The role of an aircraft scheduler is often a complex one, involving a myriad of responsibilities well beyond the actual scheduling of the aircraft.
Whether a scheduler’s role is filled by a single professional or a team of them, it’s an important function, often viewed as the “eyes and ears” of the flight department.
In a smaller flight department, a scheduler is often autonomous, independent and largely self-directed. In many cases the scheduler is the only one at the hangar, he or she likely won’t require a great deal of coaching or oversight. This professional is often the go-to person for the aviation director, maintenance chief and/or chief pilot, so they’re fully aware of what’s happening in the department.
Oftentimes, a scheduler is the point person for several upper-level executives in the company, including the CEO or Chairman’s executive assistant, the high-net-worth owner or the Family Office lead.
As might be expected, a scheduler often wears many hats. Depending on the organization’s size, he or she might be responsible for many administrative tasks, including sorting the mail, organizing the stockroom, bringing in food for the staff meeting, etc.
“The biggest challenge for a scheduler is the constant, frenetic pace,” according to our industry colleague Jim Lara, principal at Gray Stone Advisors. “Schedulers also need to handle multiple, unrelated tasks simultaneously, each with a very high priority.”
How to attract a top scheduler to your flight department
- Explain how your department is set up for success. For example, are you using robust scheduling software?
- Let candidates know the expectations for the role outside of scheduling responsibilities.
- Explain the onboarding and training process before they’re considered fully qualified.
- Outline the employment schedule and whether flexibility is required. Does the job rotate among a scheduling team?
- Let candidates know about advancement opportunities and ongoing training.
Traits of a successful aircraft scheduler
- Communication skills
The ability to clearly communicate with all levels of people—via phone, email and face-to-face—is key. A scheduler will interact with aviation leadership, flight crew, maintenance, executive travelers, an aircraft owner, aviation industry vendors (e.g., FBOs and trip-planning companies) as well as the hospitality industry.
- Confidence and calm demeanor
Depending on the operation, a scheduler’s role can often be intense, requiring last-minute travel changes and/or “big personalities” who require top-notch service. Therefore, one’s feathers cannot be easily ruffled. Schedulers need to project confidence, maintain a calm demeanor and deliver efficiently on the smallest details.
- Language proficiency
It’s important to speak and write fluently in English (the language of aviation), but it’s a bonus if the scheduler can speak one or two additional languages, such as French, Italian or Spanish.
- Proficiency in geography
It goes without saying that a scheduler must be knowledgeable of airport locations and frequent travel destinations. S/he must also be able to coordinate travel details for the flight crew.
This role is highly computer-based. You’ve got to have great keyboarding skills and its helpful to be open to embracing new technology.
- Financial management
It’s important to be able to manage both time and costs while adhering to the aviation budget and expense needs.
Although a license isn’t required for a scheduler position, there are initial and recurrent certifications available that demonstrate one’s passion and interest in lifelong learning.
- Knowledge of aviation regulations
The FAA and other governing bodies have strict regulations regarding flight crew requirements and flying times. It is the responsibility of the flight crew scheduler to assess crew coverage and adhere to these rules.
- Strong organizational skills
An aircraft scheduler maintains the flight crew and cabin crew schedule, so flawless record-keeping skills are needed to manage and track important documents.
A scheduler needs to be flexible, and capable of working within a non-tradition schedule. It’s especially true if the corporate flight department or aircraft owner has 24/7 travel needs. That might mean working variable days and hours, including nights, weekends and holidays.
The best methods for recruiting schedulers
- Recruit from aviation schools – Start with summer interns.
- LinkedIn can help, as well as your own personal network.
- Use your relationship at the Fixed Base Operators (FBOs).
- Network at NBAA’s annual Schedulers & Dispatchers conference.
- Work with an aviation recruiter, such as API.
- Recruit internally from the executive assistant pool, with candidates who have fallen in love with aviation.
Typical flight department staffing
Two ore more schedulers are usually needed for a 24-hour business aviation operation. If you have two or more schedulers, you typically have one based at the hangar (doing shift work), with the support person (or persons) often on call.
Since schedulers largely work via computer, it makes telecommuting easier. In fact, at API we’re finding more and more that schedulers can work from home if they have an appropriate office setup. Some schedulers even work remotely, from another state than the one where the hangar is located.
When does a department need both a scheduler and dispatcher? It depends on the organization’s needs. About 50 percent of the large corporate aviation operations that we support at API also employ licensed dispatchers. It just so happens that companies that operate a fleet of aircraft, fly overseas or have especially complex travel requirements often employ FAA-licensed dispatchers in addition to a scheduler.
It’s important to note that, while there may be many overlaps between a scheduler’s and a dispatcher’s duties, a scheduler’s role is typically more administrative, while a dispatcher’s is often more technical, with knowledge of meteorology, aerial navigation, air traffic control procedures and other procedural aspects of aviation.
Although it’s usually not required, there does happen to be a certification course for aircraft schedulers. In fact, FlightSafety International offers an initial and recurrent NBAA Scheduler Professional Development Program (NBAA-SPDP), which focuses on the safety and efficiency aspects of a flight operation.
During the course, students will review aviation terminology, effective communication, Crew Resource Management (CRM), and the basic elements of a Safety Management System (SMS). Also included is a “fly-along” experience in a state-of-the-art flight simulator, to enhance the learning process. Upon successful course completion, participants will be issued what’s called a Certification of Completion.
One of the many career paths for schedulers is to move into an aircraft dispatcher role. To achieve this, schedulers can take a five- or six-week dispatcher course through FlightSafety, Jeppsen or other training providers.
Dispatcher certification training ensures that students can demonstrate extensive knowledge of meteorology and of aviation in general (this level of knowledge is comparable to an Airline Transport Pilot certificate).
Want to work with API?
At API, we’re always looking to add to our pool of qualified schedulers. If you’ve not yet done so, please submit your application online here and become a API Registered Professional™.