Banker in the Boardroom - Collegiate Flight Training

We interviewed industry champion, Joe Dini, who comes to us with 43 years of aviation banking experience.  Most recently, he was the Senior Vice President of Sovereign Bank.  In addition, Dini was a Board Member at Daniel Webster College.

Dini has a unique perspective on collegiate flight training and the intricacies of running a collegiate flight program.  After talking with Dini, I uncovered two common themes among his answers: knowing your business and utilization.  Part 1 will cover knowing your business.

Brown:  In the time you spent as a Board Member at Daniel Webster College and time spent with other collegiate flight training institutions, what are common problems you saw?

Dini:  The problem I have seen time and time again is, not completing a thorough analysis in all aspects of the aviation business looking at all options available.  If you neglect to do this, you are doing a disservice to the students.  Any well-run business needs to evaluate all options, whether it is the decision to lease aircraft versus buy aircraft or anything else.

Brown:  Give me an idea of what kind of institutions you leased and financed fleets to?

Dini:  We leased aircraft to The University of North Dakota, Western Michigan University, we also leased to much smaller schools.  In addition, we leased aircraft to many local flight schools and FBOs (fixed base operators).

Brown:  What happened at Daniel Webster College?

Dini:  Many things happened at Daniel Webster College.  You can look at this from many different angles.  One issue that made a big impact was how the college distanced themselves from their core offering, Aviation.  The school started focusing on other areas of study, which can be a good thing, but the aviation programs suffered because of lack of attention.

Brown:  You mentioned that the Director of Aviation often times is too busy to negotiate fleet acquisitions, what’s the solution here?

Dini:  Most schools do not want to hire someone to do this analysis for them, also, they cannot just pass on the duties to a less experienced employee.  The solution here is industry partnerships.  There are experts in this industry who have a better finger on the pulse of the flight training market than one individual flight institution.  Schools should partner with organizations in the aviation industry to have a more accurate and realistic picture of the training market.