This is the second part of a two part series. This is a summary of our interview with Joe Dini. Dini has 43 years of aviation and banking experience. He was also a member of the Daniel Webster College Board.
Part 1 discussed the intricacies of knowing your business as a flight school director. Part two focuses on how aircraft are utilized.
Brown: Are there any other industries that are similar to flight training departments?
Dini: Well, flight schools are in the business to utilize assets (i.e. fly their planes as much as possible). A very similar model to this one is the airlines. Believe it or not, airlines almost always lease their aircraft. They are not in the business of owning aircraft, they are in the business of utilization. If you have surplus cash, yes, buy aircraft. But most businesses are not in that position.
Brown: What are some suggestions you have to offer to help a school achieve higher utilization.
Dini: All of you reading this knows that it is a lie if I told you a Director of Flight Operations is a guy who has plenty of spare time. The Director of Flight Operations is busy ensuring the efficient and productive operation of his flight department. This individual does not have time to negotiate aircraft purchase prices and many of the other fine details that go into a fleet acquisition.
Helping the aviation academy achieve higher utilization is the job of the Director of Flight Operations. The way to help alleviate pressure off of this individual is to form industry partnerships. Once you find long-term partners you can trust, moving forward together as a team is much more productive for everyone. It is much easier and cost-effective to have an industry partner negotiate prices for you. Chances are they have stronger buying power as well.
Brown: Do you have advice for collegiate flight programs?
Dini: Flight training has seen very little change for a long time. Things took a wild turn with the introduction of the glass cockpit. Now, the FAA is tasked with determining rules for the new 1,500 hour rule. My advice is: what are you doing to prepare for the future? If you think you can coast along doing what you have been doing for the past few decades, you’re wrong. Schools need to be thinking about advanced jet simulation and fleet planning.
Another piece of advice is to look at your program from two different perspectives. A donor and a student. The donor wants to see the school taking pro-active strategic steps towards the future. They want to see a school that has long-term industry partnerships with companies that are solution finders and money savers. The student, on the other hand wants to see a school that is in-tune with their needs. Students want to see twitter, facebook, and youtube interaction. They want experience flying new technology and they are looking for job placement and networking opportunities.