Sunday, July 29, 2012

Coming to an end

This is my last week with Desert Jet. My official last day will be this Friday. Looking back I can say I have learned so much from my internship opportunity. I had the chance to develop and work on all my goals we had set before the beginning of my internship. I have learned about charter operations and how to work with clients and properly answer phone calls. I have learned all about scheduling and the logistics behind it. I have spent time learning about marketing, utilizing different software programs to create direct mail materials and email marketing campaigns. I have taken a training course in the company's Cirrus. I worked with APD a professional cleaning company, who taught me aircraft specific cleaning techniques. Working with the Director of Safety I performed and in depth company audit and spent time with him discussing ways to improve the audit program. I have also worked with the accounting department designing a new employee personnel file as well as entered data into the system for company flight logs. A lot of what I have learned in my classes at the University have transferred over and been useful in my internship. Jimmy Splichal's Air Carrier Operations Class has by far been the most useful. In his class we learned about Part 135 operations, crucial information I have used on a daily basis during my internship. New skills I acquired included a better understanding of Part 135 operations, marketing techniques, and industry safety standards. I would love to continue to improve on my customer service skills including building stronger relationships with clients and other charter operators and brokers. I feel that these skills will follow me no matter what role I find myself in aviation. Again, this internship has been an amazing experience and has given me a bird's eye view to the possibilities for a career in aviation. I have definitely enjoyed learning about Part 135 operations and could see this becoming an exciting career path for me.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Over the past several weeks I have been given several projects to complete. The first of which included editing and uploading articles for the new company website. Currently Desert Jet uses two different sites to promote the business. One includes their professional site, where you can find out information about the business and which hosts articles written by employees of the company. My job was to take the articles from the previous site and move them to the new one. I also edited and uploaded 20 plus articles written by employees of the company to add to the new website. Article topics included Aircraft Spotlight, which talked about different planes and their amenities. Other Topics included things such as Do You Speak Aviation? 10 Things You Should Know About a Charter Operator, and Air Charter Safety Ratings- What Do They Really Mean? Denise has high hopes for her new website. The reason for the redesign is to make the page more user-friendly with articles that would interest her clients. She hopes the new site will be up by the end of the summer.

Another task I was assigned was to help update employee personnel files. I have been working side by side with accountant Kay Creed to accomplish this task. Before Kay arrived at the company, record keeping was minimal. She has requested my assistance to help organize and create an employee personnel file. In excel we have created a Daily Attendance Sheet, which records sick, personal, and vacation days as well as created an Employee Quick Reference Sheet, which includes things such as Hire Date, Wage Increases, Contact & Emergency Contact Information, as well what types of Insurance Coverage the employee has opted for. We then went through the old files, got rid of the information we didn't need, and then organized all the information in a file folder.

My next assignment includes conducting a Safety Audit for the company. Every so often a member of the company is given the opportunity to perform a safety audit. They are given a sheet with guidance and numerous questions to help them complete the audit. Your job as an auditor is to gather information and determine how effectively the certain area is dealt with. An example might be to examine the practice for Pilot Duty Day. You are to rate it at on a 5-1 Scale, if you give it a 5 you are saying it is above and beyond expectations, 4 is with industry standards, and so on. If you rate it at a 3 or below, you are required to report a finding and it is discussed at the next safety meeting where the issue is addressed and dealt with. So a 5 might be that everyone is involved in Pilot Duty Day, meaning the Charter Specialist is concerned and monitoring it as well as the Chief Pilot and the Pilots. A 3 might be that the Pilots are required to monitor it on their own, while little attention is being paid to it by any other member of the operation. This has been a great way for me to gain a greater understanding of the business. In order for me to successfully complete the audit I am having to ask numerous questions to determine if the practice is being dealt with in an acceptable manner. It has in a round about way taught me a lot about the business.

I have really enjoyed learning about the charter industry. It is definitely not how I expected it to be, but in a good way. I truly love all the excitement that comes with working in such a fast paced environment. I could definitely see myself working in this type of operation in the future.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ethics: In The Charter Industry

Desert Jet's main focus for the company surrounds its values. These values include caring for the customer, for each other, and providing the best customer experience. After speaking with the President of Desert Jet, I have discovered that ethics in the workplace is not a major issue here. With regards to ethics Denise Wilson, founder of Desert Jet states, "Ethics are not a big issue, if a problem arises I manually address the issue. I find that if you hire the right people there is little need for an ethics policy. As the company grows, I may have to implement an ethics policy, but at the time one is not needed."

As far as the industry goes, there are some ethical procedures that all charter companies are supposed to follow. One major ethical issue is the poaching of clients. It becomes an ethical issue because, while you are not allowed to poach another operators client, the passenger has ever right to know who is flying them. After a major accident involving an airline crash, where a United flight was being operated by Skywest, litigation was made stating that the passenger has the right to know which operator they are flying under. Therefore, the ticket could not read United. It would now have to read Skywest, doing business with United.As such in the charter industry if Blue Star Jets sends a client to Desert Jet, they are required to tell the passenger they are flying under Desert Jet.

It is a shared idea that if you are flying another brokers or charter operators client, that you do not purposefully sell your company to that client. Therefore, you would not hand them a business card or you would not tell that they could receive cheaper flights by coming directly to your company. However, it becomes a problem when the client really enjoys the flight and asks what the company name is. This can cause a huge meltdown between charter operators and brokers causing harsh feelings about stealing clients. From what I understand, as long as you are not selling your company to a passenger dealing with a broker or another operator, you are being ethical. After the flight, if the client logs onto your website and requests a quote, that is not considered unethical, as long as you did not tell the client to log on to your website. They did it on their own free will, therefore it is not considered poaching. There are several known companies that do poach clients, most operators refuse to send their clients on such flights, as they know they will lose there customer. Desert Jet has dealt with several companies with such unethical behavior and such companies they no longer do business with.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Start Of A Wonderful Thing

Denise Wilson, Founder & CEO of Desert Jet
Sorry for the long delay between postings, I just came back from flying in the Air Race Classic 2012. It was a great experience, but I am glad to be back to work learning all about Part 135 Charter Operations. In this blurb I'm going to talk about the history and basics of what makes this company run. The company was founded by Denise Wilson. After being furloughed by the airlines, Denise found herself flying for a private owner. In 2007, hard times were just beginning and the aircraft owner found himself struggling to keep his plane. At this point Denise knew she had to do something, otherwise she would be out of a job. In order to keep the owner and his plane afloat Denise suggested aircraft charter. She would manage his aircraft, lease it out for charter flights, and earn some extra income for the owner so he would be able to keep his aircraft. In February of 2007, Denise decided to apply for a charter certificate and submitted her Pre-Application of Intent. Her story of this account was very fascinating. She told me that the typical waiting period to obtain a charter certificate is about 2 years. It was not until Dec of 2008 before she received her first call from the FAA for her first meeting. During the waiting period, Denise drafted her General Operations Manual, her Compliance Statements, and several other key documents to proceed with the charter certificate. So when her first meeting with the FAA rolled around everyone was shocked. During the first meeting, the FAA will typically tell you what you need to do to get started, which would include creating a General Ops Manual, etc. To the FAA's surprise all the work was done and they were able to issue a certificate within as little as 3 months. That must have been record breaking for them! It goes to show the dedication Denise has to make her company work. After issuance of a charter certificate you are then required to do 40 hours of proving runs with the FAA. During the proving runs, you are "proving" that your company can and does follow all regulations and procedures as described in your General Operations Manual. After speaking with Denise, I found out that during the proving runs they were not allowed to carry passengers. I was shocked. I do not even want to throw out a number of how much of a loss the company had to take in order to complete the runs with the FAA. But as everything else goes, sometimes you have to lose money before you can gain money. Denise did manage to work out an agreement with her aircraft owner in order to help get her business started and afford the costs of the runs. Such agreements might include an aircraft owner to pay fuel costs, etc. After the proving runs are complete, the company is now considered a legal charter operator. In the case that additional planes are added to the fleet the aircraft must pass a conformity inspection, rather than a full fledged proving run. During a conformity inspection, the FAA is inspecting the airplane to ensure that everything is as it seems and that all items in the general ops manual concerning the airplane are complied with. Being new to all this I was very fascinated with the process of applying for the charter certificate. Denise gave me some great advice and said that there is guidance on the FAA's website on how to write an ops manual. She also said referring to another companies ops manual is a great guidance tool as well. However, in most cases ops manuals are private so you would only be able to obtain a copy if you were within the company. She mentioned that as a chief pilot, it was one of her tasks to revise her companies general operations manual and that was where she gained a lot of her knowledge on the subject.

Monday, June 4, 2012

To LAX We Go

Late last week I was given the opportunity to do a flight in the company's Cirrus. The owner of the company needed to be in LAX so I was given the opportunity to ride along during the flight. On the way to LA I rode backseat and observed the beautiful scenery. To get to LA you have to go through Banning Pass, where I had a spectacular view of the mountains. Rob rode in the back with me and gave me a tour of the LA skyline, pointing out all the impressive landmarks. One thing I was surprised about was the amount of haze the covers California. There may not be a cloud in the sky but there is always a layer of haze obscuring your sight. Due to visibility and fuel restrictions, we ended up landing at Hawthorne, which is an airport right next to LAX. It was very neat to see the continuous stream of airline traffic in and out of LA. On the way back I got to ride up front with pilot Jon Joseph. Jon was wonderful, he spent time instructing me on the Class Bravo airspace and proper radio communications. He had me contacting SoCal approach and helping him stay clear of the Class Bravo airspace. He even helped me perfect my radio communications! On the way back it was getting dark, so it was really neat to fly through the pass. I couldn't imagine flying through the pass at night in a small plane, not being able to see where the tops of the mountain ridges are. I guess that all comes with time and practice (and trusting your instruments). During the flight we discussed the emergency parachute on the plane. Jon instructed me on its purpose and gave me examples of when it should be used. From what I gather the parachute is to be used only in extreme situations. Jon gave the example of a midair collision. All in all it was a great flight. I hope to continue to learn more about the Cirrus and its equipment.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Week 2

Last week was a whirlwind for me so I forgot to write. Every night I came home exhausted from learning so much. I managed to get a lot of hands on learning last week as far as answering phones and quoting trips goes. With Denise back in the office and things starting to slow down for the summer both Denise and Clair are able to spend more time teaching me the basics. This was totally not how I expected a charter business to operate. I thought it would be more about people calling in and requesting private jets. Well, it's a lot more complicated then that! They spend countless hours contacting brokers and scouring different websites to search for business. Their continuous effort is why they are such as successful company. I am glad to be learning from one of the best! So to go into more detail, they use numerous websites to search for trips that other brokers are requesting, normally because the broker does not have any available aircraft to complete the flight. So they search through these listings looking for flights that will fit well into their schedule. Normally they are searching for flights around Southern California. Other things they search for are pairs. A pair is when you find two broker trips and combine them to give both brokers one way pricing (cheap pricing instead of paying round trip). For example, you may do a flight from Southern California to Florida as the first trip pair. And a flight from Georgia to Northern California. In this situation both the brokers are happy because they found flights for their clients and Desert Jet is happy because the planes are flying and making money. These are difficult to complete as both brokers and their clients have to agree to the trip. To give you an idea 1 out of every 10 trips you quote actually books a flight. So while pairs are far and few between, they are very exciting when they work out. Another neat thing is when a customer pays for a round trip flight, let's say California to Montana, but they are staying at their destination of Montana. Since the plane will be flying home empty and it is already paid for Desert Jet will try to find a one way trip to bring the plane home. So they may do a Salt Lake City to San Jose, CA. When they book this leg they are making sheer profit. Pretty cool! Also this week, I worked with Nick Sanders a pilot for the company who is their Director of Safety. He taught me about their Safety Management System (SMS). His job is to find ways to increase safety and create a safety culture, where everyone feels safe and comfortable to address safety concerns. He told me that Desert Jet is one of few charter companies to implement an SMS program. The FAA is currently working to find a way to mandate or implement SMS across all aviation industry companies to ensure safety across the board.We also talked about an Emergency Response Plan. This laid out in detail what to do in the event of any major emergency. Who to call. What to ask on the phone. How to take messages. How to handle the media and etc. I have to say I am really learning a lot!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 2

Today was a beautiful day here in the desert! This morning started off with me arriving at the office. I was in charge of answering phones and taking down messages for the charter department to return calls. Clair the charter specialist was out for the morning meeting a client so somebody had to answer the phones. Kay the accountant was glad to show me how to take the calls and what to ask to get the appropriate information for Clair to call them back. I spent a lot of the day trying to get all my logins set up for email and many of the other programs the company uses to schedule and quote trips. I also quoted my first trip! I quoted 4 trip pairs from SAN - LAX - SAN and then another from SAN- LAS - SAN then another to SAN - ELP - SAN and finally SAN - PHX- SAN. For those of you that do not know these identifiers they stand for SAN= San Diego, LAX= Los Angeles, ELP= El Paso, PHX= Phoenix. These quotes were for people going to business meetings. I quoted these trips for a broker. All in all it was a good day! I still have a lot to learn though. I am trying really hard to learn all the terminology as well as all the major airport identifiers. I also called several brokers to try to fill a trip for one of Desert Jet's clients. You call the broker, tell them how many passengers, travel dates, where they want to go, and ask for a quote. If it is reasonable and a good company you present it to your client. From what I understand, you do this when you cannot complete a trip for a client. You are trying to gain their business by providing them with other options. That is why it is important you find a good company with nice planes that will be up to par with Desert Jet standards.