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«Digitalisation saves time and makes us more flexible.»

Patricia Blanc, personal assistant to the head of the competence sector Aeronautical Systems, and Ivo Ribi, NFA project assistant and member of the Air2030 program office, handle administrative matters of the competence sector aeronautical systems and coordinate appointments and business trips. In this interview, they tell us how the Covid19 pandemic has influenced their work.

Nadine Schröder, specialist area Communications, Resources and Support

Patricia Blanc is standing in the corridor, behind her, we can see several aviation photos hanging. Among other things, a fighter plane.

As a personal assistant to the Head of the competence sector Aeronautical Systems, Patricia Blanc is the contact person as well as the mainstay for the 116 employees when they have matters that concern Peter Winter. Thanks to her many years of experience, she has a wealth of background information and knows who she can turn to for other support if necessary. Her workplace is in Berne.

Ivo Ribi is sitting in the lounge of the ZLE in Emmen. Behind him, the heliport and airfield in Emmen can be seen through the large windows.

Ivo Ribi works at the location in Emmen and supports the NKF (new fighter aircraft) project team, in particular the project manager, in various administrative tasks for 60% of his working time. In the remaining 40% of his time, he works as a member of the Programme Offices and takes care of appointment coordination, compiles the minutes at the committee meetings and plans the business trips.

Ms. Blanc, Mr. Ribi, please tell us to what extent the Covid19 pandemic has impacted your business trips and in particular the tasks associated with these.

Patricia Blanc: Business trip planning starts quite a while before you start out on a journey. The process starts with a request to the Swiss Government Travel Centre to find out which flights are available. It continues, for example, with hotel bookings and clarifying where meetings are going to take place, etc. I use my extensive network when handling business trips. My contact persons have been supporting me for years in implementing trips, special requests and many other things. I would like to thank everyone for their support in this.
This year, planning business trips has proved to be a real obstacle course. Things which could be tackled relatively swiftly before the pandemic have now become a lot more laborious with all the applications, approvals and the quarantine requirements.

Ivo Ribi: For example, the Air2030 candidates could not enter Switzerland due to the current situation and all meetings had to take place digitally. The only exception was the submissions of the second offer for the new fighter aircraft and the extended range ground-based air defence systems. The candidates had to be physically present at these submissions, as they needed to be certified by a notary. We had to ensure that all the protective measures were adhered to accordingly.

Which measures did you actually take to enable the planned meetings to still take place?

Patricia Blanc: To start with, several planned trips and trips which had already been booked were postponed and then completely cancelled. The meetings took place virtually by video and online events. Alternatives to the various messages in the Air2030 programme were also used.

Ivo Ribi: Before the offers were personally submitted, the persons concerned received a form which enabled them to circumvent the quarantine and to enter Switzerland by providing a negative Covid19 test.

Which rules of thumb do you take from this situation?

Ivo Ribi: The situation has shown us that we can perform professional work even under difficult conditions and keep the Air2020 programme on track.

Patricia Blanc: Digitalisation has gained enormous significance, particularly in the area of meetings and trips. Several traditional assistant activities have become simpler as a result.

Where do you see the advantages and disadvantages in digital communication?

Ivo Ribi: The advantages quite clearly lie in the flexibility we gain with digitalisation. The disadvantage is that meetings with sensitive contents could not take place up to now, as the communication channels are (still) not secure enough.

Patricia Blanc: I definitely see the time saving factor quite clearly as the main advantage. The climate discussion also contributes a further plus point: does the trip really have to include a flight or is it sufficient to travel by train. The disadvantage is of course that face-to-face communication suffers as a result. The dialogue and interaction are lacking. And I miss the social contacts very much.