High Cost of Handling

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

ANAHEIM, CA – Rick Boyce, manager of FBO relations for NetJets, is on a mission to reduce the amount of ground handling incidents that the company has been experiencing at aviation service companies. He and his associates are endeavoring to get the word out to fixed base operators while also putting in place a program to help companies improve their handling processes.

Boyce was interviewed at the Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference hosted here in January by the National Business Aviation Association. NetJets operates some 500 corporate aircraft worldwide between its fractional ownership program and its Executive Jet Management division.

Explains Boyce, "We’ve experienced aircraft damage caused by ground handling, whether it’s towing, ground equipment, or other items."

Boyce relates that NetJets has been tracking and analyzing aircraft handling incidents for several years and the evidence tells that the problem is increasing.

"We didn’t look year to year for dollar cost [comparison], but we looked at the number of incidents that had happened, and the number was increasing compared to previous years," he says.

"We’re logging incident types, locations, and the volume of traffic we put there. So an airport in the Northeast may have more exposure to incidents than someplace in the Midwest with less traffic. But we’re also looking at how many incidents happened at a specific location."

EXPENSIVE RECOVERY

According to Boyce, there are two numbers that are critical to NetJets: downtime of the aircraft and the cost of damages not covered by insurance.

The cost of downtime includes recovery – what it takes to get the customer to his or her destination after an aircraft is damaged during handling. This is achieved either by NetJets getting a similar aircraft from its fleet into position for the flight, or by getting a certified subcontractor who has been audited by NetJets to perform the flight for the company.

"Those two numbers together were significant," explains Boyce. "There’s loss of use and diminution of value.

"We came up with the numbers based on our experience utilizing the charter industry and what it cost us to recover a mid-size cabin aircraft trip with a like aircraft or something larger. It doesn’t always happen that way; we can have a mid-size cabin aircraft damaged and can only get a large-cabin aircraft to recover our flight. If we cannot get them into their aircraft, we get them into something larger as a recovery.

"We looked at strictly like to like aircraft and the lost time."

GETTING THE WORD OUT

NetJets has a history of working with its service providers to help ensure safe aircraft handling and a consistent level of service, which is really the product it sells through its fractional program. Many FBOs have participated in its NetJets 101 class held periodically at its Columbus, OH, headquarters. Fol-lowing the most recent studies, NetJets has been beefing up its initiative.

"We sent a letter out to the industry which said one incident at your location and we expect a PIO — a process improvement opportunity, an internal name — and that basically is a root cause analysis. We’d like them to find out what happened, put it in writing, and tell us what they’re going to do to change the processes within the FBO to prevent it from happening again."

"We’d like them to find out what happened, put it in writing, and tell us what they’re going to do to change the processes within the FBO."

- Rick Boyce, NetJets

While quite a few vendors were concerned upon receiving the letters, many understood and some readily recognized they had some problems that needed to be addressed, according to Boyce.

"We came back and tried to help them understand the reason we put this out. So, we took our safety briefing and we went to all of the major FBO chains that we utilize. We sat down and gave the briefing to the corporate management; we went to our top locations, our independent FBOs, and gave the safety briefing and left a copy of the disk with them to use with their training, so they understood how serious we were about these issues.

"It wasn’t just a letter going out, but our company going on the road and working with the FBOs to make sure they understood."

Regarding specific safety recommendations, NetJets gives vendors its FBO standards document which lists its expectations regarding safety and service. Boyce says that NetJets also looks for participation in the Safety 1st line service training provided by the National Air Transpo-rtation Associa-tion or a comparable program, such as those offered by fuel companies. NetJets also performs periodic audits in which it audits the training records for line service personnel at FBOs, and inspects the fuel farm, fuel trucks, and facilities, and then makes recommendations.

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