Boston MedFlight News caught up with Rick Kenin, our new General Manager of Aviation Operations to talk to him about his new role, what he thinks makes Boston MedFlight so unique and the upcoming changes with aviation operations being brought in-house for the first time.
Good to speak with you Rick. You’re a new arrival to Boston MedFlight. How are you settling in?
I’m very new to Boston MedFlight! My goal right now is to get to know the Boston MedFlight mission, its operations, how the organization works and how we interact with our partners. To do that I’m getting to know our crews - flying, training, and medical personnel . I’m also visiting our partners and customers so I can get first-hand knowledge of how we serve them. It’s important to me to understand every element of our operations.
Can you tell us about where you’ve come from?
I come to Boston MedFlight from a 30-year military career working with the US Coast Guard. In addition to being a pilot with the Coast Guard, I also worked in organizational management at senior level. While in the Service I ran large bases and regions and was also involved in strategic planning and large incident management.
What skills have you acquired in your long career in the US Coast Guard that you can apply to Boston MedFlight?
Well, Boston Medflight is an extremely well-run organization and as I go around and meet everyone, including partners and EMT operators, I see how respected the organization is. Over the past 30 years it’s grown to be more than a small company; it’s become a sophisticated organization operating three bases. My experience in organizational management means I can bring a high level of strategic planning to Boston MedFlight: identifying where the company wants to be in 5-10 years, and laying out how we will achieve that.
Speaking of future plans, in your position of General Manager of Aviation Operations, you’re currently working on bringing aviation operations in-house. How is that process going?
Yes, up until now Boston MedFlight has used contract services for our aviation operations, and while these contracts have served the Company very well in the past, the organization has grown to the point where we can now support and manage our own aviation operations. To do that we need to get a Part 135 Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The process is a lengthy one. We have applied for our certificate and we are now working our way through all the FAA requirements. We’re currently in the middle of the documentation phase, where we need to develop procedures and write supporting manuals. The procedures will outline how we are going to produce safe aviation operations.
Once we’ve submitted our documentation the FAA will inspect our operations to ensure that these procedures are being put in place. After that we’ll commence what’s called the bridging phase, where we transition into providing our own aviation operations. This is done at a slow, methodical pace so the FAA is happy that all operations are safe. During this transition phase we will hire pilots and aviation technicians. These pilots and technicians would likely be people who have experience with Boston MedFlight and have proved themselves to us.
We have a collaborative relationship with the FAA and they’ve been a wealth of information for us as we make our way through this process. Boston MedFlight is striving to receive our Part 135 certificate in 2015.
What will be the key differences to having aviation operations in-house?
The main difference will be that we are managing aviation operations locally. Operational control will all be under one hat. And our aviation crew, instead of being vendors or partners, will now be part of one team: the Boston MedFlight team; with a vested interest in the organization and team’s success. From our customers’ perspective, though, they won’t be seeing anything different. Overall, safe aviation operations are safe operations, no matter who runs them.
Boston MedFlight is very passionate about aviation safety. In fact it’s written into their core values. How have you seen that reflected in the organization?
What I’ve seen so far at Boston MedFlight is very refreshing and encouraging. I believe that at its core aviation safety is about teamwork. An effective team is where everybody knows their job exceptionally well and they work together to carry out safe flight operations. Underpinning that is ongoing training. From what I’ve seen at Boston MedFlight, each person knows their role in the team and is willing to express concerns and ideas. Each person has their own expertise, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be interaction. The beauty of teamwork is not only knowing your role but being prepared to ask questions, like ‘why are we doing it this way?’. Questions like that will enhance safety and show a healthy safety culture.
You mention the importance of ongoing training. What’s been your impression of the training setup in Boston MedFlight?
I must say I’ve been heartened to see the importance that’s placed on training. All pilots are sent on regular aviation simulation training. I can’t overstate how rare it is for companies like Boston MedFlight to send their pilots for simulation training: in my experience very few companies in our industry invest the money to do that. A lot of things simply can’t be practiced in an actual aircraft, such as engine failure and other incidents. It’s important for pilots to be able to practice their responses to critical situations like that. Boston MedFlight pilots are sent at least once a year to practice procedures and incidents, and it has proven to be the best form of training for our pilots. And that applies to all of Boston MedFlight’s professionals. Medical simulation and training are equally important and valuable for ensuring the safety of our patients.