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Work/Life Balance Is Attainable for Schedulers
Most schedulers are on call after normal business hours, but “It is possible to have a 24/7 job and a work-life balance,” said Ann Widay, staff aviation analyst at Qualcomm Incorporated, regarding the round-the-clock demands on schedulers and dispatchers.
Widay encourages schedulers to be their own advocates at the workplace. Scheduler parents, like all working parents, have commitments – whether it is a child’s piano recital or a soccer game – so it’s important to discuss options with your flight department manager about after-hour coverage. Suggest that on-call responsibilities be rotated within your department to allow down time for the scheduler. Or to compensate for those long, grueling days, request some flexibility to use unscheduled vacation leave or early leave to head home and monitor operations remotely on slower days.
“Sometimes you have to stand up and wave your hand a little,” said Widay. “There are parameters and guidelines for almost every aspect of the flight department, but rarely are there any for the schedulers. It takes a team effort for the scheduler to get away and take advantage of educational opportunities, but it can be done.”
Sit down with your manager and discuss your professional goals related to your role in the flight department. Seek education that will assist in reaching those goals. If you get the opportunity to participate in an educational opportunity, then find a way to report back on what you learned or how you can apply the new tools to your job to increase efficiency, mitigate risk or enhance safety. These tangibles will demonstrate to a manager the need for you to continually pursue training opportunities.
Before new technological innovations, the only way to take advantage of training opportunities was by traveling to events or conferences. Now, the Internet enables distance-learning opportunities that can be pursued from the office during down times or remote on-call periods. Having remote access to e-mail and company software also enables schedulers to travel to events and still be tied into flight operations if needed.
Many times a scheduler will train a pilot to fill in for them when they are at an event. This is a great way to gain appreciation for your position as well. Other schedulers hire contract schedulers to fill in for them during vacation or business travel, and they use that person often enough for their coworkers to trust the temporary scheduler. As you become more valuable and broaden your role in the flight department, this could even lead to the creation of another part-time or full-time scheduler position that your contract scheduler may be able to assume.
The fact is, pilots and maintenance professionals take time out for training, and schedulers and dispatchers should ask for the same consideration. One industry trend is to get to know the other flight department schedulers at your airport or in your region and consider rotating a lunch meeting among the different companies to share tips and best practices. (Find out if there is an existing S&D regional group in your area at www.nbaa.org/regional.) There is unparalleled value in learning from peers what they are doing to increase efficiency in the workplace and improve the work/life balance.
For More Information
View a presentation titled “Scheduling the Scheduler” from this year’s NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference, available at www.nbaa.org/sdc/2012.
Major Event Planning Best Practices
For schedulers planning trips to major events anywhere in the world, Rich Nath of Baseops International has three important pieces of advice:
- Have a game plan for your operation and plan as far in advance as possible.
- Set realistic expectations with your clientele.
- Have contingency plans.
Nath says there are really two main aspects of planning such a trip: preparing for the mission – working with the on-site fixed base operator or local handling agents (or service provider if using one) – and then the trip planning part itself.
“Coordination between your company or your service provider and the FBO is crucial,” said Nath. “Being flexible – knowing that you might not get a landing slot at the time you want, or that you may have to pay more for parking and other services – is also important.”
For trips to special events like the Olympics, Nath warns that operators must be prepared for higher prices, fewer choices and slower confirmations. “It helps to think outside of the box,” said Nath. “For instance, renting an apartment during the London Olympics might be cheaper than staying at three-star hotels.”
Setting the right expectations for passengers and clients is also a key responsibility of the scheduler, according to Nath.
“The scheduler needs to let everyone know in advance what is being planned for them, but should also tell them what could happen if things change,” said Nath. “Everyone needs to be informed and in the loop.”
New Training Initiative Focuses on Core Competencies
NBAA successfully launched a new S&D Training Initiative at the 2012 Schedulers & Dispatchers (S&D) Conference, adding value to its core competencies sessions for Attendees who want “proof” of their educational commitment to furthering their professional development.
Six sessions (two per day) were chosen for Attendees to take, with a focus on safety management systems and compliance with the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations training requirement for flight departments. Attendees received proof-of-attendance recognition, both for attending one or more of these sessions, and for taking a post-session quiz.
“Between 100 and 200 people attended these six sessions over the three-day conference, and more than half of these were participating in the training initiative,” said Jo Damato, NBAA’s director, operations & educational development. “We were very pleased at how the new initiative successfully engaged Attendees, many of whom walked into their sessions with their quiz in hand and who stayed after the sessions were over to review the questions and presentation with the speakers. Their commitment to training and active learning was clearly evident.”
Jeff Daniels, CAM and chief pilot, Motta Internacional, led Aircraft Performance & Flight Deck Basics as one of the six core sessions. Daniels presented information essential to any scheduler’s job, including data on aircraft performance and how it relates to weather, airport use, weight and balance, and more.
“The more that they know, the more capable they are in supporting their customers – the crew, the passengers, the company,” said Daniels. “Everything they learn will benefit them one way or the other.”
According to Daniels, the intent of the session was to present aviation and aircraft basics to new schedulers, many of whom have little or no aviation background, as well as serve as a refresher for veteran schedulers and dispatchers.
“They need to understand why flying to Aspen in the summer differs from flying to Aspen in the winter,” said Daniels. “It’s better for everybody if we mitigate flight risks at the very beginning. The schedulers are the front line [for doing that].”
Schedulers who participated in the training initiative were excited and complimentary about NBAA’s new education program. “I think your training initiative was a great idea and very valuable,” said John Bullock of DuPage Aerospace.
For More Information
For more information on the S&D Training Initiative, contact NBAA’s Jo Damato at firstname.lastname@example.org.