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17 May 2021
For military officer-turned-aviation consultant Capt. Richard Sharrocks, AviaPro’s most recent project is the latest in a series of high-profile assignments he’s been managing. (The project is not being advertised here to respect customer confidentiality.)
Like any good project, he says, the key to a successful execution is getting the client’s team to understand the reasons for the choices that go into the new measures being implemented.
“Once you explain the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, you really need to focus on the ‘why’”, says Capt. Sharrocks, who is currently at the customer’s location spearheading a campaign to get the airline removed from the EU Air Safety list, which will enable them to resume flights to Europe, and to prepare it for a new era of expansion and growth.
AviaPro sat down with Capt. Richard Sharrocks, Project Manager, to get to know more about himself and his methods.
AP: Thanks for speaking with us Richard! To start us off, can you take us back a bit and tell us about how you got started in aviation?
I started my career as a military officer in the British Army’s infantry. It was a tactical move, since I always wanted to fly aircraft, and that was a stepping-stone for me to do so.
I studied for my commercial pilot’s license while I was overseas on deployment, and when I left the military, I got my license. Post 9/11, I ended up flying cargo for DHL, and I spent 14 years there which was very rewarding.
Then I joined Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi. I flew their B777s and became a training captain. After I left there in 2019, I joined Surinam Airways as an instructor.
AP: So where did you get your start in project management?
You could say my career in project management started in the military. As a military officer, you’re project managing the whole time.
During my time with DHL, I joined the Army Reserve, which is the active-duty volunteer reserve force of the British Army. I was a senior officer there commanding an infantry unit. I coordinated training on weekends and logistics for 200 soldiers, as well as deployments in Cyprus and Kenya. One major project I once had to coordinate was flying an entire detachment of helicopters to Kenya.
When I left the military, I did some work for my brother who does management consulting for a police department in the UK. I also set up a specialised travel agency for athletes, as well as a charity.
My start at project managing in the world of commercial aviation was when I was in charge of updating the manuals and procedures for north Atlantic operations for Etihad AIrways.
Later at Surinam, I managed the introduction and entry into service of the B777. That involved training personnel, creating manuals, applying for licenses and certification with authorities, and a host of other duties.
At Surinam, I was flying with guys who'd flown hundreds of hours and thousands of kilometres, yet I still found ways to help them develop knowledge to complement their experience.
It was about going from base level and moving up. I was able to help answer questions, which sparked their creative and intellectual juices, and made them want to learn even more.
They didn't realize what they didn’t know: that there's a bigger world out there to learn from, with ways of developing systems inside the airline that would allow us to execute at the highest levels.
AP: Can you tell us about what you hope to achieve with your new project at AviaPro?
The airline team are lovely people, and they’re experienced to a high degree. But I want to lift up their level of knowledge and professionalism even higher.
Our objective is to get the airline off the EU safety list. As it stands now, this airline is not allowed to fly to Europe, which is a highly lucrative market they want to tap into.
The airline has to implement process improvements in its safety department, its quality department, as well as its maintenance, engineering and flight operations departments in order to meet higher standards, which will allow them to be removed from the EU safety list.
My desire is to bring up their level of knowledge and professional understanding and their way of using best practices from the rest of the world. I have flown to six continents and for a number of airlines, so I have lots of experience to bring to the table to make that happen.
I'm especially going to focus on education with regards to how to improve interdepartmental communication. The goal is to be working together and not in silos.
In terms of my training style, I think you've got to bring teammates on board for changes by explaining where we are, where we need to be, and the reason why we're going there. I really believe that understanding the “why” of what we do is the key to growth, and the key to our objective.