The Importance of the Station Manager in Africa
Flight Supervision entails the coordination of all the activities around an aircraft at any location and ensures all required services are provided on time and to the satisfaction of the crew. The work of the station manager is critical for smooth operations and ensuring the quality of service meets and supersedes the customer’s expectations.
When an aircraft arrives and departs from any location, supervisors provide their link to the ground, showcasing and projecting the image of a caring and responsive company. The station manager mobilizes ground service providers, so operators experience the reassurance that they are in capable hands.
Often operators who are inexperienced in Africa have the misconception that the continent is unrivalled in its inefficiency and lack of proper services and procedure. Therefore, it can come as a surprise when they land at a remote airstrip in Northern Kenya for example, to find a team of support staff neatly dressed in yellow reflector jackets waiting at the apron, with a sparkling GPU, baggage trolleys and other equipment by their side. It even gets better when upon opening the aircraft door, a local station manager greets the crew and welcomes them to the location and then proceeds to ask if they would have any special requirements for the onward journey.
In the absence of a supervisor, it is likely that the ground handler will accord all operators the same treatment- this makes it unlikely that they will get the same feeling of being completely taken care of as they would if they were in the care of a dedicated station manager.
It is the case, however, that some parts of Africa experience poor communication and the infrastructure may not be as developed as in many western countries. With a station manager on the ground, operators don’t have to notice this difference as all arrangements will have been made in advance and crew may not need to communicate with anyone other than their head offices. It should not be forgotten that before this stage of the flight, there would be a lot of preparation and coordination to ensure everything goes according to plan. Station managers ensure all areas are adequately covered, all background information is checked, all NOTAMs have been previously communicated, and hotels and transport for the crew is well-organised.
The station manager typically prepares a checklist of all the requirements well in advance to ensure that nothing is overlooked. They are the link between the operator and the authorities of the country visited including Air Navigation, CAAs and Airport Authorities. In Africa, the vast majority of these bodies are government owned, and bureaucratic red tape can become a hindrance when seeking services. With the expertise of an experienced station manager, however, this hurdle is often removed, paving the way for smooth operations. Also, a local station manager is best placed to engage with the authorities and find out whatever permissions may be required.
Most people in aviation tend to remain within the industry for many years and several decades of combined aviation experience can make a supervisor practically irreplaceable. Depending on their locations, they are interacting with people they have already worked with at previous engagements. This makes it much easier to deliver fast and efficient services. Another role of the supervisor is to ensure that payments are prearranged. Many Airport Authorities in Africa require that airport related charges are paid for in cash, and an unsuspecting operator will fly into a region without this information and find themselves in trouble.
Station managers also play a pivotal role in gathering information and intelligence that can be of significant importance for the company’s sales and marketing strategy. Such information could help in gaining a competitive edge and in making realistic long-term goals and objectives for the company. As the person on the ground, they are guaranteed to have the most in-depth knowledge and information about a particular location.
These are the specifics of the crucial role of the supervisor in Africa. Indeed, their importance cannot be understated. Good station managers dealing with operations in Africa presents a win-win situation for both the clients and the service providers.