FAQ: What is a Flight Department Review, and How Does It Work?

NAFA member, Lee Rohde, Founder, President and CEO of Essex Aviation Group, Inc., discusses what a flight department review is and how it works.

“Get a second opinion.” 

It’s a phrase most commonly heard after a trip to the doctor’s office, but it’s applicable to almost all aspects of life. A second opinion provides fresh perspective, which can be valuable when figuring out what to do or how to improve. This is especially true for private business aviation when considering your aircraft management company or internal flight department.

Whether applying due diligence or requesting information from your management company or flight department that might require mediation by a third party, a flight department review is an excellent way to ensure that your aircraft and the team that supports it are operating at optimal levels.

H: What is a Flight Department?

A flight department is the people and processes responsible for the ongoing management, maintenance and operations of an aircraft on behalf of its owner. A flight department’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to, trip analysis, ongoing maintenance, overall operations, aircraft scheduling, flight planning, crew management and so on. A flight department can range anywhere from a single pilot to an entire facility with an organization staffed by a wide range of aviation experts. 

Although many aircraft owners choose to outsource their flight department to a third-party aircraft management company, it is possible — and common — to rely on an in-house flight department. There are, naturally, pros and cons to both options. First-time aircraft owners often utilize an aircraft management company in order to take advantage of its existing organizational structure, human resources, vendor relationships and regulatory knowledge. In-house flight departments will need to manage all of these aspects, often with the help of outside resources and the existing support available through their primary business organization. 

Aircraft owners need to consider their overall goals and objectives in order to evaluate which option will best meet their needs. Most owners who are interested in chartering their aircraft will choose to work with a third-party aircraft management company and operate under its existing Part 135 certificate.

H: What is a Flight Department Review? 

A flight department review is, as its name implies, an evaluation of an aircraft owner’s flight department conducted by a third-party entity — usually a private aviation consulting firm

During a review, a consultant will familiarize themselves with the company’s internal policies, as well as policies that ensure compliance with the FAA or other foreign aviation administration under which the aircraft operates. The primary objective of a review should be to determine whether a flight department is performing according to the standards outlined in their operating manuals, which are often contained within, but not limited to, flight operation and general maintenance manuals and safety management systems. In addition, the review should include an extensive study of maintenance records, personnel training, general organization and the level of care and custody extended to the aircraft.

The results of this evaluation are presented in a written report to the client. More often than not, consultants have limited findings or concerns. The report will outline any findings, as well as potential solutions or options to correct existing issues. The owner is the sole recipient of this report unless they decide to authorize its release to any third parties.

An experienced private aviation consulting firm will also share best practices and enhancements proven to be successful by other flight departments they’ve reviewed. Most flight departments are eager to share their experiences and solutions with others in the industry. Among other things, sharing best practices contributes to safety enrichment, costs savings and general efficiencies with flight operations.

H: Who Can Request a Flight Department Review?

A flight department review is typically requested by an aircraft owner or their direct advisor (such as a family office) as a measure of due diligence to ensure that their aircraft is being managed properly. However, an aircraft owner or advisor might also request a review if they have issues with personnel management or with certain aspects of their management company and its management of the aircraft. 

In some cases, a management company will even request a flight department review in order to resolve a dispute with an aircraft owner. In situations like this, both parties look to the consultant to provide an unbiased review and information concerning industry best practices and procedures so that both parties can reach an amicable solution and move forward. 

On occasion, an aircraft financial institution might request a flight department or management company review to ensure that their assets are being properly managed and operated and to confirm the aircraft records are properly maintained and up-to-date. 

By getting a second opinion in the form of a flight department review, it’s possible for aircraft owners to ensure that they’re receiving the best service possible, be it from their management company or an in-house flight operation, and that they have a quality private aviation experience.

Lee Rohde, Founder, President and CEO of Essex Aviation, a business and private aviation aircraft acquisition and consulting firm, has 30+ years of experience in financial and operational analysis, manufacturing, distribution and corporate business development.

This article was originally published by Essex Aviation