Joe Barber

  • NAFA Administrator posted an article
    Choosing Your Aircraft Management Company: Five Keys to Successful Due Diligence see more

    NAFA member, Joe Barber, VP Fleet Development, CAM with Clay Lacy Aviation shares five keys to successful due diligence when choosing your aircraft management company.

    In a perfect world, the due diligence process to select the right aircraft management company would be straightforward and objective. Competing proformas would be formatted identically with the same terms for every line item. There would be no hedging or ambiguity. No hollow promises or questionable guarantees. No missing budget variables that appear as unpleasant surprises on the first invoice. Clients could easily compare and contrast, and make better informed decisions.

    Instead, welcome to the real world, where proposals to manage business jet aircraft vary widely in organization and terminology, where the emphasis is often on salesmanship and showmanship, looking good rather than being thorough and transparent, and where the lowest estimate might end up costing you tens of thousands more in unexpected fees.

    This should not be a beauty contest—but it often is.

    Charles Porteus, president and founder of Seefeld Group, a leading business aviation marketing and research firm, notes that client surveys often show aircraft management is viewed as a “commodity.” For clients, there is little—or at least difficult to discern—differentiation among competing companies. The result is more like a beauty contest than the meticulous presentation and review of high-end business services to manage, operate and maintain a multi-million-dollar capital asset.

    There’s a reason they call it due diligence.

    The dictionary defines diligence as “persistent work and effort.” That sums up the challenge for business jet owners and their advisors as they seek to find not only the answers to questions, but to ensure that the right questions are being asked in the first place. Here are five guidelines that together are the key to finding the ideal aircraft management company for your specific needs.

    1. Focus on objective metrics—yours as well as theirs.

    You begin with the basics, of course. How many years has the company been in operation? How many aircraft do they manage? Part 91 vs. Part 135? Locations? Pilots? Management fees? Insurance? And so forth. Then dig deeper. Create constants for your comparison so you are comparing apples to apples. Fundamentally, you are conducting a gap analysis so you can more thoroughly understand what is being offered, what is different and what is missing.

    Each company should be able to demonstrate objectively why they are a better choice than their competitors—although beware if they seem to be “tearing down” other companies in order to build themselves up. Turn the tables and ask what competitors might say about them.

    2. Listen to what they are asking you.

    At the same time, play close attention to the questions they are asking you. They should be probing to fully understand your unique requirements, mission profile, where you travel, how often and who goes with you. Your expectations of a management company, needs and preferences for meals and amenities, international issues, and other key details and concerns. If they are not asking these questions, you have to wonder if they are truly focused on your best interests.

    3. Seek expert insights.

    There are numerous professionals within the business aviation industry: the list includes aviation attorneys, CPAs and other financial advisors, aircraft brokers, insurance providers. Their knowledge of the industry and the major players, as well as their specific expertise, can be a valuable resource for you as you narrow your choices. Poll their opinions, while keeping an eye out for any possible conflicts of interest.

    4. Challenge any “guarantees.”

    The only thing that can be guaranteed is that nothing can be guaranteed. Not only is aircraft ownership inherently complex, our world is filled with variables. Who, for example, could have anticipated COVID-19? So it is wise to challenge any guarantees from a prospective management company.

    Guaranteed charter revenue. How can they promise that? Instead, ask the company to demonstrate how they will work to generate charter revenue to meet your agreed-upon goals.

    Guaranteed maintenance costs. Really? Ask them to show how will they work to minimize your maintenance costs without sacrificing quality or safety.

    5. Watch out for what might be missing.

    If a proposal is dramatically lower than others, it could be a sign that one or more variable budget items has been omitted or significantly underestimated. For example, international handing and other fees related to foreign travel. Or warranty and subscription costs. There are any number of candidates that can fluctuate wildly based on a number of variables specific to your use of the plane. This is the time to ask questions and demand answers. Otherwise you might find that the lowest bid was ultimately the most costly choice—a fact you might not discover until you see your first invoice.

    Otherwise you might find that the lowest bid was ultimately the most costly choice—a fact you might not discover until you see your first invoice.

    The bottom line is that this due diligence is worth it. With the right aircraft management company you will have an invaluable partner. Working closely with you, they can lower your ownership costs, add value, maximize efficiencies and ensure your asset is operated and maintained to the highest standards—so you can experience all the benefits and enjoyment of business jet ownership.

    This article was originally published by Clay Lacy Aviation on July 9, 2020.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Who’s Onboard? Onboarding Your Managed Aircraft see more

    NAFA member, Joe Barber, CAM, Vice President Fleet Development with Clay Lacy Aviation, discusses onboarding your managed aircraft.

    You’ve bought a new aircraft, or are happy with your current one. In considering many factors, including the frequency of your travel, your need for a “turnkey” operation, and maybe your desire for some charter revenue, you’ve decided to enlist the services of a professional aircraft management company. You’ve done your research (See “Choosing a Management Company,” BAA July/August 2015), made your selection, and are ready to sign.

    Similar to any new service you enlist, there is a start-up phase, referred to as “onboarding.” Onboarding is simply the steps that the company will take to properly prepare itself, the aircraft, and the crew, and to satisfy the FAA and DOT to conduct flight operations in an efficient, cost-effective, safe, and legal manner.

    The onboarding process begins once your decision is made, even before the contract is signed. It begins with a meeting including you and any of your representatives who will be involved with the aircraft, such as your CFO, executive assistant, or risk manager. The management company team typically includes an onboarding specialist and designated aircraft manager, plus representatives from maintenance, accounting, charter, and human resources.  They follow a comprehensive checklist to streamline and expedite the process. Communication is key. The team will meet frequently to review the status of your aircraft transition, and will provide you with weekly updates.

    Certain basic processes – and regulations – must be covered for every aircraft, in addition to designing others to meet your own specific requirements. The best management companies use a recognized project management system together with a system for continual improvement. Developed by Toyota engineers, Kanban and Kaizen focus on achieving high-quality results. Other companies use the Six Sigma method and its focus on Total Quality Management. The basic organizing principle is to start with the end in mind: “What will a successful aircraft ownership experience look like for you?” and then use “reverse engineering” to get there.

    In the “honeymoon period,” usually the first six months, there is a high level of activity and some topics will require your input.  There are more than 180 tasks required to operate safely and meet your individual requirements, which can be grouped into 65 categories, in three main areas:

    • Aircraft Management: Flight operations, accounting, vendor negotiations (e.g. fuel discounts), subscriptions, and insurance.
    • Flight Operations: scheduling (dispatch), ground transportation, record keeping, installation and oversight of a Safety Management System, crew training and schedules, and issuance of flight manuals.
    • Maintenance: inspections, repairs, records and manuals, warranties, equipment compliance, training mechanics, and FAA interface.

    Here are some of the questions you may be asked:

    • If your aircraft is coming from another management company, would you like to keep the same crew members? For example, if you’re moving to a larger or newer aircraft, is your current crew capable of or interested in operating the replacement aircraft?
    • If the management company finds that your crew member does not meet the proper operating standards (identified during transition training), how will this be handled?
    • If the aircraft is on a charter certificate, what are your charter requirements (e.g. annual billable hours/revenue)? Do you want the ability to approve every trip, every time? A good management company will track every opportunity and be able to share how many trips were presented, and how many you accepted or declined with the associated revenue per hour.

    The onboarding process traditionally takes 60-90 days, but may be extended if the FAA is delayed in conducting your certificate acceptance flight or additional crew training is required.  Once complete, you will have one individual assigned to you, often referred to as a “Client Advisor” or “Aircraft Manager” who will serve as your primary point of contact with the management company to ensure that you have a positive experience.

    This article was originally published by Business Aviation Advisor on September 1, 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Are you looking to offer your private jet for charter, read more here! see more

    NAFA member Joe Barber, Vice President of Fleet Development at Clay Lacy Aviation, discusses the best way to offer your private jet for charter.

    A growing number of private jet owners are chartering their aircraft when not in use to reduce the cost of ownership. Before a jet can be chartered, it must conform to a specific set of rules set forth by the FAA (known as Part 135) and be listed on an FAA air carrier certificate. The best way to offer your private jet for charter is through an aircraft management company who holds a Part 135 air carrier certificate.

    The process

    Once a private jet is acquired, a series of steps, both practical and regulatory in nature, must be addressed before the aircraft can conduct its first charter flight. The most effective way to conform a private jet for charter is with an aircraft management company who holds a Part 135 certificate. Within the aviation industry, the process of adding a jet to an air carrier certificate is termed conformity. This refers to the time after purchase, close of escrow, but before the first revenue producing charter flight.

    The conformity process typically takes between thirty and ninety days and includes a long list of deliverables. From hiring and training of crew members, reviewing of maintenance records, conducting FAA inspections and more. To avoid delays or complications, the team managing the conformity process should be one with deep experience, a detailed organizational structure, and one who remains in regular communication with the aircraft owner (as well as communicating with the other aviation specialists involved). Here is a look at three critical elements to a smooth conformity process— experience, organization, and communication. 

    Experience

    Not all air carrier certificates are equal, so before you select a management company, it’s important that an aircraft owner ask a few questions. Consider that an air carrier certificate is a security pass to a building with twenty floors. The pass is customizable to allow or authorize access to a particular set of floors. The security pass may authorize access to the lobby and first three floors, but not to the remaining fifteen floors. In the same way, the FAA issues an Air Carrier Certificate with certain “authorizations” that are increasing in their complexity and freedoms. Here are a few examples of such authorizations:

    • Area of Operation
      • The operator may be limited to conducting charters in the domestic United States, Canada, and Mexico vs. worldwide authority. Even flying to Hawaii requires special authorizations.
    • Size of Aircraft as defined by number of seats
      • Nine or fewer seats is one category vs. ten or more seats.

    These are only two examples of authorizations. There are many more to consider when choosing to charter a jet. The management company selected should already have the proper authorizations and experience to charter the type of plane under ownership. If the jet operator does not have the prior experience with that aircraft type, the aircraft may be restricted on the particular charters. There is also a possibility that an aircraft owner introducing a new aircraft type to a management company will become a test case for the organization; which will most likely result in delays and unnecessary complications.

    Organization

    Experienced aircraft management companies understand that efficiency and streamlining operations is built upon exceptional organization. Due to the sheer number of tasks and wide-ranging topics addressed during conformity, it is impossible for one person to have the necessary experience and time to accomplish all tasks in an expedited manner. Therefore, a team of specialists must be employed. This team is led by the aircraft manager who acts as a central point of contact to keep the conformity process on schedule, while specialized software is utilized to digitally manage, categorize, and organize the varied tasks required to conform the aircraft to Part 135.

    The aviation team surrounding an aircraft owner and set in place throughout private jet ownership. An aircraft manager acts as the focal point for the aircraft owner. 

    Communication

    An experienced and organized team with state-of-the-art tools is great but without effective and timely communication, the conformity process can be difficult. Here again, the aircraft manager plays an essential role as the single point of contact for the aircraft owner. The aircraft manager acts as a leader and liaison to inform a private jet owner of key milestones and discussing options without burdening them with the intricate details and idiosyncrasies of the conformity process.

    In addition to the communication that exists between an aircraft owner and an aircraft manager, the aircraft manager advocates for the aircraft owner during meetings with the rest of the management company team. Communication with the conformity team should be occurring multiple times a day to ensure everything is on schedule. “At Clay Lacy, our conformity team meets twice a week. During these meetings, we discuss what tasks have been completed, are being completed, and must be completed to reach current and future goals,” says Joe Barber, Director of Aircraft Management at Clay Lacy Aviation. “We keep the owner informed of what is being accomplished, so they have peace-of-mind that their aircraft will be conformed on schedule.”

    This article was originally published by Clay Lacy Aviation on their Insights Blog.