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.

Most recent hire Capt David Wells joined Dole Food flight ops in 2001 and was promoted recently to senior captain.

"We have 2 or 3 trips a year where we're away for a few weeks at a stretch but schedules are typically planned well in advance and short-notice trips are extremely rare. At my last job we were called out at all hours of the night." English says he may be flying the CEO and a planeload of lawyers in Armani suits one day, then a load of truckers or field supervisors the next.

"We shuttle truck drivers between SNS and YUM (Yuma AZ) who may have never been on an aircraft before," says English. "Some of our field supervisors arrive at the ramp with field boots, and we'll ask them to take them off so as not to muck up the inside of the aircraft."

Citation flying schedules are attractive, says English. "We're very busy during winter months, often flying 5 days a week with 4 to as many as 8 stops per day. But we don't do weekend or holiday flying, pop-up trips are almost nonexistent and during summer months we may fly just 1 day each week."

One trait in common with both Dole company aircraft is availability of Dole products, particularly juices, aloft. Even at home, pilots, mechanics and schedulers say they regularly enjoy Dole juices and produce.

Fleet development

Murdock's first corporate aircraft was a Learjet 25 acquired in the mid-70s and put on a charter certificate for a short while.

It was replaced in 1978 with a VNY-based Dassault Falcon 10. In 1982 Dole added a Falcon 50. It was based at VNY and the Falcon 10 was moved to CLT to support Murdock's investment in Cannon Mills. A new Falcon 900 was added in 1988 to handle more frequent operations to Hawaii as a result of Murdock's initial investment in Dole Food.

"We operated the Falcon 900 for 14 years and upgraded it to a B model," recalls Walker. "In total, we operated Falcon products continuously for 23 years and found them spectacular in reliability, performance and support."

In Dec 2002 Dole's Falcon 900 was sold and the Global Express acquired. While the flight department evaluated the Gulfstream V and the Falcon 7X-then just a prototype-the Global Express won out in terms of mission flexibility, availability and cabin size, says Walker.

"The Global gave us short field capabilities equivalent to the Falcon 900 and the important range benefit to fly to Lanai and back with one fueling. Mr Murdock, accustomed to the wide-body Falcon 900, considered the Global Express cabin dimensionally pleasing in terms of cabin width and length."

Technician Seth Perez (L) and Maintenance Dir Brian Zagnoli review current aircraft status prior to a departure.

Dole based and operated corporate aircraft within Central and South America for years-a Cessna Conquest II based at GYE (Guayaquil, Ecuador), a King Air E90 and a 200 at TGU (Tegucigalpa, Honduras) and 2 Piper Navajos and a Learjet 35 based at SJO (San José, Costa Rica).

"We used the SJO-based Learjet 35 for travel within Central and South America with occasional trips to Florida," recalls Walker. "The 2 Navajos served as plantation shuttles before being replaced with King Airs."

Today, the company no longer operates its own aircraft in Latin America, depending instead on local turbine charter-mostly King Airs and Cessna Caravans. Dole operations at SNS were originally fielded by a King Air E90 but upgraded to the current Citation II in 2000.

"The Citation has supported our US agricultural operations well over the years and we've logged 4000 hours since 2000," says English. "Typical loads are 6 pax although we'll often fill all 8 seats. The SNS-YUM trip is 90 min aboard the Citation II, compared to 7-8 hrs on airline connections."

Looking ahead, Dole plans to augment its Global Express with broadband Internet capability and enhanced vision systems (EVS). Dole is always looking for ways to maximize efficiency in moving people, and SNS may upgrade to a longer range, faster and larger capacity transport in the future if business dictates-perhaps a Citation Sovereign, suggest Wright and English.

"The Sovereign would give us nonstop capability to the west coast and Hawaii with cruise speeds of Mach 0.74 compared to Mach 0.64," says English who feels the larger/newer Citation would cost no more to operate than the circa-1990 Citation II.

Eclipse 500s will support Central American and Hawaiian local ops, says Walker. "Eclipses will fly 400 to 600-nm out-and-back day missions with 2 pilot crews. We see the Eclipse as a dependable, well built and inexpensive to operate aircraft and ideal to move smaller passenger loads in a safe and efficient manner."

Maintenance and scheduling

Zagnoli and Perez are assisted in aircraft maintenance and planning by Walker who has 32 years A&P experience and originally joined Murdock's Pacific Holdings in 1980 to support the Falcon 10.

In-house maintenance capabilities include line procedures and 100-hr checks on the Global Express with heavier work dispatched to Landmark Aviation LAX (Intl, Los Angeles CA). Zagnoli is pleased with Bombardier product support and says the company has missed only one scheduled trip in over 1450 hrs of flying.

Zagnoli served as flight engineer on the Falcon 900 between 1988 and 1992, while Walker was both flight engineer and third pilot. It is no longer company practice to carry maintenance talent aboard overseas flights due to the growth of global support.

Ground staff at Castle & Cooke Aviation VNY. (L-R) Line Service Technicians Jerrod Kornish and Oscar Contreras, Line Service Mgr Ray Campos, Day Shift Supervisor Carlos Olivas, Line Service Technician Truman Vega.

The Global Express is outfitted with a head-up display (HUD), Rockwell Collins Airshow Genesis, onboard digital diagnostic capabilities and multiple external cameras tied to a security system. Walker feels having capable on-site maintenance talent is an investment that pays off again and again.

Like the Global, the previous Falcon 900B was a very reliable and well supported machine. "The Falcon 900 was an absolute joy to work on and a wonderfully reliable aircraft," adds Zagnoli. Arthur orchestrates aircraft scheduling at VNY using an internally created computer program.

VNY-based Pacific Coast Forecasting provides international trip support. At SNS, Cava publishes Citation II schedules on the Dole intranet site to maximize loads. Any senior department manager can book a Citation launch and individual employees have the opportunity to sign on to previously scheduled flights with the option of being "dropped off along the way."


1 | 2| 3| Next