Kellee Valentine, SVP Flight Operations at ACI Jet, shares his thoughts on Web Manuals and how its software has transformed the process of compliance
If you really want to know how well a product works and how well it is supported, the only person to ask is a customer. Here at EVA, we know the Web Manuals story and we’re familiar with the company’s capable, charismatic leadership, but what’s the product like in everyday use? We asked, Kellee Valentine, SVP Flight Operations at ACI Jet.
Based in California, ACI Jet bills itself as an ‘aviation ecosystem’. What does that mean? Valentine explains: “ACI Jet comprises different business units. I run flight operations, aircraft charter and flight management, with around 70 employees. I’m also director of operations for our air carrier certificate. We also have four FBOs, two maintenance/AOG teams, a full MRO capability, and an operation at Oceano. It’s too small for jets, but we believe in supporting the smaller general aviation types and when no one was willing to supply Avgas we stepped in. We’ve been doing that, pretty much at cost, for around 20 years.”
ACI Jet is therefore a complex organisation and ensuring compliance a major undertaking. “Someone once told me that the only industry with more regulation is nuclear energy,” Valentine rues. “We have to comply with FAA requirements, Transportation Administration security rules, and Canadian, EASA and UK CAA regulations, plus standards we impose on ourselves as industry best practices – Wyvern Wingman, Argus Platinum and IS-BAO Stage III.
“The way we handle that level of compliance is by writing policy and procedure into manuals. We have six major manuals: general operations and maintenance, standard operating procedures for flight crew, safety and quality, international operations, emergency response and an FAA manual.
“In the past we used Word and kept all the manuals as one large document, 800 or so pages long. If you changed one word on one page and it moved everything down, for example, every subsequent page had to be changed and listed. It meant a lot of administrative manipulation to make it work, flow correctly, show the correct revision number and so on, and mistakes would inevitably be made. That’s where Web Manuals comes in.”
Web Manuals automates those processes. It tracks changes and headers, correcting everything and highlighting changes. It also links manuals, so that information common to two or more need not be repeated: it is simply hyperlinked. Navigation is also easy, especially compared to scrolling through PDFs. And it’s iPad compatible too.
“It can be opened on a desktop, but the iPad is easy for crew to use and that’s important because a lot of what the pilots do is time sensitive. Imagine that the passengers have arrived, and the weather deteriorates. The pilots need to check the requirements for flying in that weather and they need to do it with the passengers asking why the engines haven’t started yet.
“Also, from a manager’s perspective, I recognise that no one sits around thinking, ‘I really want to re-read that manual.’ If I publish a change and can’t define it accurately, the likelihood of my team understanding what’s changed is small. They aren’t going to read through the entire manual trying to figure out what’s new. Web Manuals uses change bars and a powerful function that takes you from one change to the next, with a button that shows exactly what words were there and how they changed. It’s really powerful for pilots and mechanics, who have to follow these things carefully and whose certificates depend on it.”
Web Manuals also offers a Compliance Library system. Valentine uses the FAA Part 135 Air Carrier regulations as an example. “You load them and then you can link into your own manuals. If there are changes when the FAA regulations are republished, Web Manuals flags my link and turns it red so I can check we still comply. Conversely, it will do the same if I change our manual, reminding me to ensure we’re still compliant before I sign off on the change. We’ve loaded in Wyvern and other standards too, all of them working the same way.”
Valentine and ACI Jet are obviously using Web Manuals extensively, but what happens when there’s a problem? “We were an early adopter and from the beginning we found [Web Manuals] had a good culture that’s very compatible with ours. They’re good people, they work hard, and they want to help. When we have a problem, we send an email and always get a quick, helpful response. Fundamentally, the software just works. We use maybe 15 software systems and there’s a workaround for something in all of them except Web Manuals.”
Stepping back from the detail and considering the bigger administrative picture, Valentine is obviously a Web Manuals fan. “It’s brought the time and resource spent publishing manual changes from maybe four or five people working six hours a day for three days to get it right, to me working three or four hours. Then the functionality and ease of use, especially understanding what’s changed, has brought up the level of comprehension, which plays back into safety. I don’t know how anyone can achieve the level of compliance we have with Web Manuals unless they are an airline employing a full-time team to do it.”