Dole Food grows more fruitful through use of business aircraft

Global food processor uses Bombardier Global Express and Cessna Citation II to expand its business and FBO network.

By Grant McLaren

Castle & Cooke Aviation is an affiliate of Dole Food privately held by Chairman David Murdock. (Main photo) Castle & Cooke Aviation FBO at HNL (Honolulu, Oahu HI).

James Dole, who began growing pineapples in 1901 on 60 acres in northern Oahu HI with a $1000 investment-and later became known as the "Pineapple King"-would be proud. Today, the global reach of the company he founded-Dole Food Company-extends to almost 100 countries with a product line of more than 170 fresh and packaged fruit and vegetable products.

The success story is similar for Hawaiian sister company Castle & Cooke which traces its roots back to 1837 when Boston natives Samuel Castle and Amos Cooke arrived on the islands and grew their original general store into Hawaii's 4th largest company by 1850.

(Top-bottom) New FBO being built at VNY (Van Nuys CA), Castle & Cooke lobby at HNL, assorted Dole Food products.

Since taking both companies private several years ago, Chairman & CEO David Murdock has remained true to James Dole's ideals with a focus on high quality and attention to detail. While Dole Food is a global leader in fruit and produce, Castle & Cooke has been successful with a more bricks-and-mortar approach.

Group holdings range from Castle & Cooke Aviation FBOs at HNL (Honolulu, Oahu HI), PAE (Everett WA) and, soon, LNY (Lanai City, Lanai HI) to Four Seasons Hotels, shopping centers and residential communities together with Dole banana plantations in Central and South America and fresh produce divisions throughout the US.

Murdock's combined operations make up one of the largest privately held companies in America, with approximately 64,000 employees working in more than 90 countries. Business aviation has been an essential tool in managing and growing worldwide operations of both Dole Food and Castle & Cooke.

Current fleet includes a VNY-based Bombardier Global Express and an SNS (Salinas CA)-based Cessna Citation II-with 3 on-order Eclipse 500 VLJs slated for corporate travel tasks within Central America and the Hawaiian islands. An aviation talent base of 5 pilots, 2 mechanics and 2 schedulers manages flying assets at VNY and SNS.

"We have owned and operated corporate jets continuously since the mid-1970s," says Murdock. "Business aviation enhances productivity, ease of travel and safety which have helped immeasurably in managing our global interests.

"Having visited over 90 countries in the past 40 years, we have patronized hundreds of FBOs. Our growing FBO network reflects all we've learned and hope to deliver to other flight departments and customers," says Murdock. He adds, "For more than 20 years we flew Dassault Falcon products and are particularly impressed with these aircraft.

Today, our Bombardier Global Express, with its range and performance, serves us very well." For Dole's Dir Aviation Craig Walker, who's worked with Murdock for the past 28 years, mission capabilities of the Global Express flagship would be difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate. The Global routinely departs VNY to LNY's 5001-ft strip, returning without refueling.

"We're able to fuel at VNY, fly to LNY and return to California with more than 4000 lbs of reserves. I don't believe there's any other business aircraft that could accomplish this unique mission."

James Dole, recalls Castle & Cooke Aviation Executive VP Steve Friedmann, was an early aviation aficionado and sponsored a 1927 air race between the North American continent and HNL in which only 2 of the 15 aircraft entering the race actually made it to the islands. The winner, Art Goebel, flying a Travel Air monoplane, made the journey from OAK (Oakland CA) to HNL in 26 hr 17 min.

Friedmann heads Castle & Cooke Aviation's expansion and is responsible for FBO acquisitions and profitability. He has been with Murdock since 2001 and was previously the general manager of The Air Group, a VNY-based charter outfit.

Dole flight department basics

Dole Food Company and Castle & Cooke CEO David Murdock, who took both companies private a few years ago, travels the world in his Global Express to pursue and fine-tune business opportunities.

Global and Citation ops are radically different. While the Global Express manages movement of Murdock and key executives throughout the US, Europe and the Pacific rim as well as the Hawaiian Islands, with some missions of up to 4 weeks, the Citation II operates predominantly west of the Rockies in support of agricultural operations.

Captains John Forsythe and David Wells pilot the Global Express with occasional flying from Walker-a 6000-hr pilot as well as an A&P-when schedules require. Captains Chris English and Martin Seiler command Citation operations from Dole's SNS corporate hangar.

Maintenance support for the Global is provided by Dole Dir of Aircraft Maintenance Brian Zagnoli and Technician Seth Perez, out of Castle & Cooke Aviation's VNY FBO, while Citation II maintenance is tracked by English and outsourced to a local group at SNS.

Schedulers Sherry Arthur at VNY and Sherry Cava at SNS coordinate Global and Citation ops, respectively. The Global crew may occasionally be away from home for a week, or even up to a month, with worldwide operations and an average 12 RONs per month.

A recent 17-day single-crew mission to India involved stops at TEB (Teterboro NJ), LTN (Luton, London, England), BOM (Mumbai, India), DEL (Delhi, India), JAI (Jaipur, India), PSA (Pisa, Italy), FLR (Florence, Italy), CPH (Copenhagen, Denmark) and CLT (Intl, Charlotte NC).

Dole Dir of Aviation Craig Walker began working for David Murdock in 1980 as maintenance director on the Dassault Falcon 10. Today Dole Food flight operations are global and in expansion mode.

Recent 7 to 10-day trips to DXB (Dubai, UAE) and SIN (Changi, Singapore) involved augmented 3-pilot crews. Citation II operations at SNS are predominantly same-day out-and-backs with just a handful of RONs.

Short-notice departures are extreme rarities averaging only a couple of 1-day-notice dispatches per year on either aircraft. Wells, who previously flew a Falcon 900 for an Internet startup, enjoys flying schedules at his current posting.


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