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Prepare for the unexpected

Over the last five years we have all been hit by the unexpected; the pandemic, economic crises and war. We have been affected by events closer to home and in our business life: unforeseen aircraft technical issues, sudden absence of team members, or IT and email security breaches.

Most businesses have a business continuity plan which serves as a generic checklist of how to handle a crisis. A similar plan can be applied to aviation transactions and can be the difference between a positive or negative outcome.

Your checklist for the unexpected:

1.            Identify the issue

When the unexpected happens care must be taken to identify the key issue arising as this will inform other actions and decisions to be taken in managing the event.

In practice there will often be a ripple effect – a key issue to resolve but several others that will arise as a result. For example, if an aircraft is suddenly unable to fly, there may be knock on issues with future flights, routine maintenance, or crew hours.

It is vital to consider very early on whether a potential reputational issue may arise as a result of an unexpected event (for example an aircraft incident or publicity scandal). If in doubt you should appoint a dedicated person responsible for managing media and public relations. This is an incredibly important and dedicated role that you want in place at the outset.

2.         Forming the team and lines of communication

It is highly likely that a small core team will already be involved if a transaction is underway when an unexpected event occurs. If not, this should be formed quickly and consist of people that control, operate and manage the business of the aircraft; people that are able to take decisions and have lines of communication with the owner. This core team will then need to identify whether any specialist and/or local advisors are required; this will depend on the nature and location of the event.

Lines of communication must be established as unexpected events often unravel quickly. As mentioned above, identifying people who are permitted to take decisions is important – often in business transactions board level approval will be required for certain actions. Depending on the event external bodies, such as the relevant aircraft registry, may also need to be informed and have input.

3.        Information gathering

Assessing what information is available and any additional information required will be essential for the team to take actions and make decisions. In particular consideration should be given to any critical information which will be required to resolve the issue.

It is likely that different members of the team will have different information priorities, however, it is unlikely that you will get all information immediately. While it is not ideal, you may be required to make decisions made on ‘good enough’ information..

4.         Identify the options and time scales

The team need to identify the options available to resolve the situation in order of priority and viability. This will include any immediate short-term options (such as safeguarding the aircraft and crew or providing copy documents if originals will be delayed) and, if applicable, any other options or considerations that will need to be resolved as a result of the event.

The next step will be to communicate the chosen option(s) to all relevant parties to see if there are any unintended consequences which result. Establishing timescales for plan review and activation should not be underestimated.

5.      Implement the plan and maintain communications

Putting the plan of action in place is only the start of the resolution; it is important to provide regular review and updates. Even if there is no update to give, it is still crucial to keep everyone involved up to date until the event has been handled, so that no party is left wondering.


The information included in this article is considered true and correct at the date of publication; changes to rules and regulation made after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information referenced or inferred to in this article. The information in the article may change without notice and Martyn Fiddler Aviation is in no way liable for the accuracy of any information printed or stored or in any way interpreted and used by the user. This article or the information contained in it is not provided or intended to be used as advice of any form.
If you have any doubts or would like to discuss any aspect of this article, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experts who will be happy to discuss your individual circumstance.
About the author

Heather Gordon is Legal Director at Martyn Fiddler Aviation. Heather joined the team in 2013 having previously practiced within a leading Isle of Man law ...

Contact Heather Gordon
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