Webinar Panel Stresses Respect When Communicating About Maintenance
In the first webinar hosted by NBAA’s Maintenance Committee, on December 16, 2010, a panel of flight department professionals discussed best practices for “Communicating with the Maintenance Department.”
The panel represented many different viewpoints, from directors of aviation to maintenance mangers from small and large flight departments to repair station representatives, including:
* Mark S. Chaney, director of aviation, Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated
* Patrick Delahoussaye, director of sales, southeast, Comlux
* Jim Janaitis, maintenance manager, IBM Flight Operations
* Mark S. Jones, director of maintenance, Cozzens and Cudahy Air
* Marlin Priest, director of maintenance, McWane, Inc.
* Brad Townsend, aircraft asset manager, DuPont Aviation & NBAA Maintenance Committee Chairman, who moderated the webinar.
While the panelists spoke from a diversity of backgrounds, they all agreed that respect was key to effective communication about the maintenance function.
“You start at respect,” said Priest. “If a pilot doesn’t respect a technician and a technician doesn’t have mutual respect for that pilot, there is a major barrier right there, before you even start trying to discuss the condition of the aircraft.”
Jones added that respect is essential when flightcrews and maintenance technicians meet to discuss aircraft squawks. “Anything that happens, it’s not just ‘we had a light come on,’” said Jones. “If my guy says ‘The airplane’s broke; fix it,’ that’s not acceptable. In addition to communication, there has to be mutual respect.”
In order to establish mutual respect, it’s crucial that each function understand the others have a key role to play in the flight department’s common mission.
“The old adage between maintenance and flight of ‘There’s them, and there’s us’ has gone away,” said Delahoussaye. “We have schooled ourselves to understand that we need to communicate on a regular basis.”
“When I first came to IBM 15 years ago, it was fairly typical in a larger flight department that you had silos and everything was vertical,” said Janaitis. “That’s where the real communication breakdown can happen. You have to tear down the silos and start communicating across the different disciplines in the flight department.”
Chaney said that breaking down silos was a significant challenge when he first came to Coca-Cola Bottling. “I saw each of the departments equally,” said Chaney. “Like a three-legged stool, we couldn’t stand without each other, without the pilots, without the maintenance, without the dispatch.”
Townsend summed up the importance of equality among flight department functions: “Partnership in a flight department produces the best results,” he said.
The panelists addressed nine critical issues for communicating about maintenance in the webinar, including what styles of communication are appropriate for small and large flight departments; how managers can model effective communication; talking with the dispatch function; and how new technology affects communication.