“When the person in the cabin is happy, we’re happy.”
— Brad Asselin, FPI’s Director of Weather & Flight Planning Services
The nature of professional trip managers is to be overly prepared, yet Mother Nature can wreck even the savviest preparations.
For traveling business executives, quick aviation changes are only as seamless as the skills of their ground and sky operational teams. The shorter the change notice, the more talented the team must be. Mother Nature doesn’t care how talented the team is nor how important the executives are.
All professional trip management companies utilize 24/7 weather-watching departments, but do they all deploy a full in-house Meteorology/Operations team physically sitting side-by-side in their headquarters on a 24/7 basis? Unfortunately, no.
Anytime outsourcing is involved, a higher potential for slowed or slipped details is present, which is why FPI insists on maintaining their 24/7 Meteorology and Operations teams in-house at all times, knowing the smallest trip adjustment can quickly become a costly, complex, and negative impact on the client experience.
This in-house program feature is available to all FPI clients without requiring any membership fees.
Today, we peek behind the curtain to reveal FPI’s elite 24/7 team under the leadership of two gentlemen: Brad Asselin and Kenneth (“Kenny”) Pouncy.
Both men hail from the “moment’s notice” personality of specialized aviation management, albeit from vastly different career backgrounds.
Brad parlayed his University of North Dakota Bachelors of Atmospheric Science degree into a specialized, FAA-funded meteorology research team tasked with the study of icing conditions in Denver’s Winter skies and then thunderstorm conditions in Kansas City’s skies… a task that typically began with a mad scramble to the hangar and into the air when the team would receive formation alerts on their beepers. Eventually, Brad’s unique blend of meteorology with rapid aviation deployment led him to the perfect role as Director of Weather & Flight Planning Services at FPI.
Kenny’s love of fighter jets began during his time as a Naval Aegis air defense controller and grew through his controller certification pursuit at Top Gun school in Nevada. Eventually this love pushed him to earn his wings on an F/A-18 Hornet. To say Kenny knows how to think and move quickly around aviation is an understatement. Today, Kenny leads as FPI’s Sr. Manager, Client Support Services for the Operations department.
Both gentlemen preceded Tom Balousek’s founding of FPI alongside other current FPI leaders during their employment together at Rockwell Collins, after Rockwell had acquired Air Routing (another company of which Balousek was co-founder).
Both gentlemen keenly understand the unique, “on-demand” requirements of corporate aviation, especially in regard to hasty shifts due to weather conditions.
A recent such scenario was a situation where their joint expertise spared a client from the treacherous impact of freezing fog during an overnight tech stop in London before continuing to Qatar for the World Cup.
Although fairly rare for that region, the freezing fog conditions were so likely that Brad’s meteorology team and Kenny’s ops team quickly analyzed the risk and recommended that the client reposition to Scotland instead, especially since the stop was scheduled late at night and over a weekend when permits are typically difficult to modify. Thanks to their advanced notification, the client was able to comfortably decide within a 48-hour window, allowing Kenny’s ops to navigate the many change details (parking, refuel, permits, crew, ground handling, etc) vs. performing a modification melee midstream.
The result was a smooth adjustment for the client which worked out well for both the outbound and inbound directions of their trip.
“We want to treat our clients equally, regardless of aircraft type or VVIP status. I watch all upcoming client airport activity and keep a special eye on those locations during the days/week prior to the flight activity,” says Brad. “Flight plans are major decisions and all decision-makers must have the best data in order to act. All of our clients are unique… Some prefer minimal communication while others prefer frequent reports even in good weather conditions. We’re ready to meet their expectation of service, however that looks.”
Having specialized meteorology monitoring leads to better client experiences even when the change is not a colossal decision under duress.
“Of equal importance to a weather crisis is with the relationship between weather nuances and ground handling,” states Brad. “If schedulers show an 8-hour enroute time, yet with a good tail wind the aircraft arrives in 6:45 hours, Kenny’s team constantly communicates with our ground handlers so that the passenger’s experience remains fluid.
“We prepare our ground team to act for even minor schedule changes that might have a major impact on the passenger,” states Kenny. “In turn, our ground team assists the FBOs with adjustments. And it’s a nice client experience when our SSN team prepares thoughtful perks such as umbrellas, warmed gloves, and a number of other weather-related touches that let the client know we’ve thought of everything, even in the midst of quick changes.”
Recently, FPI received a follow-up note from a client’s Captain declaring his appreciation for “having a Sr. Meteorologist having 24/7 oversight; we appreciate their advice and recommendations,” which resulted in a smooth operation for a particularly complex client trip.
According to Brad, this is exactly their purpose. “That to me is a successful mission. When the person in the cabin is happy, and the person in the front is happy, then we’re happy.”