Aviation Execs Should Use Isolation Time To Plan Exit Strategy

We’d like to thank Steve Ford – pilot and author of 20 West for allowing us to share this article.

As the world is engulfed by Covid-19, it is extremely difficult to imagine a clearly defined exit.

The speed with which the outbreak impacted aviation globally was, in the grand scheme of things, instantaneous. It was only a few short months ago at the beginning of 2020 that I wrote about globalisation and that it was something to be embraced and not feared!

I have spent the last week trying to apply an ‘engineer’s logic’ to how the future may look and slowly, piece-by-piece, I am coming to a vision, albeit a personal one, of a post-pandemic industry.

Cash is king.

This has always been true of business and those that are heavily leveraged will, without any shadow of a doubt, struggle to tread water during the global lockdown. There will be casualties.

The operators and businesses that already had a fiscal war chest built up will be judged in the future by their next step with regard to their assets. Not in the traditional sense, airframes and infrastructure, but in the area most valuable to rebuilding their business and market share – their employees.

Already there have been some spectacular own-goals by carriers that in the split second between realising there was a problem and government interventions, laid off their staff in the thousands.

Some governments have led by example and literally wrapped their arms around the citizens they know that will be at the very core, to not only weathering the storm, but in re-building a nation.

The same is true of a business, especially in a highly specialised technical industry such as aviation and aerospace.

Adapting to the changes rapidly is critical in order to not only support the fight against the coronavirus, but also to bring in new revenue streams. Again, some operators have quickly adapted to freight and cargo operations in lieu of normal operations.

There has to be by definition, two distinct time frames; lockdown and post-lockdown.

The lockdown period has been discussed above, but what about the post-lockdown as the world slowly and probably ‘regionally emerges’ from isolation?

Human behaviour and responses will undoubtedly be different. They have to be, as the ‘psyche’ of every single person on the planet will have been effected. Do you really want to sit in row 66 with other people in the future?

Where I can see gains, and there are already signs of this, is in the executive and business jet markets. We saw this post 9/11 and we will, I believe, see this again, as companies and people take more control of their environment.

Resilience is something we all require in order to stay healthy in the physical and commercial sense.

So while you may find yourself in isolation today, plan your exit strategy and use the time wisely. As individuals, we are masters of our own destinies. As industry leaders, your decisions affect humanity.

Stay safe.

Steve Ford: Pilot, author, commentator
Steve Ford is the author of 20 West: A journey through six decades of turbulent change within aviation.

Born in Portsmouth in the UK, Ford trained as a professional aircraft engineer and holds aircraft engineering licences both sides of the Atlantic, having served a full apprenticeship with British Caledonian Airways. He joined BCal in 1978. Full independent Airline Transport Pilot’s licences, again from both sides of the Atlantic, coupled with a solid engineering background have provided extensive opportunities to exercise the two disciplines; with British Aerospace and from 1993 to 2016 with Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Ford remains passionate about the aviation industry which led him to write his first book, ‘20 West’. Spanning six decades, from propeller-driven transport aircraft to composite, fly-by-wire and wide-body double-decker aircraft plucked from the pages of science fiction, 20 West charts the emotion, the physical experience, the joy and the anguish of flying. It is not a blow-by-blow account of the aviation industry. Nor is it merely one person’s story of their career in aviation. Rather, it is a collection of snapshots – some humorous, some heart-breaking – of the people and the aircraft that shaped a lifelong passion for flight.

Now living in West Sussex, nestled against the South Downs National Park, Ford continues to fly and is adamant that he continues to learn…

This article by kind permission of Steve Ford in association with


Politics of the air must not jeopardise livelihoods

It takes a lot to get me all fired up. This week, however, has been different……

The circumstances within which we find ourselves globally is unprecedented, and for an industry that is so cash flow dependent, disastrous.

I have always believed that no matter what it is we do professionally and however we live privately, at some time and somewhere along the line, we will trip up.

Sometimes it is a scraped knee and sometimes we fall flat on our face.

At the moment, as a whole, I would argue that as an industry we are in the latter category.

What differentiates us as individuals and as companies is how we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, assess the damage and work out how to move forward.

Lashing out at everybody around, getting the lawyers in to sue the property owner and demanding a helping hand is one way of dealing with the issue. The alternative is by way of reflection and accepting support where offered and by being better equipped for the next journey through experience.

So why am I so disappointed?

Well, it is because of a growing realisation that ‘politics of the air’ is creeping into the fray and the chess piece being used is, sadly, people.

Without any shadow of a doubt, it is the men and women within the industry that are the very heart of it, giving their all to deliver, day and night.

They are the people that designed, manufactured, supplied, built and operated the machines of the industry that allowed profits to grow and dividends to be taken.

Right now however, in some instances, they are being used in a game of political chicken.

As soon as I see operators and manufacturers banding around ‘potential’ redundancies in the tens of thousands it gets my attention and everyone else’s, not least of course, the employees. Note the use of the word ‘potential’.

So now the pressure is on, banging on the doors of governments, unions and the press, whilst negotiating bail outs.

Can you imagine for a second what is going on in the households of people all over the world and the conversations they are having? I know, because as well as being an employer, I have been on the other side of the fence as an employee, with companies having folded underneath me.

There is a lot of talk, certainly in the UK about the secondary effects from Covid-19 as a result of the devastating economic impact on society and people’s mental health.

So where am I going with this?

Well, to put it bluntly, a plea on behalf of those who have been there before and for those who find themselves there today; remember that it is people you will need tomorrow so please don’t play politics with their lives. This is for real.

I accept that tough decisions and in turn actions have to be taken to protect businesses, but it has to be with compassion and dignity. Surely it is the least we can do.