US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously said 'there are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns' during a Department of Defense news briefing in 2002. He used this framework to explain the complexity of intelligence analysis and the challenges of making decisions in uncertain situations.
The point he was trying to make, says Singh, was that in intelligence work, you must deal not only with what you know and what you don't know, but also with the potential for surprise factors that could impact on decisions and actions.
While general aviation and trip support services are removed from the specific complexities of military intelligence gathering, it does pose a diverse set of variables that sometimes are unexpected even to experienced professionals. Icarus Jet has endured its fair share throughout the years, and Singh shares here how, although they were all salvaged, four difficult situations could have been even worse. He calls them the communication error, challenges in slot allocation, a Greek dilemma and an India overflight headache.
In the first scenario, he says, a simple communication error caused by different time zones nearly derailed a flight. The confusion led to a last-minute scramble to reorganise transportation, update schedules, arrange for fuel and secure catering services. The dispatcher, with some assistance from the team, managed to resolve these issues before the crew arrived at the airport. Language barriers with the driver and a delay with the fuel truck caused some problems, but the flight eventually proceeded successfully. Efficient teamwork, adaptability and quick thinking can overcome scheduling mishaps and language barriers.
The second situation involves a slot allocation challenge in Portugal. Icarus Jet incurred an expense of 10,000 euros for the charter because the slots had not, in fact, been issued by the local handler and it became clear that there was no availability. The team applied for slots with multiple handlers and continued to follow up, and a week before the flight something came through, but was later discovered to be a mistake.
Client trust in the company was at stake, and the team explored alternative airports and transport options, including using a private plane to transport passengers from Lisbon to Faro. After finding a suitable aircraft and securing a slot, the flight was executed on time, but at an additional cost to Icarus Jet. But the team's persistence in seeking alternative solutions and its willingness to incur additional costs ensured the client was kept on side.
In July 2022, Icarus Jet received a charter flight request from Bodrum, Turkey to Paros, Greece for four VIP passengers. Initially it planned to use a twin engine helicopter to fly from Bodrum to Kos, clear customs and continue to Paros. However, complications arose due to the Turkish civil aviation authority's insurance requirements, namely the need for specific insurance coverage for operations in Turkey. Despite attempts to resolve the issue, nothing could be done straightaway because the policy was not in Turkish and the insurance company was closed for the weekend.
With time running out, and with difficulty securing airport slots in Kos and Paros, it was suggested to the passengers that they take a ferry from Bodrum to Kos, where they could be picked up by helicopter for the remaining journey to Paros. Icarus Jet paid the helicopter operator and arranged ground transportation upon arrival of the ferry.
However, the ground driver couldn't find the helipad in Kos, and the helicopter couldn't land because the property owner wasn't available to give final approval and, despite numerous phone calls, Icarus Jet couldn't reach the helicopter operator either. Eventually permission was given for the helicopter to land at a suitable location, and the passengers departed from Kos to Paros. Ultimately the passengers were satisfied, and the team demonstrated their commitment to delivering on promises, even in the face of unforeseen challenges.
Three years ago, a client flew from Cairo to Sri Lanka but faced an issue with obtaining an overflight permit in India due to the strict requirements of the Indian civil aviation authority (CAA). The flight had to take a longer route over international waters, crossing the Maldives and adding approximately two hours to the flight time. The client wasn't happy.
Last year, the same client flew to Sri Lanka and this time, all permits were secured. However, the client decided to change the departure time from the morning to the afternoon on a Friday, which complicated the situation as the permit provider couldn't contact the Indian CAA in time, resulting in an unsuccessful permit revision. To resolve this, the company reached out to its local partner in India, who confirmed that there would be no issues and the flight would be able to depart on time without any setbacks. The primary problem encountered in both instances was the carelessness of the dispatcher on duty and the challenge of dealing with the CAA's weekend schedule. Establishing local contacts in each country proves invaluable in navigating bureaucratic hurdles, as does always double-checking the operating times of the CAAs.
In the dynamic world of trip support and aviation services, the ability to anticipate and respond to 'unknown unknowns' is a critical skill. Unforeseen circumstances often test the expertise and adaptability of even the most experienced professionals.
These insights and the real cases discussed in this article emphasise the value of preparedness, adaptability and creative problem-solving. By learning from these experiences, aviation professionals can better navigate the complexities of their industry and ensure successful operations, even in the face of the unexpected.