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The CAM: In Context

Posted on: October 1st, 2013 by Pete Agur

Your Business Aviation department’s leaders should to be Certified Aviation Managers (CAM).

Why would I say that and what does it means to you, as a Board Member, and what can you do about it?


Behind the Challenge

Within your Business Aviation department, each professional discipline is very focused and limited in scope:

-          Pilots fly,

-          Technicians maintain and

-          Schedulers coordinate.

Very few aviation professionals are cross functionally trained, much less fully conversant or appreciative of the ins and outs of their cohorts’ roles and responsibilities.  In other words, very few aviation professionals are generalists.  Yet the key to being a successful leader and manager is to have a grasp of the whole of the business: to be a generalist.  Without that broader perspective, the managers of your aviation department are handicapped in their ability to lead and work well together.  Additionally, they will have greater difficulty providing the direction that is most appropriate and effective for the business of the department and the organization it supports.  In other words, as technical experts, they will likely do things right.  But, will they be doing the right things for the right reasons?

A number of years ago members of the NBAA’s Corporate Aviation Management Committee recognized the need for improved Business Aviation leadership and managerial development and certification.  I’m intimately familiar with those efforts because I was a member of that group and am a CAM.  In the end, a thorough design and development process resulted in today’s CAM program.  Some fast facts about the CAM:

-          There are currently more than 200 CAMs, including pilots, technicians, schedulers, and administrators.

-          A candidate for the CAM exam must meet minimum qualifications consisting of a blend of education, experience and approved course credits.

-          The CAM exam contains 175 questions covering five subject areas and is completed in a proctored environment over 3 and ½ hours.  Those topic areas are

  • o   Leadership
  • o   Business Management
  • o   Human Resources
  • o   Operations
  • o   Technical, Facilities, and Services
  • o   Over 80% of CAM applicants pass the exam in their first try

-          The exam program is conducted by ISO-Quality Testing, Inc., an independent testing organization.

-          Ongoing CAM qualification includes the requirement to be periodically recertified through continuous studies and participation in approved industry courses and events.

The CAM program is overseen by an independent governing board.  That board is currently seeking accreditation of the CAM program through the NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies).  You can learn more about the NBAA’s CAM program at


Why Should Your Board Endorse the CAM for Your Companies Aviation Leaders and Managers?

Two reasons:

  1. 1.       The Business Aviation department is responsible for the safe and effective transportation of your company’s most important assets: its people.  The leaders and managers of that department must be the best they can be or there will be heightened levels of risks for the operation and the company.  The CAM program supports the goal of leadership excellence.
  2. 2.       The company’s investment in Business Aviation assets and operations is among the highest it makes in non-core operations.  It is essential that this high visibility business unit be well led and managed.


Specifically, What Should Your Board Do?

Your Board should require that each person in a leadership or managerial role, within the Business Aviation department (or candidates for these positions) either be a CAM or become a CAM within a reasonable period of time.

The Board should also seek confirmation that the managers and leaders within the aviation department have the resources to do their jobs (to include the time needed to prepare for and maintain their CAM status).  This may be more demanding than it sounds because Most Business Aviation departments are staffed to achieve operational effectiveness, but not for full managerial and administrative business unit requirements.  For instance, for most companies, the Director (if he or she is an aviator) or the Chief Pilot often flies a schedule that matches or exceeds the norm for a line captain.  That means aviation professionals often lead and manage their departments in their spare time.  The Board should expect the company’s aviation department’s leaders to have the time available that is needed to do their primary jobs.  What the ratio should be, between managing and flying, depends on the maturity of the department and the level of its challenges.

The Board should also require the Business Aviation department’s professional development budget be consistent with that of other business units.  In fact, a greater budget might be initially necessary because they may be starting from a lower level of competence and development than your other business units’ leaders.  An important side note: much of the department’s current “training budget” may not actually be a training budget at all.  It may be primarily a maintenance budget focused on pilots and technicians attending technical recurrent sessions that have nothing to do with career or professional development.  I recommend the company use a different label for recurrent technical training.  This will keep “recurrent” dollars from skewing the accounting for the real investment for professional development.


So, that places the CAM in context.  It is an excellent tool for developing the competence of your Business Aviation department’s leaders and managers.  And as a Board member, you can make the recommendation that a CAM be a requirement and assure the support for the achievement of that goal.

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