FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE
Valero harnesses its energy
North America's largest refiner maximizes global ops efficiency with Gulfstream G550 and 2 G450s.
Scheduling and maintenance
Mgr Commercial Travel Dana LeCoq runs Valero's 7-agent in-house travel department. Collocated with flight ops in the corporate hangar, the team maximizes travel flexibility and efficiency for Valero employees.
Malin and Rice use PFN software to schedule flight ops and work with ARINC Direct on international trip support.
Valero schedulers set up all flightplans, select FBOs and contract fuel providers, initiate risk assessments on new FBOs and work to maximize passenger loads on corporate aircraft. "We provide trip sheets electronically to pilots 3 hours prior to departure and, lately, we've been arranging all handling and trip support in-house for flights to Western Europe," says Malin.
Maximizing cost efficiency of Valero corporate flight ops is an ongoing focus says Rice. "We do our best to maximize loads and let other departments of the company know when seats are available.
A fully outfitted commercial kitchen within the corporate hangar allows cabin safety crewmembers Richard Vargas, Dennis Burke and Dave Davisson to prepare all flight catering in advance.
If our travel department has 5 or more passengers scheduled to the same destination on the airlines we'll look to see if using the corporate aircraft may be more cost effective. We also analyze cost advantages in tankering fuel or in paying either ramp fees or courtesy fuel charges at domestic FBOs."
Mgr Technical Maintenance Richard Murphy, with his team of A&Ps and line support personnel, accomplish line maintenance on the fleet while sending major inspections to Gulfstream SAV (Savannah GA).
Valero does not subscribe to OEM engine or parts programs and has not yet missed a trip to date, due to AOG, with its new Gulfstream fleet. "Product support from Gulfstream has been excellent and we keep very few spares on-site," reports Murphy. "PlaneView avionics have been very reliable, diagnostic systems are good and our current fleet is much less maintenance intensive than our previous midsized aircraft."
In future, Murphy and his team plan to build up tooling and capabilities to manage C checks and 72 months inspections in-house.
Valero's new corporate hangar complex allows onsite support of all company aircraft. (Rear L-R) Senior Aircraft Technician Chuck Evers, Aircraft Technician John Rowell, Aircraft Maintenance Associates Bradley Holcomb and Joe Medina, Aircraft Techs Johnathan Kadleck, Scott Sorensen and Lorenzo Galan, Senior Mgr Aircraft Maintenance & Corporate Travel Dana Parnes (seated) and Mgr Maintenance Technical Richard Murphy (standing). Behind is one of Valero's 2 G450s.
Valero's corporate fleet is ideal for foreseeable needs says White.
"BBJ or ACJ sized equipment is too large for us and would restrict the range of places we could operate to. While our hangar could be adapted for a supersonic business jet we prefer long-range nonstop capability and our upcoming G650, at Mach 0.90 over 5000 nm, will give us close to supersonic capability."
Adding a smaller jet, for shorter range domestic ops, is a possibility but, for now at least, operating efficiency of a common fleet type and ability to tanker fuel nationwide more than makes up for the higher cost of using larger equipment on shorter runs.
The process of fine-tuning a corporate flight department-with the right tools and the right processes-pays off says Crownover. "We look forward to the productivity boost our new G650 will give us with additional range, capacity and cruise speeds.
We're in a global market and to take advantage of market opportunities we need to focus on quality with the right tools, the right people and the right processes. Our flight department has done a wonderful job for us."
White's advice to the corporate flight department world is to constantly strive for excellence. "We feel that the most important thing a flight department can do is to become more sophisticated in processes, efficiency and in how you do business. With a constant focus on excellence, safety and efficiency the payoffs are enormous!"
Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.