Raising the Safety Bar
By Thomas P. Slavin, Million Air-Cleveland
January/ February 2001
Fixed base operators face a reality of changing service standards
This article deals with the kinds of changes that have taken place in some of the larger FBOs during these past few years. Many more changes - call them FBO improvements - will be needed in the future.
larger cities and at busier airports general aviation
FBOs are becoming complicated businesses. Owners oftentimes
are not operators; ownership chains are developing.
Service standards have changed and remain in a state
of flux. Pricing is becoming segmentized and far more
Changes will be needed because issues like recruitment, retention and training of line service staffers; responsibility for maintaining sensitivity to the environment; understanding the nature and quality of service required by GA aircraft that are far larger than those that were historically found on our ramps; the internationalization of our customer base; the complexity of insurance-related issues; the growth of service provider audits Éthese, and many more issues, simply need to be addressed.
Here are three examples of how Million Air Cleveland is addressing these issues.
Today's customers, flying very expensive high performance aircraft, have every right to demand that the individuals that marshal, fuel, deice, and assume responsibility for their aircraft should be well trained.
The National Air Transportation Association's Safety 1st program, with written and manual testing components, has established the "bar" for the industry. It's up to FBO owners and operators, our customers, and our insurance carriers to mandate further line service skills enhancement.
It seems reasonable to focus on the fact that line service safety training and regulation makes more sense if effected "within" - in our case, by our industry trade group, NATA.
Why? Consider for a minute a major incident precipitated by poorly or non-trained line service staff. There would of course be adverse publicity and an investigation would reveal any training deficiencies by the responsible FBO. The rightful public outcry would be deafening.
The pundits would argue that if industry doesn't train and monitor line service competency, than the government must step into the role. Assuming a compelling argument, who would be a more likely regulator than the FAA? This is an option few FBO operators would embrace.
Certainly, our insurance carriers - outspoken proponents of Safety 1st - will pressure FBOs that have safety problems by either raising premiums or denying coverage. And, by both demanding and recognizing improved skill levels of our employees, we FBO operators will in all likelihood have to address demands for improvements in wage and benefits.
As a consequence of the above, FBOs are going to move in the direction of making line service a "career" for folks that love working with aircraft. With better trained line service technicians who are earning more, our pilot customers are simply going to have to pay for what they say they want most: a higher skill level among FBO line service staffers.