‘Safety Starts With People’ was the topic of API’s presentation at the annual Bombardier Safety Standdown in Wichita, KS.
During the Wednesday morning general session, Sheryl Barden and Jennifer Pickerel—both of Aviation Personnel International, a business aviation recruiting firm—led the general session by outlining the aviation workforce’s role in safety.
Barden, who has served as president and CEO for API for more than 20 years, shared insights from her company’s recruitment data on just how unsettled the aviation job market has been over the last decade, particularly since late 2016 and early 2017. She estimated that the business aviation industry’s competition with the airlines for talent reached a tipping point, with the airlines winning. Owing to a series of extenuating factors, such as the 1,500-hour rule and airline retirements, airlines have steadily increased wages in order to recruit and retain pilots.
According to Barden, this has encouraged pilots, cabin crew, and schedulers—primarily in the business aviation industry—to shift to airline flying instead. As a result, the pool of pilots, cabin crew, and schedulers in the business aviation sectors has shrunk dramatically. Incidentally, Barden implied that this has left the business aviation sector vulnerable to not having access to the best talent at all times, resulting perhaps in a reduction of safety. The problem compounds, Barden said, because business and private aviation departments can’t just raise salaries as quickly to compete.
Pay discrepancy between airline and business aviation flight departments is a significant factor in safety management, Barden said, citing data collected from Chris Broyhill, who specializes in measuring flight department compensation via his AirComp Calculator company.
In light of that fact, she urged managers present to pay keener attention. Aside from compensation, when one attendee asked how departments should handle an increase in polarization among their workforce, Pickerel, API’s vice president, said companies needed to prioritize creating forums with ground rules, wherein workers could discuss their varying viewpoints.