CAMPBELL, California - The computer is replacing the old, familiar schedule sheet that has been the nerve center of pilot schools and flying clubs for the past 70 years. The old handwritten-and-erased schedule is a nightmare for even small clubs that must try to get maximum utilization of aircraft for lower costs while managing the preferences and wishes of customers.
Voice-mail and touchtone technology have arrived on the local airport scene. Soon, flying clubs across the country will be using a computer managed scheduling system. Customers call up on a telephone and punch in requested flight scheduling.
Ron Wilder is the architect of the "Flight Scheduling System" (FSS). He is a quarter owner of a Mooney and was unhappy with the partnership's old scheduling system.
After a year of development, Wilder unveiled his new system at the AOPA Convention in November last year. The system proved to be simple, efficient and cost-effective.
Customers use the FSS by calling a number from a touch-tone telephone. The customer punches in a personal identification number to gain access. Club messages are delivered, and the customer then chooses from a voice menu.
The system allows customers to check availability of aircraft; schedule and cancel blocks of time with the aircraft and flight instructor; access the current ATIS if available; look for a companion or safety pilot through a unique bulletin board system; and use voice mail to communicate with the club or other members.
Club managers will find the FSS an enhancement to their operations. An audit trail keeps track of scheduling as well as cancellations. Maintenance personnel can take the aircraft off the schedule for inspections and repairs. Automatic backups protect the system from corrupt information. The manager of the club can easily deactivate accounts, and deactivation can be tied to a number of conditions such as delinquency, non-proficiency or expired medical certificates.
Managing the FSS is possible over the telephone, so handling the system is possible from anywhere. Club managers doubling as charter pilots use the versatility to stay on top of aircraft rentals back at the home base.
The airplanes spend less time on the ground. The flying-companion search feature allows pilots to locate seats on flights, or to find other pilots to share costs. This keeps the customers' costs down and allows more people to schedule the aircraft.
"User-friendly" has been Wilder's guide from the very start. His office white-board is full of diagrams centered around the question, "How can this be simple and fun to use?" Every menu and submenu on the system has a help feature to quickly answer questions.
There are three types of FSS systems. Wilder created the Partnership FSS for one to three aircraft owned and scheduled by a small handful of owners:
* The Flying Club FSS versions can handle up to 30 aircraft and 10,000 customers while running off 8 telephone lines simultaneously.
* The Multi-Club version will tackle scheduling for 1,000 different flight clubs, with up to a total of 1,000 aircraft. This version appeals to businesses that wish to increase cash flow by providing scheduling services. Most flying clubs and partnerships are willing to pay $25 per month per aircraft for a scheduling service.
FSS requires IBM AT Compatible, MS DOS 5.0 or higher, with a parallel printer port Memory and CPU requirements vary based on application.
For more information about the Flight Scheduling System, contact Wilder Engineering, 775-829-9991.