Four Reasons Why Metrics Matter in Business Aviation

Four Reasons Why Metrics Matter in Business Aviation

Four Reasons Why Metrics Matter in Business Aviation

This is a post by guest author Jim Lara, founder and principal of Gray Stone Advisors. Jim was asked to contribute to this blog because of his expertise in assisting business aviation operators strengthen organizational performance and outcomes. Any thoughts expressed below are entirely Jim’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.

Ask any business leader if metrics matter, and I guarantee you’ll get a resounding "Yes." Why? Metrics help organizations focus on what really matters and drive improvements in performance and outcomes.

But why do metrics matter so much in business aviation?

Well, just imagine what shape your flight department would be in if you didn’t track financial expenditures or when maintenance was due. Things would be totally chaotic, with expenses through the roof. You’d be lucky to still operate an aircraft!

Four business reasons to use metrics

Metrics tell the story of where an aviation organization has been, its present trajectory, whether things are going right or wrong, and when an organization reaches or exceeds its targets.

While there are a plethora of reasons why metrics matter, I’ve narrowed down what I consider to be the top four justifications for implementing a metrics reporting system in a business aviation operation:

  1. The most obvious (and often the most powerful) is that metrics dramatically help identify potential cost savings, operational inefficiencies and opportunities for better performance and results.
  2. They help business units and senior leadership know what’s happening in their organization outside of their traditional aviation department or group. This is quite important for senior leadership, who must be involved with multiple teams and don’t have time to read lengthy reports. They want key performance indicators (KPIs) that provide the big picture without having to sift through a thesis to find what they need.
  3. They force the team to draw a line in the sand as to when performance data is acceptable and not acceptable, and then set clear goals. The metrics can be both historical (cost per mile flown or number of passengers carried, for example) and future-oriented (such as projected operational costs for the next calendar year).
  4. They, in conjunction with other reporting tools, help the aviation unit achieve its desired outcomes – both short- and long-term. Successful business units apply metrics information to influence positive change and improve day-to-day operations. It’s not rocket science, just common sense!

What to measure

Focus on the metrics that matter most, not just on the ones that are easily measured, even if it takes longer than you expected. Take advantage of your internal resources for help in assembling the metrics. If you’re fortunate enough to have a financial analyst or a Lean Six Sigma practitioner working with your flight department, embrace his/her knowledge, enlist his/her expertise in deciding how to best track the results, and then put the information to good use!

Business aviation metrics often fall into four categories:

  • Level I – Give me a number, any number. (Careful! Providing numbers without understanding what they mean can be dangerous.)
  • Level II – Activity-based metrics (What’s happening on a contemporaneous basis? Ask yourself, "Why does this number really matter, and what are we going to do with it?")
  • Level III – Predictive metrics (where you are likely to end up at the end of a quarter or year)
  • Level IV – Value creation (quantification of owner or shareholder value produced or influenced by business aviation)

You really want to measure the vital few results that matter most, as well as only those areas that you can influence. For instance, you can’t do much about the big depreciation numbers, but you can certainly impact the weighted average cost of fuel (your biggest variable cost)!

Metrics allow you to report on important results within five operational areas:

1. Operational metrics – Unless these are put into context, they are a waste of everyone’s collective time.

  • Miles flown
  • Flight hours
  • Passengers accommodated (how many and by name)
  • Fuel consumed
  • Approved versus actual headcount (or full-time vs. contract)

2. Service metrics – Measure what really matters to passengers:

  • Reliability of the on-board Wi-Fi and other productivity systems
  • Cabin appearance and in-flight service quality
  • On-time arrivals
  • Passenger feedback (positive and negative)

3. Safety metrics – How engaged is the entire workforce?

  • Safety incidents
  • Safety management system (SMS) submissions
  • Flight operational quality assurance (FOQA) has been exceeded
  • Employee health and safety (EH&S) incidents

4. Budget metrics – Track just the most impactful (big spend) items:

  • People costs
  • Scheduled and unscheduled maintenance
  • Fuel
  • Training and development
  • Insurance

5. Value-creation metrics – How is business aviation creating value for its high net worth owner or executive team?

  • Executive time saved
  • Deals closed using corporate aircraft
  • Customer-facing opportunities created by corporate aircraft
  • Delivering what the owner or enterprise deems to be of extraordinary value

Once you’ve identified what you want to measure, remember to keep the metric definitions simple. If it’s too complex, you haven’t thought it through adequately. Complexity is easy. Simplicity is elegant.

A well thought-out metrics tracking and forecasting system will help your aviation unit stay on target and, at the same time, provide senior leadership with powerful statistics to ensure future outcomes are achieved.


If you have any questions about this article, contact me at or via phone at (865) 357-5077.