Updated: Nov 8, 2020
I recognise that I may very well be risking a localised bollocking from Pilots by the very mention of a 'consideration of the corporate agenda' in order to broker a deal to get more support in terms of pilot mental health put on the agenda. Every time I mention the words pilot-mental-health, I can hear the multitudes of collective eyeballs rolling around in their respective cried-out sockets. I get it, but this is obviously not going to go away. I understand how worn out and tired the industry is of this never- ending conversation and its seeming 'road to nowhere.'
What astounds me the most, is that no matter how you butter this toast, in the end, one side is lubricated and the other one ...not so much. So, by sheer avoidance, lives and livelihoods get lost in the friction and the all too easy corporate answer is:
"We are safe enough, we are happy with the status quo. Unless the bottom line is affected of course."
Enter COVID 19. Well hello chaps! You reckon the bottom line has been affected enough?
Now I am not in any way inferring that the virus was caused by a lack of attention to pilot mental health, that would be ludicrous, but as I have said so many times before, we have an opportunity, right at this very moment, to change the status quo and meet both the corporate, as well as flight crew needs. After all, isn't a harmonious organisation a long-term successful one?
I have sought the assistance of retired Qantas and TAA/Australian Airlines Captain of 40+
years and author/developer of the Jacobson Flare (landing training technique) Captain
David Jacobson to shed some light on a potential synergy between the Corporate and the
If we can get these two integral power sources of any airline, working synergistically, can you imagine, that we may very well end up, with an organisation that shatters all preconceived norms of successful business strategies?
Here is a viewpoint from Captain David Jacobson on how Pilots can provide valuable intel on the on-time push-back in KPI’s management.
“I raised a point regarding what I described as a 'minor miracle’ - the on-time push-back departure - that airlines prize, highly and correctly, as an indicator of their company's efficiencies and overall performance - something that translates, directly, into passenger sales and loyalty.
I mentioned that, in the period which defines the on-time departure, embracing the timing
from -3 minutes to the scheduled departure time of any and every flight, is where the
performance of the whole company succeeds or fails. This is where the efficiencies of every
single company department combine.
There are a million factors, probably, but those directly concerned I can attempt to summarise some of them, briefly, as:
· The design, manufacture, suitability, supply and serviceability of the fleet and the individual
· The systems and personnel of all departments within the airline, in terms of recruitment, employment, training, checking and supply, especially:
· Provision of engineering staff, spares, support and immediate tarmac support for the entire fleet(s) of aircraft types and individual aircraft unserviceability’s.
· The training, qualification, licensing, currency and health of the operating crews.
· The scheduling, possible overnight accommodation, transport of the operating crew members - both technical (pilots) and cabin (flight attendants);
· Provision of cabin services - cleaning, catering, baggage handling, etc;
· All aspects of passenger and/or freight handling;
· Localised conditions at the place and time of departure, including delays to passenger connections from other flights, check-in issues and weather.
Now, to point out here, there is a fantastic resource available (but rarely utilised by airlines) to provide immediate, detailed and quality information on the success or otherwise of an on-time departure.
An interested observer might say: “well, we do get departure reports from ‘traffic’ and airport managers, etc, who are keen to improve their KPI’s.” That would be true.
However, these reports are necessarily localised to each individual port. The group I nominate has access to every departure, at every location in the company’s network, every day and this group is the technical flight crew: the pilots. They see the overall picture, instantly, widely and collectively, throughout the network.
In my 40 years of airline operations, this resource was simply under-utilised, with just one exception. One great base manager convened a ‘Base Committee’ of pilot and flight attendant volunteer representatives and we met, monthly, together with representative managers and supervisors from other key departments and identified, investigated and solved a wide-ranging list of factors that had had material effect on on-time performance. A key side effect was improved safety, both on the ground and in flight. Obviously, any urgent or very serious matter could be raised, immediately, as safety matters always are.
I would commend this approach to any company, aviation-related or not. Your front-line staff, in this case very mobile flight crew, are one of your best assets for this purpose, aside from their more obvious duties. It could apply equally well to any transport company - Road, Rail or Maritime , as well as Aviation.”
Finally, it is always intriguing that the airline industry focuses on on-time DEPARTURES,
rather than on-time ARRIVALS, which I consider more relevant. A delayed arrival resulting
from a late departure can often be minimised, if not eradicated, by judicious operational
decisions made by the flight crew. Increased GROUND SPEEDS, for little or NO INCREASE
in FUEL BURN, can be achieved by an advantageous change in cruising altitudes (with their
inherent changes in head/tail wind components).
The B737-800 is a great example of increased AIRSPEED at a LOWER cruise altitude, when
flying into a headwind situation: Yes, the fuel burn/hour is increased, BUT the INCREASED
GROUNDSPEED reduces the overall total flight time and this reduces the total fuel burn. It
is possible to make up a time deficit of 6 minutes/hour (10%), for NO INCREASE in FLIGHT
FUEL burned and this can often facilitate an on-time arrival.