In the aviation business, aircraft make money when they can perform the job they are designed to do—fly. Yet, the turnaround time (TAT) can cause delays before the aircraft can take-off again. In commercial aviation, once the plane is at the terminal, a kaleidoscope of well-orchestrated teams is mobilized to prepare the aircraft to return to the skies. Unloading and uploading luggage, refueling, restocking catering, cleaning the cabin, and completing safety checks are done by the ground personnel. The preflight checks are performed by the next flight crew while the previous passengers disembark and arriving customers embark, find their seat, stow carry-on, and prepare for take-off. These things must be accomplished in the shortest time possible, which introduces the problem of time-based pressure. For a corporate flight department, the aircraft, flight crew, and customer base are considerably smaller, but the TAT pressures are just as high. Meeting schedules is vital, making the aircraft prep very important.
In these operations, the maintenance technician takes on many roles in preparing the aircraft for its next flight. Depending on the individual, demands and expectations can become a real pressure, which comes with a job that requires a high-level of performance from the entire department. Generally, there are two types of pressure: time-imposed and self-imposed. Time-imposed pressure can be based on an immediate need to finish a task by a specific deadline. Usually, scheduled deadlines are a calendar item over an extended period. Planning effectively and distributing tasks correctly will produce the best performance from your entire team. This proactive approach allows for maximum productivity while reducing both stress and pressure. Many time-based scenarios are sudden and unexpected occurrences, which impact a scheduled event. In the flight department, the event is usually a problematic squawk that has caused a delay in the TAT. In a perfect situation, the Director of Maintenance (DOM) has qualified technicians that can troubleshoot the issue, and the supply room has the part and equipment for a quick repair. Unfortunately, Murphy's Law often comes into play, meaning that if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Even a well-prepared Asset Manager cannot have all the components needed for every possible scenario in repairing an aircraft. Meanwhile, the take-off deadline has not changed, which creates time-based pressure. When a problem or situation arises, there are ways to reduce the negative physical and mental effects of stress, such as:
- Ask for help. Try not to take the complete burden upon yourself. Look for ways to delegate smaller, time-consuming tasks so your primary focus can be on larger and more difficult tasks.
- Communicate clearly and concisely when describing the problem to others, allowing the team to identify methods to solve the squawk and reduce pressure.
- Even when feeling the pressure of a deadline, do not change or adjust procedures with shortcuts to beat the clock.
- If the task requires additional time, do what you can in the time you have, but perform the job safely and professionally. Organizing squawk priority before focusing on a task's deadline is one of the best ways to understand if the deadline is reasonable and achievable, based on resources. There is no substitute for safety.