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Planning Ahead a Must for Trips Abroad

Modern aircraft have made distant locations more accessible, but flying internationally is anything but simple – and it seems to get more complicated every year.

For business aircraft operators, this means that more time, resources and effort must be invested to ensure the success of every overseas trip. Challenging geo-political issues in many countries require an ever-increasing number of permits and documents, meaning schedulers and dispatchers have to start preparing for an international mission much farther in advance – and must gather much more information than in the past.

"As the world gets smaller and we are now flying to countries that we may not have visited before, it is imperative that we do our homework," said David Small, flight operations administrator for Atlanta based Cox Enterprises, which flies two dozen international trips a year. "You can't start working on a trip too soon."

Together with Phil Linebaugh, chief operating officer and vice president, business development for International Trip Planning Services, Small presented a session on "Developing a Checklist to Guarantee a Successful International Trip" at NBAA's Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference earlier this year. With the myriad details needed to prepare for and execute an international trip, Small and Linebaugh stressed the importance of schedulers and dispatchers having an international checklist – "as a memory aide, and especially if things happen in a different order than you anticipate," said Small.

Not only is a checklist imperative for trip planning, but it also serves as a "living document" during the trip. The scheduler/dispatcher plays an active role in maintaining the checklist and planning for worst-case scenarios, often working on a trip before a crew has been assigned to it. As a key member of the planning team, this person should be empowered to take action on checklist items; monitor progress at all stages of the trip; stay in constant communication with all involved; and participate in pre- and post-trip briefings with the flightcrew and maintenance personnel.

“As we are now flying to countries that we may not have visited before, it is imperative that we do our homework.”

David Small
Flight Operations Administrator, Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises

Linebaugh, whose company provides trip support and flight-planning services to flight departments, said that trip handlers can also be of particular assistance when geo-political changes result in fast-changing regulations. "We know of at least one trip that got canceled at the last minute because they didn't have a required permit," he said. "You have to keep in mind that the world changes every day."

When handlers are used, schedulers, dispatchers and pilots should share as much information as possible with the service provider so it can check and recheck details repeatedly during the mission, as well as manage slots and permits as the schedule adjusts. With their large networks and on-the-ground presence in far-flung destinations, these companies can help with unanticipated situations such as strikes and military exercises, in addition to assisting with customs documentation, visas, security, catering, transportation and accommodations.

Whether or not a flight department does all its trip support and flight planning internally or – more commonly – uses handlers, all administrators note the importance of managing the process and adhering to checklists to make certain even the smallest detail of the trip is covered. "There are so many different criteria, so that even though we use service providers, we still have to look over and manage everything," said Sharon Martin, scheduler/dispatcher for ACE Flight Operations.

For More Information

Review the sample international checklist in the NBAA Management Guide,, or slides from the international checklist presentation held during the 2011 NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference, Checklist tips also are provided in this issue's profile of John Deere Aviation.

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