If you’d like a signed copy of either of my books, send me an email email@example.com and I’ll provide you with details about how to get one! Whether it’s a signed bookplate or a signed book, I can make it happen for you. Share/BookmarkRead more
Well, after all this time, “The Cabo Contract” is out! Available in ebook format at your favorite retailer’s website! ...Read more
I had a recent interview with Rhett Palmer. Rhett is a local talk show host in my hometown, Vero Beach, Florida. You can find out all about “The Mayor of the Airwaves” here. He also produces a publication titled Vero’s Voice. Below is a page from issue 14, page 30 of Vero’s Voice that featured “The Viper Contract.” Rhett has interviewed a long list of very influential people including Secretary of State,...Read more
I haven’t written in a while, largely because real life has gotten in the way, but I’m going to try something new and see what kind of response it gets. The book idea referenced above is something I’ve been toying with for about a year but the ideas therein go way back. Here’s the draft of the introduction. If you think this idea has “legs” let me know!
Chief Pilot – A No-Nonsense Guide to Tactical Flight Department Leadership
This book is about reality and like reality, it has an edge. So if you’re looking for a carefully-worded, politically-correct treatise on flight department leadership, you’ve come to the wrong place. This book is largely based on experience, my experience to be precise, having spent some thirty years in aviation. It will be infused with my opinions and interpretations, often bluntly stated. It will have specific applications to specific situations. It will be a book you can read and then refer to. You may not always agree with the perspective you find herein, but I guarantee you’ll find it useful.
For the record, I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic of leadership. But after holding the position of assistant operations officer and operations officer in fighter squadrons (the USAF equivalent of assistant chief pilot and chief pilot), the position of chief pilot and director of operations in my own charter management company, acting chief pilot and director of operations for a large operator overseas, chief pilot for the what was, at one time, the largest charter operator in the world and chief pilot for a Fortune 100 flight department, I think I know what works in that role and what doesn’t. I also think I know what leadership looks like, at least in this context.
The sad fact is that that there isn’t much real leadership in our industry. There is plenty of politics, cronyism, brown-nosing, accession by seniority, and even some decent management from time to time, but leadership, real leadership, is hard to come by. In fairness, the industry doesn’t really encourage it. Corporate aviation is a lot about maintaining a low-key, low-visibility presence and isn’t about vision or bold decision making, so the environment doesn’t favor those who possess true leadership skills. It does, however, favor professional managers and politicians and these are the people who often ascend to positions of responsibility in our industry, just as they are the people who ascend to the top in corporations.
This is one of the reasons I have a love/hate relationship with our industry. A flight department or a charter/management company, when it is well led, reminds me of my time in a fighter squadron when the focus was on the mission and the unit members were there for one another. They followed the “boss” because they respected him and they believed in him. They enjoyed coming to work and they enjoyed serving others. But more often than not in our industry, the person in charge of a flight department is more concerned with politics than his subordinates and more concerned with how he looks to his boss than how he is respected and trusted by his people. And in the latter case, those in charge don’t understand how transparent their behavior is or how demoralizing it can be. So the potential that business aviation has for those who are able to lead and those who want to follow is enormous, but the reality rarely lives up to the potential and the industry plays along, pretending all is well.
Yet, these limitations notwithstanding, there probably isn’t another role that affects the morale potential of a flight department more than that of Chief Pilot, especially where flight crews are concerned. The role of Chief Pilot is a very difficult line to walk. It’s about between being one of “us,” a line pilot, and one of “them,” a member of senior management, and doing so in a way that inspires trust and not duplicity on both sides. It’s about being in “the trenches” with those you lead, close enough that they can see you, warts and all, but being able to sit comfortably with the Director in room full of corporate heavy-hitters. It’s about making a difference, not just for the future of the department but in the day-to-day lives of your people.
I’m hoping this book may be useful for those who want to rise above the typical mediocrity found in most of the leadership in our industry. This book isn’t about politics, although we’ll discuss it. It’s not about making friends, although that’s a bonus if you do your job well. It’s not about necessarily rising to the top, although that might happen too. It’s about standing your ground and speaking your mind, regardless of the consequences. It’s about doing the right thing and taking care of your people even if that comes at a personal cost. It’s about taking action when action is required and not giving a damn what other people think about it.
In short, it’s about being a Chief Pilot and a leader. Managers and politicians need not apply.
For those who are unaware, I recently changed jobs and moved from a Chief Pilot Position at one Fortune 500 flight department to assume the Director position at another Fortune 500 flight department. Out of respect for both employers, I’m not going to mention either of their names but I can’t help making an observation that I feel is relevant.
Last Friday, we had a conference call concerning a possible jet purchase at my new company. Since the jet had been previously registered in a foreign country in the Far East, there was some concern that we might be subject to “intelligence gathering” if we bought it. Prior to the call, I informed my boss that the prospect of that happening was highly unlikely, but if we wanted to assuage concerns, we could have the jet swept for listening devices and the like during the pre-buy inspection. End of story – or so I thought. During the call, the “intelligence gathering” possibility was raised again. The consultants basically reiterated my take on the subject and the CEO agreed with the advisers and I, dismissed the security concerns, and told us to pursue that jet.
Why is this a big deal?
In my last company, it would have never happened. The CEO would have never spoken up like that. He would have never been willing to stand up to some of the members of his staff and been decisive. Instead, he would have required more analysis, more discussion and the decision would have been deferred to some time in the future – needlessly extending the timeline.
All I can say is that it’s good to see decisive leadership once again. I think I’m going to like it here.
This book was recommended to me by a gentleman who reviewed both it and my book and I’m glad to say that I followed his recommendation! This was an outstanding book and a very quick read. The characters are rich and well developed and the plot moved very quickly. I read it in two nights! The author’s knowledge and expertise in the airline environment and in the cockpit showed through – the book is very authentic. Other than a few conversations with friends, I don’t know much about the inside of the airlines but this book put me in the middle of the action and I felt like I understood some of the angst that friends of mine have described.
My only complaints with the book were I thought the climax/conclusion came a little too quickly and that the loose ends were tied up a little too thoroughly. I also thought that we didn’t really need the continuous lectures about airline cost savings, training and financial consequences. While I realize that element was a central theme of the book, it got to be a little repetitive after awhile.
All of that said, Karlene has written an AWESOME book and I recommend without reservation. If you like books about aviation, you’ll love this one!
Order it at amazon.com here.Read More
Brighton Publishing signs Chris Broyhill for “The Cabo Contract”
CHANDLER (AZ)—Brighton Publishing LLC today announced the signing of Chris Broyhill for his second action-packed techno-thriller, The Cabo Contract. After achieving Brighton Publishing “Best-Seller”
Soon, he is introduced to Sarah’s new boss, a tall, stylish man by the name of Adam Archmere. Colin discovers that Archmere has contracted a G-IV plane from Sarah’s company and is using it to make multiple trips to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
You may remember a blog entry/rant I made here on February 19th about hiring and cronyism. Well it seems that the Director of Aviation at that flight department (I think his actual title is Vice President for Flight Operations), has now filled every leadership position in the flight department with cronies from his former company – a fractional operator that treated its pilots so poorly they voted to unionize in July of last year. The gentleman in question was the VP for Flight Operations at that company as well and the fact that he changed jobs shortly after the vote for unionization at his former company is, in all likelihood, not a coincidence. This Director/VP was hired to unite a flight department that had some serious issues, but also had some serious talent. But rather than attempt to inspire and unite, this particular gentlemen chose, instead, to surround himself with lackeys from his former company and create a pool of “yes-men” who will do his bidding without protest. The flight department is now in chaos, no member of the rank and file trusts him and they are circulating their resumes in earnest, attempting to leave a place they view as a sinking ship. Meanwhile, this gentlemen believes he is quite the leader and that he is doing the best thing for the operation.
This guy may be clueless, but at least he’s arrogant. And the real problem is, he’s not alone. There are plenty more where he came from. I’ve heard equally demoralizing stories about a flight department director in New England and another in the Midwest, both of whom are despised by their people, have generated extremely high turnover, and yet are protected by senior management above them.
It’s guys like this that have led me to begin work on a book about no-nonsense, tactical leadership for flight department. The sad fact is that that there isn’t much real leadership in our industry. There is plenty of politics, cronyism, brown-nosing, accession by seniority, and even some decent management from time to time, but leadership, real leadership, is hard to come by. In fairness, the industry doesn’t really encourage it. Corporate aviation is a lot about maintaining a low-key, low-visibility presence and isn’t about vision or bold decision making or taking care of people, so the environment doesn’t favor those who possess true leadership skills. It does, however, favor professional managers and politicians and these are the people who often ascend to positions of responsibility in our industry, just as they are the people who ascend to the top in corporations.
This is the reason I have a love/hate relationship with our industry. A flight department or a charter/management company, when it is well led, reminds me of my time in a fighter squadron when the focus was on the mission and the unit members were there for one another. They followed the “boss” because they respected him and they believed in him. They enjoyed coming to work and they enjoyed serving others. But more often than not in our industry, the person in charge of a flight department is more concerned with the politics than his subordinates and more concerned with how he looks to his boss than how he is respected and trusted by his people. And in the latter case, those in charge don’t understand how transparent their behavior is or how demoralizing it can be. So the potential that business aviation has for those who are able to lead and those who want to follow is enormous, but the reality rarely lives up to the potential and the industry plays along, pretending all is well.
So as I continue to write on this subject, more will follow. I’ve never been one to keep my mouth shut or my pen still when I see something that disturbs me. And those who present poor leadership examples should be taken to task.
Let me start here by saying that there are very few things in life that I would categorize as life-changing experiences. Certainly, when I planned to attend a handgun training course in the Nevada desert I didn’t expect to have one. I’ve owned handguns for nearly my entire adult life and shot at the expert level in every training course in the USAF which I attended. So I was pretty sure that there wasn’t much anyone could teach me.
I had heard about the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute some time ago. Front Sight purported to train its students at a level which exceeded law enforcement or military standards. While I had purchased a membership there, largely to receive the training materials for research purposes, I didn’t know if I’d ever really go to a course there. But as I got into writing Colin Pearce’s third adventure early this year, and realized that he’d have to have some pretty kick-ass handgun skills to prevail, I scheduled myself to attend the Four-Day Defensive Handgun Course at Front Sight if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity.
So last Monday, on the 18th of June, I arrived at Front Sight to begin my training and proceeded to have my life changed. Over the next several days of intensive training (9-10 hours a day folks, no kidding), I learned how to present a handgun from a holster (the technical concern is “present,” not “draw”) and engage targets with a controlled pair of shots to the thoracic cavity of an assailant at ranges of 3-15 yards in just a few seconds and, where required, to also engage with a designated head shot. I learned secrets of sight alignment and trigger control that make the difference in not only delivering rounds on target accurately, but doing so quickly AND accurately. I learned how to clear malfunctions in minimum time and how to clear doorways and houses where required.
I was struck by two things continually as I went through the course. First, I was stuck by how much I thought I knew about using a gun that was just plain wrong, and second, I couldn’t believe how much I didn’t know that I didn’t know. That’s not a typo or unintentional word repetition. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. One particular example was the exercise in which the scenario was something like this: “You’ve just seen a guy with a gun enter your house with your family inside. You’ve called the police but they won’t be on scene for several minutes and you’ve just heard shots and screams from inside the house. What do you do now?” The answer involved me entering a mock-up house, gun in hand, and engaging targets where required and avoiding shooting innocent people where required, all with only a few seconds to make the decision to shoot or not. If you think you know how to do this and you haven’t been trained, trust me, you don’t – you’ll be shot within seconds by the bad guys, or worse, you’ll shoot the wrong people on the inside.
But the staff at Front Sight didn’t stop there. They also taught how to avoid confrontations, how to stay aware of your environment and how to stop an attack from an assailant before arms may even be necessary. They spoke extensively about the moral and ethical ramifications of engaging in a gun fight and continually emphasized that the use of arms was an absolute last resort. Anyone who tells you that trained gun owners are a bunch of cowboys spoiling for a fight has never been to a course like this.
So now that the training is over, I can tell you that my life is truly changed. If I’m put into a position to defend my family, I KNOW I can do it. Quickly, decisively and accurately. And I want to get back back to Front Sight again, as soon as I can, to improve my skills or learn new skills with a different weapon.
Sure, Colin Pearce will be a bigger bad-ass now that this training has occurred. But Chris Broyhill will be a more responsible gun-owner and able-bodied defender of his family as well.
And that alone was worth the price of admission.Read More
My presentation at the Corporate Aviation Safety Seminar in April has made the news! Robert Mark, the safety editor for Aviation International News Online, one of our industry’s premier news magazines, covered the seminar and gave the paper that David Freiwald and I wrote high marks.
Read his coverage here:Read More
I have the honor of being a member of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, otherwise known as “The River Rats.” Originally started by veterans of the air war over North Vietnam, it has since been opened to all military aviators. It exists largely to honor those Missing in Action in the Vietnam War, but it performs many charitable functions to benefit veterans and their families. You can read about the River Rats here. The Rats have a discussion group which I subscribe to and it’s very interesting to hear these gentlemen reminisce about their experiences and exchange opinions on different topics. The conversation is often lively and every once in a while, it is truly memorable. On today’s discussion, a gentleman who a Navy veteran made some observations about the all-volunteer military force which gave me pause. I’m sharing them here because they are, in my mind, very profound and I think they need to be “out there.”
To set the stage, this gentleman was reflecting on a discussion about an impromptu “flash mob” which formed at Reagan Airport to cheer a planeload of World War II veterans who were exiting their plane enroute to a ceremony on The Mall. When a group of veterans travel together on a plane to attend an event like this, it’s called an “Honor Flight.”
Now here are the gentleman’s words:
When we intentionally make – post-Vietnam, no conscription, for reasons we all know very well – military service entirely voluntary, we obtain two long-term results:
a. A VERY professional and proficient military, far better than we have ever had in the past;
b. A citizenry that generally and deeply believes they have the RIGHT to pursue their individual goals – many selfish and avaricious – with no thought of the nation’s defense.
Technology, capital, unit/service/joint cohesion, intense training, and great people (at all levels) have allowed “a” to work reasonably well. However, “b” is creating a society in which large segments – especially among the better educated – rarely even think about the sacrifices required to sustain this nation; when they do, they fundamentally believe it is not their concern.
Consider, for a moment, the current officer and senior-NCO/Petty Officer “corps” (let us just say E-6 and above) in all the services. Without question, they are excellent; however, we far-disproportionately see the sons and daughters of the professional military, kids from areas (urban and rural) that perpetually experience difficult economic times, and those (frequently, immigrants and minorities) who are attempting to achieve a “foothold” (education, skills, minimal financial security, respect) in our society. What we do NOT regularly see are the children of middle/upper-middle class suburbia, educated at excellent high schools and colleges, and willing to make selfless scarifies for the common good, for our nation’s defense (after all, many of these youngsters already have “education, skills, minimal financial security, respect” as a near-birthright).
I do not believe that America can, over the course of several generations, prevail with a citizenry where only a distinct minority believes service is critical. The self-anointed elites:
a. Become increasingly disconnected from the majority of Americans;
b. They – and their children/grandchildren – develop attitudes of entitlement and of superiority (“let Manuel serve, I’m too valuable to do so, and – besides – it will interrupt my pursuit of wealth and privilege at Harvard”);
c. They will never understand that they are personally and individually responsible for America’s security and success.
What does all this have to do with the Honor Flight? I suggest, a LOT. Those who serve with honor – and, sometimes, with distinction – invariably understand that America requires “contributors” as well as “takers,” that by serving and sacrificing together, we develop an abiding respect for each other, and that wealth really is not crucial – the truly important things in life cannot be purchased. We need mandatory, national service now!
Tom Brokaw and Stephen Ambrose popularized the term the “Greatest Generation.” With profound respect for my parents’ cohort, I suggest that the more-appropriate way to understand this phenomenon is that virtually all who serve honorably – regardless of when they do so – become “great” through their experiences and sacrifices, but that during World War II we had an overwhelmingly large number who did so.
Today is Memorial Day, a day traditionally dedicated to those who have died in the service of our nation. If you’d like to read a good history of how Memorial Day came to be, you can read one at the official Memorial Day website here. While the eyes of our nation typically turn to places like Arlington National Cemetery, there are other places around the world where American servicemen and women have been laid to rest. And while I’ve toured Arlington, and have been deeply moved by the experience, there were two other places that had an even more profound effect upon me.
CAMBRIDGE AMERICAN CEMETERY AND MEMORIAL (Website Link)
When I was a young A-10 pilot, stationed at RAF Bentwaters/Woodbridge in the United Kingdom in the late 1980′s, I took every opportunity I could to get out and tour the historic areas of both England and the continent. On a day trip to Cambridge, England I spent some time at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial. Here’s the description from the website:
The Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial site in England, 30.5 acres in total, was donated by the University of Cambridge. It lies on a slope with the west and south sides framed by woodland. The cemetery contains the remains of 3,812 of our military dead; 5,127 names are recorded on the Tablets of the Missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. Most died in the Battle of the Atlantic or in the strategic air bombardment of northwest Europe.
This view of the cemetery shows the wall in the background with the list of those missing.
Why did this move me as much as it did – even more than Arlington? Well, at the time I was stationed in England, the Cold War was still underway and we were on a pseudo wartime footing while stationed in the UK. Although World War II had ended over forty years previously, England was still an occupied country. There were several US bases throughout the nation, planes routinely flew 250-500 feet over the countryside on training missions and live surface-to-air missiles sites were active on the east coast of the UK, pointed over the English Channel and North Sea for the Red Threat, which thankfully never came. There was nothing in my previous life that prepared me for this. The entire nation had not been “at peace” for over fifty years. And then, when I arrived at this cemetery, I saw one small glimpse of the price our nation had paid to keep not only keep Americans free, but also to keep Britons free as well. The men and women resting here never made it home, instead they were laid to rest in the land they died to defend. Their mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and sisters and brothers and sons and daughters had to leave the US and come to England to pay their final respects. Even more of these men and women were never even recovered, so it is their names only which are memorialized. As a serviceman, one of the things you are constantly aware of is the fact that you may be called upon to give your life in the defense of your country or our allies. To look out over so many who did so and were buried so far from home touched me very deeply.
And then there was Omaha Beach.
NORMANDY AMERICAN CEMETERY AND MEMORIAL (Website Link)
1990 was my last year stationed in Europe. The Berlin Wall had come down, the Cold War had ended, Germany was reuniting and Saddam Hussein hadn’t even invaded Kuwait yet – there was sense of general euphoria. I was touring continental Europe and decided to swing through Normandy, France and see Omaha Beach before driving up the coast to Calais to catch the ferry back to England. I had read quite a lot of World War II history, so I thought I was quite the authority on D-Day. But it was one thing to read about it and quite another to see where it had taken place. The first thing I saw was the series of bunkers overlooking Omaha Beach, and you didn’t have to be an expert in ground tactics to figure out that those on the high ground, behind tons of concrete, had a clear advantage over those below them, in the open, with nothing to shield them. (Keep in mind that the movie “Saving Private Ryan” had not been made yet.)
And then, within walking distance, was the cemetery and memorial. Here’s a picture along with the description from the website.
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France is located on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The cemetery site, at the north end of its half mile access road, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.
This one hit me especially hard. After seeing the beach where the fighting took place, my mind had naturally wondered about the human cost to attain the objective and then, just a few steps away, that cost was displayed. Rows upon rows of young men and women, many of whom were interred mere feet from where they fell – mere feet from the beach head they gave their lives for – mere feet from the place where freedom came to Europe once again. To say that it was moving to behold this place is an understatement of colossal proportions.
So on this Memorial Day, as you enjoy your family and the burgers and hot dogs, and as you honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, say a special prayer for the souls and families of those who never made it back to American soil. And if you get the chance to spend sometime abroad, make it point to visit places like this. It puts the freedom and liberty we enjoy as Americans in a different perspective.
You’ll probably be reading a lot of these over the next few years. An integral part of a PhD degree is the dissertation, a paper that should present some new research in the field of the PhD. The Department of Doctoral Studies at Embry-Riddle has been very aggressive in focusing us on the dissertation, even as we began the program. This orientation is a sound one in my opinion since there are many PhD “ABDs” out there – “all but dissertation” – which is essentially no degree at all. By focusing our attention on the dissertation from the beginning, as research opportunities present themselves in the various courses along the way, we can gear our research topics toward our dissertation and continue to refine our thinking. My current course is DAV 733, Globalization and the Aviation Environment and we’re required to write a 15-20 page research paper on a topic related to the course objectives as part of the course requirements. The topic I’ve chosen for the research paper will lay the foundation for my dissertation and focuses on the International Standard for Business Aviation Operations or IS-BAO as it is more commonly know.
The International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) has been in existence for almost exactly ten years, having been formally introduced to the business aviation community at the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibit (EBACE) in Geneva, May 2002 (IBAC, 2012b). As of May 1, 2012, there were 646 IS-BAO registrants in some 39 countries, 184 of which are commercial operators and the remainder of which are private or corporate operators (J. Sheehan, personal communication, May 24, 2012; IBAC, 2012c). According to the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) which established it, IS-BAO was developed “by the industry for the benefit of the industry. It is a code of best practices designed to help flight departments worldwide achieve a high level of safety and professionalism” (IBAC, 2012b).
While standardized procedures and pseudo-regulatory limitations are part of the IS-BAO standard, the core element is the safety management system (SMS), a process designed to effectively manage safety risks in the organization (IBAC, 2012c). If we accept the supposition of Stolzer, Halford and Goglia (2008), that to be effective, an SMS must be applied in a safety culture environment, we could draw the follow-on conclusion that if an aviation organization has effectively adopted and implemented IS-BAO, a safety culture environment should be in place. According to Bill Stine, the Director of Operations for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), that conclusion is precisely the case:
“(IS-BAO) is a process built around establishing a true participatory safety culture within an operation. It does include all the requirements of a formal safety management system–an SMS–but IS-BAO goes beyond, by causing a company to develop a positive, non-punitive, safety culture with these industry-based best practices to support it” (Sheridan, 2011).
Hence, we arrive at the premise for aviation organizations that if IS-BAO, then safety culture. But is that the actual reality or merely the expected outcome?
My goal with this research paper is to take the pulse of the industry and document what the industry believes. My guess is that industry does, in fact, believe that if IS-BAO, then safety culture. The problem though is that a true safety culture, as we will discuss, requires “buy-in” from everyone in an aviation organization to function. And there are many in the “rank and file” of business aviation who aren’t buying in. But looking at that will be the next step in the process. Stay tuned . . .
IBAC. (2012a). Understanding SMS » international business aviation council Retrieved 5/26/2012, from http://www.ibac.org/is_bao/understanding-sms
IBAC. (2012b). Introducing IS-BAO. Retrieved 5/26/2012, from http://www.ibac.org/is_bao
IBAC. (2012c). IS-BAO registered operators » international business aviation council Retrieved 5/26/2012, from http://www.ibac.org/is_bao/registered-operators-2
Sheridan, J. (2011, April). IBAC: IS-BAO proves valuable investment. Aviation International News Online. Retrieved 5/26/2012 from http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/aviation-international-news/2011-03-28/ibac-bao-proves-valuable-investment
Stolzer, A. J., Halford, C. D., & Goglia, J. J. (2008). Safety management systems in aviation (Kindle ed.). Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate.Read More