I’m surprised at how the word “communication” is so easy to pronounce, and almost everyone believes is easily accomplished. But is it?

As a director of maintenance, this one single word could be the key to your success! We know that in a large operation, whether it is an MRO or aircraft management company, the structure is such that there are many departments that make up the whole of the operation. Being a good communicator has to be at the top of our list to bring our specific department up to its best performance level that can be achieved.

At smaller repair stations, the DOM often wears many hats. In addition to maintenance, training and safety, he or she is also tasked with other functions such as marketing, accounting, HR, billing, customer interface, warranty and parts ordering. The common key that is important to all of these hats is communication.

All great leaders have one trait in common — they are good communicators!

If you are leading a team, whether it is a medical staff, baseball club, aircraft maintenance shop or an aviation management company, communication has to be flowing at all times — from the most junior person to the president of the company. We all want to win and be successful leaders, and one way to do this is to be a good communicator!  

I’ll give you a prime example of how a common issue with a Part 135 operation was resolved by a modern form of communicating:

 As director of maintenance for an operation out of Teterboro, N.J., we operated FAA Part 91, 125 and 135 programs. As you may all know, when your aircraft are flying domestically and internationally, your time off is usually very short-lived with the cell phone ringing constantly at all hours of the day and night. Per the FAA and our approved operating manuals, myself, dispatch and the director of operations were always required to know the status of our aircraft anywhere in the world at any given moment.

1) The Issue:  

When pilots arrived to their final destination for that duty day, after the passengers were unloaded and while the flight attendants tidied up the aircraft, flight crews would fill out the maintenance flight log and then go into the FBO and fax the form to the office. That’s easier said than done when you land in Moscow or the Middle East after a long duty day and no fax worth using is available. The crews would sometimes need to take the maintenance flight logs to the hotel and try to fax them from there. I wasn’t always in the office, especially after a 14-hour day, when I was asleep at three in the morning, in Savannah with our G550 in maintenance, or even worse — if I was on board our B767 as the in-flight maintenance engineer (remember all the hats we wear?).

2) The Solution:

Why couldn’t the flight crew use their smart phones to snap a picture of the maintenance flight log and email it to dispatch, myself and the director of operations? This solution worked perfectly and was well received by all crew members and management. It was introduced into our GMM and GOM manuals and accepted by our local FAA office. All responsible were aware of our aircraft status no matter where we were, and best of all — the Logs always stayed in the aircraft.

It worked so well, whenever the crew had an MEL, they would send me an email, I would write out the verbiage per our GMM, snap a picture and the crew would copy it word for word on the maintenance log book page and send me a snap shot back.

So,lets sum up different ways to communicate:

1) Electronic Communication

There are many ways to use this technology to our advantage, and if you think about your specific operation, I’m sure ideas will click in your head. At your next meeting, communicate and introduce positive ways to improve and streamline your company’s work load.

2) Verbal Communication

This must be practiced and used on a daily basis. Keep your morning meetings short and to the point. Inform all your technicians of what the objectives are for the day. As you assign the daily work, observe body language — if you sense a negative feeling, address it immediately in a positive way so the technician feels that his/her input is being heard. He or she may have a better idea of how the work project should progress that day or alert you to a detail you may have overlooked. Keep in mind that all the hats you wear may sometimes cause you to bypass or overlook an important detail, and relying on your team to communicate this to you brings your team together as one.

3) Hand Signals

Prior to running engines, hydraulics, electrical power and landing gear swings (to name a few) after an inspection or repair, have a quick meeting and go over the plan with your leads or techs — whether you are using microphones, radios or just plain hand signals. Everyone should be on the same page of what signals will be used, especially if an emergency occurs. 

4) Positive reinforcement

Your technician is busy riveting a new skin on a wing or panel or a technician just found a crack during an airframe inspection. A simple pat on the back, a fist to fist or a big smile with a compliment can be huge forms of positive communication and a building block to becoming a good leader.

5) Listening

This is very important because this allows those in leadership roles to more accurately respond to the concerns of those they lead fostering a more productive team overall.

 These are just a few forms of communicating. There are so many more that can be adapted to fit your style and personality. The important part of all this is that you must master your communicating skills to be able to express your thoughts, opinions and direction effectively!

Phillip Esparza owns and operates Semper Fi Aviation out of Fort Worth, TX.  Esparza served with the USMC as a crew chief on helicopters. He has been active in aviation for 35 years and holds an FAA A&P, IA, private pilot’s license and serves as the Fort Worth area Designated Maintenance Examiner (DME). He has held positions with Aerospatiale helicopter  Corp, (now American Eurocopter) as a field service representative, Bombardier Business Aircraft as an international field service representative covering Mexico and Central America. He also worked with Dallas Airmotive as an international engine maintenance sales representative for Latin America. He held the position of flight line technician as well as field service working on F-16s in the UAE with Lockheed Martin. Phillip has held positions as general manager for a large 145 repair station in Fort Worth, and director of maintenance for Polaris Aviation Solutions based in Teterboro, NJ. He has worked globally and has extensive knowledge of International logistics, maintenance practices and interior and completion projects. He currently is a consultant for FAA Part 145, 125, and 135 operations, aircraft completions, maintenance, interior and international maintenance operations.

Visit his website at

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