Supervisor Training

NATA course focuses on safety, effective management of line operations

Frank Surface, principal, Moneywise Solutions, worked with the attendees for a day on the responsibilities involved with being a supervisor. One exercise he asked the group to participate in involves describing the best and then the worst supervisors each had ever encountered. Then all were asked to think about the way their subordinates might describe them. “If your employees made a list about you, how would you stack up?,” Surface asks. This activity is designed to help the supervisors step back and evaluate their own managerial style.

He points out some key mistakes supervisors make that challenge their effectiveness and authority:

  • Refusing to assess their own performance realistically;
  • Failure to set good examples for employees to follow;
  • Failure to keep their word;
  • Trying to be liked rather than respected (demonstrating a lack of maturity, says Surface);
  • Failure to keep criticism constructive;
  • Failure to pay attention to employee complaints;
  • Failure to make sound and timely decisions;
  • Failure to make sure the job assignment is understood and accomplished;
  • Failure to keep people informed (“How do you expect them to perform as a team when they don’t know what play is called?,” asks Surface);
  • Refusing to train an assistant to take their place.


One of the tasks of a supervisor is hiring employees. Surface explains there are four main management styles: analytical, driver, amiable, and expressive. “In an immature industry, we hire expressives,” he says. And, according to Surface, the FBO industry is an immature one. Expressives make up approximately 10 to 20 percent of the population and are the sort of person who is gregarious, friendly, confident, trusting, poised, charming, and sociable. In the interview process, this might seem like the kind of employee anyone would want, especially in a service industry. However, Surface explains these are also the type of employees who are more likely to not stay in a position for an extended period of time, and also tend to be impulsive, sensitive, and self-promoting.

Instead of hiring expressives, Surface suggests considering an analytical person as the ideal employee. He or she tends to be conscientious, precise, accurate, restrained, factual, and discrete.

There will be times when it is necessary for a supervisor to let go of an employee. “When you fire someone, you’re giving them a chance to be happy,” Surface says. Someone who is not doing well at his or her job is not taking pride in the work assigned and therefore is probably very unhappy. Supervisors should think of firing as a positive experience for that employee.

Before firing someone, Surface recommends asking:

  • Is there anything that this person could say that would cause me to change my mind? If yes, then discipline the employee and do not fire him or her. If no, then move forward with termination.
  • Discuss your decision and reasons with at least one other person that is not as close to the situation emotionally as you may be.
  • Do not make the decision in a moment of emotion.
  • Consider all that has to happen when the person is terminated. What property does he or she have access to? What uniforms or keys? Is the person prone to outbursts?
  • Who can be your “box person?” (Person that escorts the employee off the premises.)
  • Are you prepared in case the person loses his/her temper?

Line Training Materials From NATA

The National Air Transportation Association has put together a complete training curriculum for line service and safety training.

The Professional Line Service Training (PLST) program is combined with NATA’s Safety 1st® Program. The PLST is made up of five hours of video presentation and integrates nine separate modules. They include: Introduction and Ground Servicing; Customer Service; Safety; Refueling Piston Aircraft; Towing; Refueling Turboprop Aircraft; Refueling Jet Aircraft; Fire Safety; and Fuel Farm Management.

A workbook supplements the video presentation, and helps students organize and master the large volume of training material presented in the PLST. Also included are a Trainer’s Guidebook, offering an overview of how the PLST curriculum should be presented, and the Aircraft Service Guide, featuring diagrams and service data for more than 150 types of aircraft and helicopters.

Upon successful completion of the PLST program, line service technicians receive a certificate of achievement from NATA Safety 1st.

The next NATA Line Service Supervisor Training seminar is scheduled for September 18-19 at the Tennessee Museum of Aviation in Sevierville, TN. For information, visit

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