Whether you are building your own flight department, or hiring a management company, will you have easy access to your aircraft schedule and financial data? You, your team, and your accountants and tax advisors certainly will need it in order to operate safely, productively, and cost effectively.
Flight departments and management companies, big and small, use many software tools. Most use scheduling, accounting, maintenance tracking, HR, and expense management systems that tend to not communicate effectively with one another, if at all. Until recently, only the largest management companies could afford to integrate all the systems and make the data available to you in a useful way.
Today, owner portal, billing, and reporting technology, built specifically for business aviation, make it much easier for aircraft management companies and flight departments to share schedule, maintenance, and financial data with you and your team in real time.
As an owner, you or your chief pilot should have access to the following data, ideally in real time, on your desktop, tablet, and mobile phones.
- See your own and charter flights, including details such as travel arrangements and catering requests for your own flights.
- Ability to request flights and make changes electronically.
- Ability to block time on the calendar so your aircraft doesn’t get chartered when you might be planning a trip.
- See (and potentially approve) maintenance and crew events, so you know when the aircraft or crew are not going to be available.
Metrics & Stats
- Cost per hour; fixed vs. variable expenses; categorized expenses; expense and revenue heat maps (indicating how often your aircraft flies certain routes and/or to certain destinations); and route, charter, and home base analyses are just some of the many metrics you will need to operate your aircraft effectively. Ask if your flight department or management company is able to provide your team with ready access to these data in an easy-to-use format.
- For corporate aircraft used by multiple teams and organizations, or aircraft owned by multiple people, ask if you will be able to slice the data by who is using the aircraft. If all the data are co-mingled, reporting can be very time-consuming and error prone.
Financial & Operational Reporting
- Ask what financial, operational, and tax reports your management company or pilot will be able to provide, and how they build these reports. Most do so manually, burning hundreds of hours and making mistakes along the way. Your flight department or management company now can have access to reporting tools that make it easy to generate operational, financial, and tax reports, and to do so quickly and accurately. Ideally, reports should be interactive, and easy to extract to Excel and PDF for further analysis.
- Be sure that you will have digital access to all the expense receipts, particularly if you share the aircraft with others. Being able to produce your own deductible business expenses will make audits go more smoothly.
- Ask if you will receive paper/PDF statements or access to a dashboard, providing data on your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on a single webpage, so that you and your team can review, analyze, and act on the data. Many owners also prefer to be able to pay invoices electronically via ACH, wire, or even a credit card.
If you are still getting a 300-page PDF monthly statement and not much else, you can do better. Business aviation technology took a few big steps forward during the past few years. The technology is affordable, easy to deploy, highly secure, and available to management companies and small flight departments alike. Make sure you are using the right tools to manage and share your data – it will save you and your team lots of time and money. BAA
Alek Vernitsky, co-founder and CEO of Portside, Inc., is a serial technology entrepreneur with 20+ years of sales, marketing, and product development experience, including ten years developing cutting edge, technology-enabled services for commercial and business aviation.