Working as an aviation technical consultant is a job like no other. In most cases it involves close cooperation with at least three parties with opposite interests, vast legal and technical knowledge about the aircraft and applicable aviation regulations, challenging deadlines in a very unpredictable environment and all this abroad, in an unknown location and with an international team of people one has never met before. It certainly requires some skills, but also a set of soft qualities which enable the consultant to get his or her job done in a manner which will satisfy not only the direct customer, but also all other involved parties.
Let’s take a look at some qualities I believe are crucial for a successful aircraft transition or repossession:
I put knowledge first, as without it the remaining traits will likely not be valuable to the leasing company or airline which the aviation consultant represents. There are several types of knowledge a technical representative requires, including technical knowledge of the aircraft, very good knowledge of the aviation regulations (one has to remember that a consultant works internationally, and the regulations may change from location to location), experience in technical records keeping, knowledge of most commonly used company procedures within airlines as well as between airlines and MROS and/or lessors, and finally some business knowledge to better understand each party’s needs.
It’s difficult to be a world renowned expert in each field, but a consultant should have enough of everything in order to provide the best possible service and minimize the risk of making a costly mistake in the process.
- Willingness to learn
Having in mind the necessity for knowledge and the fact that no one knows it all, strong willingness to learn and a drive for continuous self-improvement is crucial. Many times an experienced professional may fall into the trap of narcissism, in which he or she believes to have done it all and seen it all. Such a conviction may be deadly for any project.
No two projects are the same, no two companies operate in the same manner and even regulations change once in a while. Every transition project is a learning curve and every person met along the way may have something valuable to add to our experience. Closing yourself to them and not attempting to learn new things will certainly not benefit anyone.
It is not possible to achieve self-confidence without having vast knowledge and continually expanding on it. Confident people appear as more trustworthy and trust is crucial during any delivery process. An aviation consultant cannot guess – if you offer someone advice, it has to be correct and you have to stand to your opinion.
Self-confidence should not be confused with arrogance. On the contrary, being self-confident and yet humble will make your customer and the remaining parties feel comfortable in listening to your opinions and entrusting you with any problems or concerns which they may have.
- Communication skills (diplomacy)
I think it’s safe to say that every aircraft transition process will involve conflicts. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but there will always be issues on which the lessor and lessee disagree, and in most cases the consultant is in the middle – in need to satisfy customer requirements while maintaining a good working relationship with the other party.
An excellent sense of diplomacy and great communication skills are crucial. This involves a fair amount of guessing people’s intentions, understanding their true needs and responding to those needs in a way which allows people to be fairly satisfied, even if a compromise was not what they originally aimed for. It also involves a clear understanding of the contractual obligations and the ability to communicate the responsibilities clearly to the lessee.
At the same time, also from the customer’s side a consultant will work not only with the asset manager, but often also with lawyers and even sales personnel. All those people view the aircraft transition process from different perspectives. Hence, it is mandatory to be able to talk to all of them in a manner which makes them understand any given situation.
Communication skills and diplomacy are what glues together the, sometimes very complex, relationship between new lessee – lessor – previous lessee – MRO.
- Problem solving galore
That’s why aviation consultants are hired in the first place – to solve problems. A large variety of them. From issues related to the aircraft directly (maintenance flaws, records issues) to many indirect problems, such as assistance in finding a required component, efficient travelling between different facilities or overcoming import tax regulations in an exotic country.
Solving problems is a complex process, but in general it just means thinking outside the box and not giving up, while keeping a close watch at the timeframe, as deadlines tend to creep up on almost every project.
At some point during a transition process, external services or simple help will be required. Cannot find that particular bulletin you were looking for? The airline cannot arrange a quick transport of the records? You need to know the average price for overhauled fuel pumps? A good network of aviation professionals will solve those issues. If you ever encounter a problem, there is a great chance that someone has encountered it before. Just ask!
LinkedIn is a fantastic way to keep everyone you ever met and exchanged business cards with at hands reach. And people will help you – society has long learned that offering selfless assistance can be very beneficial in the future. And remember – whatever you get out of your network, be sure to put in double! This way the system works.
- Well suited
Books are being judged by their cover. You have about 10 to 15 seconds to make a first impression, which will never be erased again. Proper attire is crucial to appear professional and to show the right level of respect for whoever you happen to be working with. Remember that an aviation consultant is also referred to as a “technical representative”. You represent your customer – dress for the part.
Dress code is generally not very strict in airline environments. Suit and tie will not be necessary. But a wrinkled T-shirt or that old sweater are probably not the best choice…
Aviation is international. Everyone in the business is using English. Manuals and other instructions as well as technical records are also written in English. Therefore, a very sound knowledge of that language is a must. A consultant must be proficient in English both in speaking and writing, as plenty of communication is taking place via email.
Surprisingly, one can overdo it. I have found that at times “native” English speakers create a language barrier. Because their English is perfect, they often speak (and write) in a manner which is difficult to understand for people from non-English speaking countries. So if you’re a “native” please keep in mind that others are not – make it clear and simple. Otherwise people may be stressed just by the fact that they need to talk to you and will end up avoiding communication.
- Travel fanatic
An aviation consultant travels. A lot. You have to take at least some pleasure in air travel, hotel stays, visiting different places and working with people from different cultures. Being open-minded is crucial, as most often the situation you encounter is far from what one could have expected. Not necessarily in a bad way, just surprisingly different.
Most people claim to enjoy travelling, but it is important to realize that going somewhere to work for a few months differs from a tourist trip. On the other hand, I find it much more rewarding because it allows to actually see how people live and gives a broader understanding of the differences and similarities between different societies.
- Enjoy your own company
I believe that an aviation consultant should be a bit of a loner. Not in the sense of not enjoying the company of others – after all, you will always work with people – but by being perfectly happy on their own. In many projects, a consultant will be on his/her own far away from home. This is never easy, but it must give you certain comfort and you must get by alone. After all, your communicating skills at work will greatly suffer if you’re frustrated and unhappy.
I hope you enjoyed the article. The list above is certainly not exhaustive, please feel free to comment and add your own qualities.