Having recently conducted several flight ops audits in the Oceanic region, I’ve seen a trend growing among airlines and charter companies. It’s a trend that relates to operators of different sizes, fleets routes and complexity. I regularly see common issues with operators, such as fuel prices, limited training budgets and the ever-increasing demands of the finance department to do more with less, but one issue was common amongst all of them, and it is starting to grow in significance.
The issue is time. Now, we all have 24 hours in a day, no one has more time than anyone else, but it is how we use this time that is starting to get my attention. When I ask senior managers of flight operations departments about how they keep up with changes, trends, latest safety information, bulletins and so forth, the response is typical, “I do what I can but I don’t really have the time.” And I believe them! You only need to sit in the chair of a senior manager for a day to see how operational and commercial pressures have melded together to fall in the lap of the modern manager.
Pulled in various directions and reporting to various masters, spare time is a rarity. How can a manager effectively read, absorb, and strategically apply information in the modern flight operations department? My interview with Raul Sosa touches on this subject. We talked about the length of time it takes for safety initiatives to reach the people that need them, particularly following a crash or occurrence. If the message takes months or even (G-d help us) years to be delivered to managers, who have little or no time to absorb the data, what effect are we actually having on the industry? A suboptimal one, I suggest.
I recall my first Chief Pilot, a gentleman and mentor who always seemed to have time to sit and read and think things through. Computers weren’t in the office place then, nor was email, yet new and interesting ideas and techniques were always presented at safety meetings.
How did he do it? He sat quietly and read. In fact, he told people to go away while he was reading. I just wonder if we couldn’t follow that lead in the modern workplace. A quiet day, once a month, to just read stuff, important stuff that clever people have written that is designed to save lives. It could be so named a ‘library day’, but we will need to be smarter about that to get it past the finance department. Perhaps a ‘safety-compliance-regulatory-review day’ may pass muster? I don’t know, can you come up with a name – you might go down in flight safety history?
My message is this, I think one day a month, for people such as chief pilots, heads of training and maintenance as well as directors of flight operations, to sit in a quiet place isn’t too much to ask. Consider how satisfied you’d feel with no pressure from meetings, email, blackberries or the like, to catch up on reading important stuff from the CASA magazine, ICAO, AeroSafety World and auspicious others. Surely this is a worthwhile safety initiative? Does anyone do this regularly?