May - June 2006
An Aircraft’s Business Plan
Justifying Procurement Fixed vs. Direct Costs
Fighting Fire with Flier
Nerves of Steel
An Aircraft’s Business Plan
By David Wyndham
Conklin & de Decker
Why would you need to replace an aircraft or acquire another one? There are two fundamental reasons for acquiring new or different aircraft: the current aircraft can no longer perform the mission or it is no longer cost effective.
If you don’t find that you suffer from either of those two problems, you don’t need to replace your aircraft. But if you do, it’s time to develop an aircraft acquisition plan. An aircraft acquisition plan must contain at a minimum:
For those of you with a business background, think of this as a business plan for an aircraft, and the folks you deal with to get the funding are the investors.
The foundation of the plan is to understand the aviation mission. When this mission is compared to the capabilities of the current aircraft, the picture emerges of where the current aircraft meets and doesn’t meet the requirements.
It is vital that the aircraft mission ties into the overall mission of your department. For example, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has as part of its mission statement: "We will ensure safe and secure borders." So, it can justify having a surveillance aircraft with NVGs, FLIR and other equipment.
Focus now on how your aircraft supplies the solution to the accomplishment of your primary mission. Your chances of securing funding for the new or next aircraft will be vastly improved.
The mission requirements are directly connected to the solution—if the aircraft meets the requirements, then you can successfully execute your mission. Quantify every requirement to the greatest extent possible. This will help avoid the emotional decision and fully justify the aircraft decision to those who need to approve the funding.
Establish your key mission(s). A key mission is one that defines success for the organization’s use of the aircraft. That should tie into the mission statement of your agency. A key mission could be insertion and removal of a SWAT team in an urban environment, day or night. Aircraft requirements would tend to center on cabin size, door size, cargo capacity, range, payload, etc. But be realistic. What do you truly need in order to complete your key mission? Include your current aircraft in the analysis so it becomes a baseline for judging other aircraft.
Separate required and desired criteria. A required criterion is critical for mission success, while a desired criterion enhances the ability to perform the mission. This is important when looking at the value – capability versus cost.
Without a clear understanding of your requirements, the rest of the planning process can be flawless, and you’ll still end up with the wrong aircraft for your mission, a costly error.
Aircraft Technical Analysis
The focus of the technical analysis is on size, features, range and performance. First, do a basic analysis focused on major requirements such as passenger seating, payload, cabin size and range. Develop a short list of candidate aircraft before doing a lengthier, detailed analysis.
Along with eliminating all those that do not meet the requirements, you also want to eliminate those aircraft that are vastly more capable than required. The cost of acquisition and ownership goes up dramatically as size, range and speed increase.
Depending on your key mission, a detailed analysis may include:
Aircraft weight buildup. Don’t forget mission equipment along with the basic aircraft.
Aircraft range and reserve fuel requirements.
Airport restrictions. Don’t find out after the sale that your new aircraft won’t fit in your hangar! Where you operate will define things such as runway requirements, climb and obstacle clearance criteria, etc.
Mission equipment. This can be a short list or an extensive one.
Reliability and support. Include spares locations and the ability of vendors to support the aircraft.
These are some of the major items. Your evaluation parameters may include others. Once you have performed the analysis, rank the aircraft in accordance with how well they meet/exceed your required and desired criteria.
Aircraft Financial Analysis
The financial analysis examines the investment required, the cost of operation and the estimated residual value of the aircraft at the end of the term. The objective of a financial analysis is to determine which of the qualified aircraft provides the optimum combination of these elements over the life of the aircraft operation.
An aircraft financial analysis requires information about:
Utilization. You may need to do this in miles as faster aircraft require fewer hours to accomplish the miles. Vertical lift missions may be expressed in terms of hours. This, along with the schedule, determines how many aircraft you will need.
Lease or purchase? A lease typically has a very low initial payment, but at the end of the lease, you have no residual value; the lessor retains ownership. Purchase includes both finance and full payment up front. With a purchase, you do have ownership and after the payment(s), have an asset with a definite value.
Acquisition price. Available price guides are the Aircraft Bluebook Price Digest, Vref and the Official Helicopter Bluebook. For new aircraft, start with the manufacturer’s list price and add in for the mission equipment.
Trade-in/resale value after the term. As a rule of thumb, use a reduction in a jet aircraft’s value of 3 percent per year, 4 percent for a turboprop or piston and 5 percent for a helicopter.
Length of ownership. Use the same period of operation for each aircraft to be considered.
Taking all the above into account for a defined period provides you with a "life cycle cost." This is step one. Step two will be to use the time-value of money to complete the financial analysis.
The time-value of money places importance on the timing of an expense. Think of interest. It’s important not only how much, but when the expense occurs. Taking the time-value of money into account allows you to compare different streams of expenses such as a lease or purchase to see which one has the better time-value. The purchase needs more money up front while a lease requires little up front money but more money over time.
Terms used to describe the time-value "interest rate" include return on investment and net present value. These are usually abbreviated as ROI and NPV respectively. For a non-revenue operation, the "least negative" NPV is preferred, as there are no revenues saved for the resale value of the aircraft if owned.
What is a typical percent to use for the ROI/NPV analysis? Government agencies usually look at the cost of borrowing money—treasury bill interest rates for example. Just call your financial department, contracting officer, etc., and ask them for the relevant rate. They will be impressed at your level of understanding!
Now that you have your costs, ROI/NPV rate and marginal tax rate, how do you perform the analysis? Today, there are spreadsheet applications that will quickly calculate cash flows and ROI/NPV. Just make sure what you use allows you the flexibility to compare the different options. Look for the ability to vary your cost assumptions and to create reports. If you are a pro at Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet applications, you can even try to do one from scratch.
What the financial analysis will allow you to do is to rank order the capable aircraft to find the one that does the best job for the money. Once you have done this, you can easily go back and adjust the assumptions and re-run the analysis for changes in acquisition cost, interest rates and other variables. This will give you a very clear picture of what your options are.
Value is the final determinant. More often than not, increased capability comes with increased costs. What cost is the extra capability? Will you really use the extra capability? Be realistic in defining your needs, separate out required from desired (or "nice to have") criteria and then look at what each option costs you in terms of total ownership operating cost.
Do you have a plan? When was the plan updated last? Does it address all the elements above? Is it focused in on your agency’s primary mission? Can someone else follow the plan through and arrive at the same conclusion? If you don’t have an aircraft acquisition (or replacement or upgrade) plan, start on one right now. While your mission may change tomorrow, it is far easier to update an existing plan when conditions change unexpectedly than to start from scratch. Remember the old adage "those who fail to plan, plan to fail."
David Wyndham is a partner with Conklin & de Decker. The company provides its clients with the data, tools and consultation they need to effectively analyze and manage their aircraft operations.
Calculating What You Need For Aircraft Purchases
By David Cruz
Homeland Security Sales Manager
You have done all the research and have stacks of brochures and technical books. You have made countless calls to other agencies and gained firsthand knowledge of their experience with certain models of aircraft. The countless hours of making presentations to your administration and possibly civic groups have finally paid off. You have the green light and now it’s time to charge ahead.
The process of acquiring an aircraft for your agency can be an exciting, yet daunting task. It seems that buying an aircraft should be a fairly straightforward process, however, obstacles abound. First and foremost is, and probably always will be, that of money. Did you request enough? Usually a law enforcement aircraft is not just a means of transportation; it is a tool to accomplish a mission. Because the law enforcement aircraft has a specific mission, it needs to be equipped to accomplish that mission.
It will do you no good to have a nice looking, expensive, new aircraft if the only thing you can do with it is go and fly. You need at the very minimum tactical radios, a spotlight and a thermal imaging system. So when asking for funding for a new aircraft, go ahead and ask for a mission-equipped aircraft. More times than not, agencies ask for just enough money to purchase the aircraft and worry about the completion costs later. It is sometimes harder to get money for the completion at a later date. The chief would not order patrol cars without the police equipment installed, so why not order an aircraft with its required mission equipment?
It has taken two or more years of convincing the powers that be that you need a new aircraft and you have all the quotes for the aircraft and equipment. Did you keep this information updated? It is not unusual to request funding in terms of present dollars and then discover by the time you can get an aircraft delivered that you have not requested enough money. Keep your quotes current. Many times, agencies neglect this important factor. Prices change, and, in the aviation world, they usually do not go down.
On most quotes you get, there is a valid quotation date. Usually this is 60 to 90 days. Updated information means having the current and future price, as well as assurance that the model of radio or piece of equipment is still being manufactured.
Be truthful and up front about the real cost of acquiring and operating a helicopter. This is not the time to propose an acquisition on the cheap. It costs a lot of money to acquire and fly aircraft. This has been true since their introduction, and that basic truth has not changed. It should go without saying that you should build in a cushion for your funding request. Ask your manufacturer for future pricing, and if they don’t have it, get an idea of what the history of the price increases have been and calculate what they will be in a year or two. Build in a small percentage increase on top of that and you should not be surprised.
A dynamic to the acquisition process that is relatively new is that of the aircraft delivery date. Just a few short years ago, it would not be uncommon to order an aircraft that was due to come off the assembly line within six months or may even be sitting on the ramp waiting for a customer. Today, that is definitely not the case. Virtually every aircraft manufacturer has a long waiting list for aircraft delivery. There is an unprecedented demand for all types of helicopters worldwide. As fast as the helicopter industry is responding to the challenge, it does not seem to be enough. Fleets are aging and need to be replaced. This is compounded by the fact that missions for the helicopter are being expanded, and more aircraft are required.
You have worked for two years to get the funding for an aircraft with all the bells and whistles that make it a mission-capable aircraft. You contact your aircraft manufacturer of choice to deliver the good news and now discover that there is an extended wait for a new aircraft. The funds you have been approved to spend will vanish at the end of the fiscal year that just started. You are now in a bind to get delivery of the aircraft so the funds can be spent. Although the manufacturer will make every effort to get an aircraft at an earlier date, the manufacturer has also made firm commitments and contractual obligations to other customers waiting for delivery of their aircraft.
When estimating a required delivery date, don’t forget the time it takes to install and integrate all the mission equipment. On most law enforcement equipment, there is a lead time to get the equipment and it is not uncommon to require 16 weeks or more to accomplish the completion. The length of time required for the completion will also depend on the complexity of the mission equipment.
Maintaining a good and close relationship with the manufacturer is very important and can be a key ally in making sure that you don’t encounter significant problems in the acquisition process. Keep them in the loop. They need up-to-date information on what your requirements will be for their production planning purposes.
If you are in the early stage of the acquisition process where you are talking to aircraft manufacturers, and you believe that funding is two years or more out, now is the time to reserve that aircraft.
If you were a commercial customer, you would be required to put a deposit on the aircraft to hold the position. Generally, without exception, government agencies by law can’t do this. Most aircraft manufacturers know this and there is a mechanism to hold an aircraft for you. This is known most commonly as a letter of intent (LOI). It might also be called an MOU or memorandum of understanding. Regardless of the acronym by which it is known, it is simply a letter that states the government agency has the intent to purchase an aircraft at a future date and wishes to have the airframe available by the time the funding is in place.
Generally, LOIs are not binding on the agency to purchase an aircraft. It is the instrument by which a manufacturer can hold a manufacturing position for you without requiring a deposit. This is a very important concept to understand and to relate to your administration. LOIs are common in government administration, and you should not be afraid to ask the chief or sheriff to get one in place. Failure to do so will set you up for a very big surprise when the time comes to actually proceed with the ordering of an aircraft.
Just as planning is the key to safe and successful flights, proper planning is paramount to the aircraft acquisition process. If you have planned properly, by the time your funding has been approved, the manufacture and completion of your helicopter will be accomplished, and your new helicopter will be delivered, completed and ready to go and fight crime in very short order.
If you are preparing for an aircraft acquisition, follow a checklist:
Start by defining the mission for the helicopter and choose the models based on your requirements.
Consider the equipment you need to accomplish your mission and prepare a basic cost for the helicopter and the equipment.
Identify the manufacturers that fill your requirements, begin a dialogue with them and share your timeline.
Get the manufacturer to reserve an aircraft for you for the anticipated delivery date.
Keep your aircraft and equipment quotes up-to-date. Keep your manufacturer informed of your progress and update delivery requirements.
In funding justifications, do not forget to include cost escalation over the time it will take to deliver the helicopter.
Fixed vs. Direct Costs
By Erik Feldmanis
Acquiring an aircraft takes a little more than just picking out a bird and deciding how to pay for it; it includes careful evaluation of what it is actually going to take for continual operations and maintenance.r>
Justifying the need for a flight department depends on whether or not your department presently utilizes aircraft. If you presently utilize aircraft, the justification has probably already been achieved. But with the ever-increasing budgetary cuts felt by just about every agency, departments are forced to find ways to not only reduce spending, but to do so without reducing the service provided to the public. When money gets tight, high-cost amenities are the first to go. Any idea where the bean counters first look? You got it – aircraft!
There are two types of costs associated with aircraft operations: fixed costs and direct costs. Fixed costs include expenditures such as hangar space, insurance, salaries, lease or purchase payments and support equipment. Fixed costs remain the same and are the costs incurred in just having an aircraft. Direct costs are the costs incurred as a result of operating the aircraft, including fuel, oil and maintenance.
If your department does not currently have an aircraft, justification can be a challenge. You’ll hear comments such as, "We’ve gone this long without an aircraft, why do we need one now?" Or, "How are we going to pay for an aircraft?" These are tough, but realistic and fair questions.
Starting a flight department can be expensive and time consuming. However, if proper planning and research is done, the result can be a valuable asset to the department and the public it serves. So, how do we justify the procurement of an aircraft?
As we know, communities throughout America are growing at an exponential rate. Towns that were once separated by miles now look like one large metropolitan city. With more and more homes being built and roads added to the map, there are even more people per square mile than just a year or so ago. An increase in population changes the ratio of officer to citizen. Increases in population also mean more congestion and crime. Congestion results in longer response times, more service calls and less time for routine patrol. Departments can be turned from a proactive service to a reactive service. An aircraft can remedy that forced change by patrolling a larger area in less time and providing new resources to ground units.
For a department considering developing a flight division, mission requirements and aircraft selection go hand-in-hand. The mission requirement must include at least a determination of the aircraft’s objective. You might want to consider getting assistance from existing law enforcement aviation divisions, because this is going to be very involved and specific. Without the experience or understanding of aviation assets, mission requirements may not be fully identified. Once the objective is determined, however, the selection of the aircraft begins.
When dealing with an existing flight department, the difficulty comes with replacing the current aircraft. New technology is ever evolving, offering newer and more capable equipment. This includes both aircraft and accessories. Is it time to upgrade into newer, faster, more technologically advanced aircraft or systems, or can the service be provided effectively and efficiently with the same type of aircraft and newer support systems? Newer technology means more financial investment, regardless of whether it’s aircraft or mission equipment.
Procuring an aircraft with substantially more capability than required can be just as problematic as procuring an aircraft that cannot meet the needs or requirements. Another decision pertains to how the aircraft will be operated in terms of regulatory guidelines. Federal Aviation Regulation Part 61 dictates crew requirements and Part 91 dictates the rules and regulations pertaining to the operation of the aircraft. This includes an annual inspection and all applicable service bulletins. Under public use, the Federal Aviation Administration has no jurisdiction over the operation of the aircraft. This, however, can be unsafe if taken literally. Aircraft require maintenance, and a lot of it. Skipping manufacturer required or recommended maintenance can result in mechanical failure. Mechanical failure can easily result in injury or death.
Budgetary constraints are almost always the determining factor as to whether a department procures an aircraft. New aircraft have obvious benefits, but those benefits cost. Initial investment is high, but warranties cover most mechanical issues in the beginning. Used aircraft are less expensive, but maintenance costs are typically higher.
Another means by which to procure an aircraft without a substantial initial investment is through leasing. Leasing usually results in lower monthly payments, and at the end of the term, you walk away. One restriction that you might run into with a lease is that a lessor may not allow the aircraft to be operated under public use. Typically, all required maintenance must be completed as recommended by the manufacturer.
Aircraft, especially rotorcraft, have many time-limited components. The more time on an aircraft, the sooner the parts are going to have to be replaced. Surplus aircraft are available, but these are aircraft that the military no longer wants to operate. They are typically high-time aircraft with no warranty. This doesn’t mean that they are junk; it just means they’ve been used. Maintenance on these aircraft is well documented, and the maintenance is quite good. /p>
One very important thing to think about in terms of aircraft procurement is the maintenance requirements and costs on a specific airframe. In other words, once you find a specific aircraft, work with the seller and an independent qualified mechanic to determine what the projected annual maintenance costs are going to be based on the anticipated annual flying projection. Then determine the other fixed and direct costs.
There are several options available in terms of acquiring aircraft. That’s the easy part. The most difficult part of the procurement process is determining the aircraft’s objectives, knowing all the costs involved and educating the end-users on the capabilities of the aircraft and its equipment.
Law enforcement aviation assets have proven their worth time and time again. Newer technologies are constantly being introduced to aid agencies in fighting crime, and aircraft are not exempt. So many things are available, as long as you have the money to spend.
Fighting Fire with Flier
Sarasota Partnership Goes Airborne
By Lisa A. Wright
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office recently purchased a mission-equipped Bell 407 to reduce the number of fires breaking out in drought stricken Florida.
Although the Aviation Unit of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) is primarily focused on law enforcement missions, it has recently added firefighting to its list of tactical roles. That is due in part to a joint partnership with the Sarasota County Fire Department to acquire an aircraft that can assist in extinguishing manmade and natural wildfires.
"This is our first year to be able to fight fires," said SCSO Chief Pilot Roger Jernigan. "For the last five to six years, we’ve been an aerial observation platform only. We were able to take up fire department command staff to show where the head of the fire was going so they could direct their resources properly. Basically, you feel helpless up there just flying in circles and not being able to do anything more." But that’s now changing.
The acquisition process of evaluation, funding and training took about two years, but in October of 2005, the SCSO took delivery of a new Bell 407. Trading in a 1999 Bell 206 BIII, the aviation unit wanted to expand mission capabilities and obtain greater performance and payload.
Dep. Steve Boone explained that the pilots examined several key points when selecting their aircraft:
The 407’s similarity to the 206 series made pilot and maintenance transition much easier.
The product support staff and the training facility personnel established a good relationship.
The department’s 20-year relationship with Bell Helicopter and their affiliated companies ensured a continual positive relationship.
"After deciding on the aircraft, we approached the fire department early on and asked if they wanted to partner on this project," said Jernigan. "We jointly gave presentations to administration and public officials on the benefits of aerial firefighting. As expensive as law enforcement is in general, and with all the budgetary constraints that everyone faces, any kind of partnership is viable and a good way of doing business. The cooperation helped to make things happen."
Sarasota County is home to approximately 350,000 residents, beautiful scenery and a warm climate. Each year in Florida, however, thousands of acres of wildland and many homes are destroyed by fires that can erupt at any time from a variety of causes, including arson, lightning and debris burning. Adding to the fire hazard is the growing number of people living in communities built in areas that were once wildland. This growth places even greater pressure on first responders. Fire protection becomes everyone’s responsibility.
The U.S. Forest Service predicts a significant fire season in the south for 2006. Fire Staff Officer James Hart of the National Forests in Florida in a press release said that debris from past hurricanes and fuel buildup could lead to a potentially catastrophic fire season this year.
"There is a real, critical drought situation right now in our county, and we’re only a month into fire season," explained Capt. Steve Burns, Special Operations Bureau Commander, saying that the day before, within a two-hour period, 50 loads of 256 gallons of water apiece were dumped in an area that had several structures, vehicles and homes at risk.
The Sarasota Aviation Unit is using the Simplex Fire Attack system, which is a 264-gallon tank fixed aboard the aircraft. It was funded by the Sarasota County Fire Department, along with the installation, delivery and training for the crew. All pilots are now certified as a Firefighter 2, having taken extensive firefighting and aerial suppression classes developed through the Division of Forestry.
As of mid-April (six weeks of operation), the system had already allowed the crew to help extinguish eight fires. The fire department and local U.S. Forestry personnel have been very pleased with the results and consider the system to be a worthy addition for both departments.
"From the firefighting aspect, in conditions like this, being able to extinguish a 25-foot patch of grass that’s on fire before it becomes a million dollar operation is incredible," said Burns. "A wildfire can spread quickly over 700, 800, 900 acres where people could lose their homes or lives. That’s another reason why aviation is irreplaceable."
"Recently, we had a Forestry tractor that was stuck in the woods–literally stuck. The fire was within 20 feet of the tractor itself, which has an open cab. The firefighters who were inside the tractor ran out of water. We were able to direct the pilot in to where the tractor was and extinguish the fire around it."
In almost 30 years of operation, the SCSO has been accident free, and safety is paramount to the unit. There are three full-time pilots and one part-time pilot, one full-time mechanic and six tactical flight officers. In addition to the new 407, the unit also operates a 1979 Beech Baron 58P, acquired through the surplus program of the U.S. Forestry Service for $3,000.
In addition to fighting fires in the reported six-week period, the aviation unit had responded to 117 law enforcement calls. Their usual mission calls include investigating robberies, vehicle pursuits, locating missing children or Alzheimer’s patients, surveillance of suspects and prisoner transport.
"For obvious reasons, an aircraft is an irreplaceable asset and resource when you’re able to be in the right place at the right time to help," said Burns. "You can’t get that from the ground units. The tactical aspects of aviation are unmatched by any other resource you could have."
Nerves of Steel
Factors in Psychological Resilience
By Dr. Tania Glenn
Readiness Group International, LLC
One of the most compelling areas of research these days is on human resiliency – what makes some people rise to the occasion and get through a situation just fine, while others seem to be significantly and negatively impacted, if not changed forever. Resiliency is defined as the capability to withstand shock without permanent deformation or rupture or the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change. Resilience in law enforcement and aviation is found at both the individual and team levels, and professionals in airborne law enforcement are demonstrating that resilience is both inherent and taught.
There are several factors that impact the resilience of the individual. These are proximity to the event, overload, ambiguity, guilt and fortitude/predispositions.
Proximity to the Event
Obviously, the closer one is to an event, the more likely he or she is to be exposed to those aspects of the event that may be traumatic or overwhelming. Exposure to mass casualty incidents or major events impacting colleagues, children or known victims profoundly and deeply affects those in the line of duty. I once did a debriefing for a situation that resulted in the death of several children, and there was an understandable and clear delineation in reactions and impact on those who were performing CPR on the children versus those whose job was on the periphery doing traffic and scene control.
While proximity to an event increases the likelihood that one will be exposed to traumatic stimuli, thereby affecting the resilience of the individual, one cannot overlook the negative impact of being away when something happens. The guilt associated with not being available to respond and help can be just as powerful as being exposed directly to an event. Many airborne law enforcement personnel struggle with the fact that they were out of town or perhaps on vacation when a major event occurred, and they were not able to help out.
As you all know from the teachings of Crew Resource Management, maximum efficiency is correlated to having the appropriate number of tasks to keep you busy and focused. This is the happy medium between boredom and being overloaded. People who are overloaded report much higher levels of stress than their counterparts who have fewer tasks to perform.
One of the main sources of occupational stress reported by those in the workplace is having too many things to do. When major events occur, those who are already overloaded will struggle with maintaining a sense of control and mastery of the situation at hand, and in doing so, reduce their overall resilience to the negative effects of the event. Large scale events resulting in the overloading of individuals who respond are often characterized by chaos, strife, conflict and a great deal of confusion among responders. Several hours of this type of response are draining, demoralizing and leave individuals frustrated and overwhelmed. Over time, the experience of feeling overwhelmed and overloaded will result in decreased productivity and efficiency, loss of control and ultimately a drop in the resiliency of individuals.
When potential stressors are ambiguous rather than clear-cut, a person’s ability to take action is reduced. He or she must spend time and energy attempting to understand the stressors before actions can be taken to eliminate or reduce the stressors. Clear-cut stressors allow individuals to problem-solve and take action rather than remaining in the problem-definition stage.
Ambiguity is but one of the most negative forces for law enforcement and aviation professionals. Both careers are characterized by frequent assessments and actions that are designed to eliminate problems. In every situation, pilots and law enforcement officers constantly are required to define and respond to a multitude of problem causing dynamics. The goal is to stop or eliminate the problems in a quick and safe manner. When ambiguity exists, problem definition and action are postponed, leaving law enforcement officers with potentially dangerous circumstances. Obviously, the longer the ambiguity lasts, the greater the potential for a negative outcome.
In addition to this, the field of airborne law enforcement draws professionals who achieve a level of control in their lives that allow them to do their jobs effectively and safely. Aviation law enforcement professionals who face highly ambiguous situations sometimes leave these events with a sense of loss of control, thereby reducing their resiliency in recovering from an event.
When critical events result in outcomes that are less than desirable, aviation law enforcement professionals sometimes walk away with a sense of guilt. Guilt may take several forms, including feeling guilty for not being able to do more, feeling guilty after experiencing a sense of relief that an event happened to someone else or the most debilitating form of guilt – survivor guilt.
After a line of duty death, the surviving members of a department will often experience guilt due to the fact that a peer has died. Officers in the throws of grief will wonder why their law enforcement brother or sister died while they were spared. Survivor guilt is one of the most powerful and negative emotions experienced by human beings, and it is typically marked by significant longevity.
Chronic guilt and the pain associated with it will over time decrease resiliency. Aviation personnel who struggle with survivor guilt and who are not able to effectively address it may even become clinically depressed. It is imperative that airborne law enforcement professionals who are not able to master survivor guilt get help in order to prevent further, serious problems.
Fortitude & Predispositions
There are several characteristics that are consistent among resilient individuals. Resilient people have the tendency to bounce back from adversity and recover from most things. They often see problems as opportunities and demonstrate the ability to sustain when times are tough. Resilient people are not afraid to ask for help when they need it and enjoy providing help to others when they can.
Resilient people also have healthy, supportive social networks. They have a wide comfort zone for various types of situations and frequently demonstrate the wherewithal to handle difficult and different situations well.
Finally, resilient people are generally optimistic, have a positive view of their strengths and abilities and have the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses. Resilient individuals have balanced lives and take a proactive approach to self care. They practice their hobbies, their faith and stress management consistently.
There are a number of things that law enforcement and aviation professionals can do to increase their resiliency. The first thing to do is to look back at previous events and assess the impact and the ripple effects that negative events have had. Figuring out the types of coping strategies used during and after negative events–both good and bad–is the next step. From there, law enforcement aviators should assess what they learned about themselves from these events and how they changed as a result. Finally, an honest look at coping style and the ability to overcome obstacles will show officers where their strengths are and also areas that can be improved.
The other thing to keep in mind with regards to building resiliency is to maintain a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle. To offset the stressors of the job, it is imperative that law enforcement aviation personnel invest in their families, their hobbies and their faith–whatever keeps them satisfied, happy, nurtured and relaxed. Living this way is the most effective tactic for building and maintaining resilience and will result in a state of readiness for whatever is next.