An Emphasis on Education

Las Vegas — At this year’s Aviation Industry Expo, line service professionals from across the nation attended the National Air Transportation Association’s Line Service Supervisor Training (LSST) seminar, where attendees learned effective management techniques coupled with technical fuel operations, safety training, and customer service. This year’s Expo attracted some 3,500 participants, at a reformulated event that emphasized education and training as its centerpiece.

According to Cygnus Expositions, operator of the show, nearly 350 companies exhibited to professionals in the ground support, aircraft maintenance, and fixed base operator segments. Two new features, the Green Pavilion and ‘Demos on Demand’, will be expanded for the 2010 event, scheduled for March 16-18 in Las Vegas.

The Line Service Supervisor Training (LSST) seminar, part of the National Air Transportation Association’s (NATA) series of educational seminars and workshops, drew an attendance of some 40 line operation professionals. Participants included line operation supervisors and managers, line service technicians, and ramp personnel.

The two-day course features topics from fuel production, filtration, and distribution to effective techniques for motivating and managing employees.

Adam Coulby, manager of education and training for NATA, says that all attendees satisfied the FAA approved 14CFR Section 139 Fire Safety Training requirements. According to Coulby, NATA is the first aviation association to incorporate cutting edge technology into training seminars, such as live chroma-key video training.

Says Coulby, “My vision for future LSST seminars includes adding virtual 3-D training and improvisational training elements.

“I picture bringing the entire seminar to life with multiple projectors. I not only want attendees to hear and see what instructors have to say, I want them to experience it on a level they never thought possible and will never forget. Adding improvisational elements would not only be interactive and fun, it would customize the training exactly to the needs of those in attendance.”

Lessons in management
First on the agenda was the attendee self assessment, an exercise meant to provide insight into individual management styles in an effort to discover how a particular style affects employees.

“The assessment measures whether you are more concerned with people or production,” says Mario Martinez, senior curriculum development analyst and facilitator for ServiceElements.

Personality, values, relationships, expectations, degree of pressure, and the level of your employees are just a few of the factors which affect style as a supervisor or manager. These factors determine which of five types of management style categories most people fall into, says Martinez. The five style categories are: hard, soft, middle-of-the-road, ineffective, and team builder.

The hard style, explains Martinez, is authoritarian and autocratic. Production is more important than people and everything is done by the book, making the hard managerial style very militant-like, yet most effective in emergency situations.

A soft style manager puts people before production, and is permissive and democratic. Both hard and soft style supervisors expect less of subordinates than they are capable of, relates Martinez. Thus, both styles can end up doing much of the work themselves.

The middle-of-the-road manager is a compromiser and a politician. He/she will push for productivity until employees crack and then reconcile with them, explains Martinez. The compromising supervisor tries to get employees to think for themselves, yet can come across as insincere or manipulative.

The ineffective style of manager is abdicating and impersonal, yet pays a high attention to detail. This manager is reactive instead of proactive, avoiding risk at all costs and always maintaining a low profile.

The most effective style of leadership is the team builder, says Martinez. The team builder is a coach and integrator who shows maximum concern for both people and production.

“While other styles tend to come naturally and are reactive, the team builder style is proactive and must be cultivated,” says Martinez.

“This manager type is the most satisfying and most productive; they can see the bigger picture, and they make short-term sacrifices for long-term goals.

“A manager’s style is dynamic, not static; it must be responsive to a variety of situational factors.”

Customers - Internal and External
Walter Chartrand, general manager for business aviation for AirBP Aviation Services, relates that only 5 percent of customers who have had a problem will ever complain to management; although 45 percent tell front line employees. Seven out of ten customers will repeat business if the complaint is resolved in their favor, a dissatisfied customer will tell nine to 15 people about it. Yet, he points out, it costs six times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an old one.

It is for these reasons, says Chartrand, that keeping happy employees will equate to happy customers. Ways to keep employees happy include acknowledging employees when positive customer feedback is received; keeping staff involved with issues and asking them for ideas on improving customer service; and, providing proper training and a safe work environment.

Managers are encouraged to treat those they oversee with respect, as a customer; but they are to never discipline employees in public, explains Chartrand. Providing good customer service is essential to job security, future career opportunities, and customer loyalty.

Says Chartrand, “Long-term customers are usually more profitable; a 5 percent increase in customer retention can boost profit by 25 to 125 percent.”

Keeping customers involves taking each problem seriously, and following through, says Chartrand. “Understand your customers’ needs; master the technical and procedural ins and outs of your job; and look and act like a professional.”

Quality control
Ascent Aviation Group’s equipment director and quality control officer, Reed Fuller, gave a line service technical review presentation which focused on aviation fuel quality control, filtration, additives, and storage.

According to Fuller, there are four important steps to assuring fuel quality when receiving a fuel load, (1) let the truck set for ten minutes with the internal valves open; (2) perform a white bucket test on each compartment; if contaminants are found after five one-gallon samples have been taken, the load should be rejected; (3) perform an API gravity test; and (4) check the differential pressure on the filter during off-loading.

The key principle regarding aviation storage, says Reed, is to make sure everyone follows all industry standards. Before unloading fuel, line service employees must check that both the filter and tank sumps are clean, check tank volume for room, connect the grounding wire and set the valves, take a white bucket sample, and check fuel gravity.

Reed relates that supervisors should follow ATA requirements for all periodic inspections. Inspections of the yard and equipment condition, filter and tank sumps, differential pressure, grounding reel, and fire extinguishers should be performed daily. Filter membrane tests, grounding cable continuity, and the nozzle strainer should be inspected monthly, and emergency shutdown and water defense systems quarterly. Yearly inspections should be performed on the storage tank interior, the differential pressure gauge, filter elements and separators, tank vents, and line strainers, says Reed.

Fire safety
NATA’s fire safety training session provides the opportunity for seminar attendees to receive 14 CFR 139.321 fire safety training certification. Apart from the fire safety technical education, the seminar also covers the latest revisions to standard fire safety training.

Among key revisions, the term “grounding” has been eliminated. The procedure by which any type of fuel transfer is initiated is now referred to as “bonding.” Other revisions include a new requirement for recurrency training in fueling safety for supervisors and employees — to every 24 months; air carrier fueling operations are now subject to FAR Part 139 inspection standards; and airports with air carrier operations utilizing aircraft with more than nine passenger seats, but less than 31 seats, are now also subject to Part 139 inspection standards.

The Part 139 standards cover facilities, procedures, training for bonding, public protection, control of access to storage areas, and fire safety codes.

Aviation Industry Expo and NATA ... a Time for Reflection, Redirection, and a Greater Emphasis on Education

LAS VEGAS — Change happens, and it certainly has occurred at the Aviation Industry Expo, at least as it applies to the audience of fixed base operators who are members of the National Air Transportation Association. The evolution of this event may, in fact, reflect what’s needed in the marketplace — a greater emphasis on training and education and connecting those in operations more closely to vendors.

A bit of history ...
NATA traditionally had a modest trade show and annual convention which attracted some 2,000 attendees annually. In the early ‘90s, as the FBO sector floundered, the association teamed up with the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association to combine the two shows in an attempt to keep it vibrant ... with mixed success. NATA subsequently entered into an agreement with Cygnus Expositions to take over operation of the trade show — in fact, selling it to Cygnus — and in time PAMA left the fold. Cygnus had acquired the GSE Expo and combined it with the NATA event, and unveiled the Aviation Industry Expo moniker.

[In the interest of full disclosure, Cygnus Expositions is a division of Cygnus Business Media, Inc., parent of AIRPORT BUSINESS.]

The moves led to a trade show event that attracted more than 4,000 attendees. The departure of PAMA was offset by the creation of AMTSociety, launched by Cygnus. Yet, decisions at NATA led first to the departure of many charter operators with the formation of a new Air Charter Summit held each year in June. And this year, NATA pulled its FBO Leadership Conference out of the Las Vegas event and teamed it up with the charter summit, impacting the number of FBOs in attendance. It also launched Education Week in line with the Expo.

The decisions made by NATA have left many in the industry segment with questions. The attempt here is to clarify NATA’s position and to help solidify a new direction that emphasizes training and education.

NATA president James K. Coyne admits that the association may not have explained adequately to its member community the reasons for its actions. Much of the reasoning centers around the business owners who are its members.

Comments Coyne, “The board wanted us to create more of a top management meeting separate from the trade show, one that focused on the owners of the businesses.

“We’ve got very different audiences; we’ve got owners of businesses and employees of businesses. The challenge for us was to create a venue for the owners that they wanted to come to.
“The leaders, as we call them, have a different set of issues than the broader employee world. Plus the owners are more interested in a lot of the Washington issues; government employees don’t travel as much as they used to. It’s so much easier for us to get the policymakers in Washington to come to a meeting in D.C.”

Coyne notes that NATA has in recent years broadly expanded its educational seminars and expects to continue that growth. He says the Expo is central to that effort.

“My vision for that slot in our year is to make it an educational opportunity for our members in one place, so they don’t have to go to a lot of different places,” he says. “My vision is to almost create an FBO University. Whether it’s line service training or HR training or issues of middle management, it seems to me that it will work better in a forum like that.”

Jill Ryan, senior group show director for Cygnus Expositions, explains, “Clearly this event has evolved into a multi-faceted services event — ground support, aircraft maintenance, and fueling (the process, not the product) and does a good job of displaying products for each of those segments. This is a unique niche among aviation trade shows and one that I think can be expanded.

“I think there is/can be great value to an Education Week — I actually like FBO University — provided we can put together a compelling program that will actually get managers and workers out of their FBO and to a conference.

“Training and education in general are key attendance influencers, now more than ever. Attendees need a more compelling reason to spend money attending shows. Part of our mission moving forward is to expand the education offerings for each segment of this diverse audience and perhaps even develop customized training solutions as a part of the event — partnering with NATA, exhibitors, and other industry experts.”

Regarding AMTSociety, which today has some 2,700 members, Ryan says the program has been well received and will continue to play a central role in the Expo. “In regards to AMTSociety, it certainly is Cygnus’ intent to develop a full head of steam with that organization,” she explains. “We see this as a tremendous opportunity to rebuild relationships with the maintenance-related OEMs that left the show (as a result of a declining PAMA) and deliver more directors of maintenance with greater purchasing authority (through our corporate members) to the show floor.”