Home / In Conversation with Chiara de Zanna

In Conversation with Chiara de Zanna

Basel, Europe, MRO

Chiara de Zanna joined Jet Aviation in April 2021, as Director Shops & Hangar Operations in Basel. Since then, her role has grown to encompass flight support and on-site customer support. She sits down with us to tell us more about her varied role, how she strives to promote conversation and collaboration, between teams and between different levels of the organization, and her awe for the incredible talent and skill of not only her teams, but the entire organization.

Hi Chiara, thank you for joining us! For those of us not so familiar with an MRO organization, what does your role entail?

I’m Director for P145 Shops, Customers and Ground Services at the Basel site. It’s a very interesting role because it combines the technical and operational side with the customer side. These are two different and often distinct environments, but my team bring them together in our quest for an effortless experience for our MRO customers here in Basel.

As a functional level, my role encompasses leading and managing all P145 shops, having an overview of the flow and movement of aircraft in and out the hangars and on tarmac, and all activities related to arrival departure (from catering, to fuel to custom declaration and crew transport, reception) and customer care and customer events.

As a director, I see my role as also to provide the vision and support the team in achieving this vision. I don’t need to be an expert in every aspect of the roles I oversee, I have those experts in my team, but I need to be the driving force in how we work together to create a cohesive and aligned experience, for our employees and our customers. I enable my team to perform their job, through correct manpower allocation, appropriate training and development, and also as the link between the site management and the shop floor. It is important to me to establish and enable open, two-way conversation between these groups. I hold a lot of on-to-one meetings with my team, regular all-hands meetings, and other opportunities for feedback and discussion, and my aim is to promote an open and trusting environment so that I can communicate strategy from management, but also feedback input from my teams.

How did you start out in this role and industry?

I had a passion for aviation since very young age. I pursued my dream by studying aerospace engineering, and then I worked for Airbus first developing composite material repairs for the first A350. I grew my career at Airbus, taking on the role of aircraft manager in charge of wing equipping on the first passenger A350, and then as manufacturing quality manager for A380 and A320 wings. This took me across the UK, France and Germany. After 10 years at Airbus, I decided to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone, and I came to Jet Aviation.

This is really a dream role – as a smaller company, Jet Aviation really allows me a lot of freedom to have and implement new ideas and ways of working. You see and touch almost every part of the aircraft maintenance process, and beyond.

You have a very technical background, is this an asset in your role?

Definitely. In fact, I consciously trained further to gain more technical skills early in my career so that I really knew what I was talking about. As I mentioned, I don’t need to be the expert, but its important to me that I understand what my team are doing so that I have a true appreciation of their main challenges and how to support them to overcome such challenges. 

What is the difference between aircraft technicians and workshop technicians?

There aren’t many projects which don’t require close collaboration between shop technicians and aircraft mechanics. At a very simple level, shop technicians usually repair and overhaul aircraft components (such as engine, emergency equipment, instruments etc.) off the aircraft, in the shops.

Aircraft mechanics on the other hand will perform their maintenance tasks on the aircraft, reinstall such components and generally work on the airframe.

However, then you also have paint shop, NDT (non-destructive testing), and sheet metal who are part of my team, but often work on the airframe too.

As you can see, it is key that we all collaborate closely together in the interest of the customer.

The on-site customer service team in Basel recently joined your remit, how does this fit in with your role?

It’s about creating synergies between the Customer Service and Flight Support to ensure a seamless, aligned customer experience. With the two departments working together closely as one team, we have more flexibility and more of an overview of each step of the customer journey on-site as we work towards one goal.

“This is really a dream role … Jet Aviation really allows me a lot of freedom to have and implement new ideas and ways of working. You see and touch almost every part of the aircraft maintenance process, and beyond”

What are the main challenges you face in your role?

Sometimes we have to accommodate aircraft with very little notice! However, no matter how full the hangars and tarmac are, we will always find a way. For example, we had an urgent maintenance request for a cracked windscreen, and the aircraft didn’t request space until they were already circling over Basel. Because of the nature of the work, we had to find a way to fit them into some pretty full hangars – but we did it! It’s more fun than a challenge, but it’s not always relaxing.

Another challenge that is also enjoyable is the variety of my role. I have a wide range of skills in my team, and each one is as important as the other. One day we could be dealing with an engine part that is delayed and we cannot release the aircraft, the next balancing the support for multiple on-site customers. The challenge is how to juggle and prioritize these simultaneous events, and ensure that my team all have the training, equipment and resources they need to do their jobs, and that we are always providing a seamless service to our customers. 

What about your role or the work of your teams might surprise people?

I think many people would be surprised by the sheer scale of the role of Flight Support. They are not only assisting with flight planning, coordinating with the airport for take-off and landing, but they are greeting every customer who touches down in Basel, helping them with catering for the aircraft, laundry, crew accommodation and transport, fueling, customs… the list goes on. They are an integral part of the customer experience as well as the smooth running of the operation.

How do you work with the other operational leaders on-site to ensure a seamless customer experience?

The most important thing is that we are aligned on what the business priorities are. Every morning we have alignment meetings where we discuss any point which requires supports from the site leadership and any escalations necessary. We also have longer sessions, where we share updates and feedback on the projects we are leading for the site Road Map, where we also get feedback and support from our colleagues. It is a collaborative and communicative, one-team approach.

How do you plan to continue to evolve what you and your team can offer to the customer?

Firstly, safety. Continuing promoting a safety-first environment, where the safety of our employees, customers, and the assets in our care is paramount and where the team continues to be motivated and working together, with communication, open discussion, trust and honesty.

Secondly, to exceed customer satisfaction through initiatives that increase product quality, regular feedback loops, supporting and pushing/embracing continuous improvement initiatives, and empowering the team to take decisions that promote right-first-time quality in all of our activities.

I also want to ensure we prepare for the future by having the right skilled personnel, growing a healthy environment where our talented employees can grow and develop, and working together.

Finally, of course, we also want to ensure and increase profitability by increasing the capabilities of our shops and working closely with Aftermarket Sales to increase the visibility and desirability of our shops. We also want to look at the role of digitalization and how this can increase efficiency.

Thank you so much, Chiara! Finally, what has been your favorite experience so far at Jet Aviation?

There are too many! I think my absolute favorite thing to see every day is the passion of our employees. I have been here for one and a half years, and it never ceases to amaze me what we can do. We have had a challenging few months in Basel, but everyone is still engaged and inspired to work together and surmount any difficulties. There is so much knowledge and expertise here in Basel – and across our entire network – they really are artists.

“My absolute favorite thing to see every day is the passion of our employees. I have been here for one and a half years, and it never ceases to amaze me what we can do”

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