sources. Mil­len­ni­als crave to make their own de­ci­sions. It’s sim­ply a byprod­uct of the world we live in.” Know­ing he’s prob­a­bly viewed as sim­ply a critic of the old guard, Quiocho ex­plains, “Young peo­ple don’t want pam­phlets. They barely want to talk on the phone. Suc­cess is about the voice we use to in­ter­act with them, which is why so­cial me­dia, ac­tu­ally the in­ter­net, is so crit­i­cal to our re­cruit­ment ef­forts. And right now, we’re still be­hind the power curve.”

Not sur­pris­ingly, Quiocho has heard from a few se­nior bizav man­agers. “Peo­ple say, I know what you’re talk­ing about, but that kind of out­reach ef­fort is not for me be­cause we only need one pi­lot. I’m still try­ing to con­vince them that work­ing to­gether to re­cruit young peo­ple ben­e­fits ev­ery­one, but I know I’m also deal­ing with a lot of egos.”

Quiocho’s mar­ket­ing strat­egy sug­gests “telling peo­ple in­ter­ested in busi­ness avi­a­tion that we work closely with some of the most suc­cess­ful and bril­liant minds when we in­ter­act with our air­craft own­ers. They own these as­sets be­cause they’ve suc­cess­fully nav­i­gated the bat­tle­field of busi­ness and out­per­formed their com­peti­tors. Why wouldn’t you want to be around peo­ple like that?” Coun­ter­ing the low-pro­file strat­egy that’s been part of bizav for­ever, Quiocho says, “We need more pub­lic­ity, not less. We need to share our in­dus­try suc­cesses, not hide from them.”

Cer­tainly, busi­ness avi­a­tion fly­ing is not for ev­ery­one, nor does bizav want pilots only in­ter­ested in fly­ing air­planes. Wal­ters de­tails the strat­egy he uses when part of a round­table. “I ask them, who can I trust with a $50 mil­lion as­set that’s car­ry­ing our com­pany’s most im­por­tant peo­ple around the world and to bring ev­ery­one home safely? I also need some­one who can solve any prob­lem they might face along the way.” Wal­ters says not ev­ery­one looks up when he makes his pitch, but there are al­ways a few. “And those are the peo­ple I want to talk to.”

“We [mil­len­ni­als] live in an on-de­mand, in­stan­ta­neous, dig­i­tal world where peo­ple have ac­cess to enor­mous in­for­ma­tion re­sources. Mil­len­ni­als crave to make their own de­ci­sions.” CHRIS QUIOCHO, COR­PO­RATE PI­LOT AND CEO

Round­table dis­cus­sions are good fo­rums for ask­ing tough ques­tions.

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