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.

Castle & Cooke Aviation HNL team members. (L-R) Line Service Mgr Warren Kanekoa, CSR Cookie Seronio, Hawaiian General Mgr Tony Marlow, CSR Mgr Any Kaleikini, Line Service Technician Byron Ho.

Each year, in October and May, Dole moves production line from the Monterey CA area to Yuma and this typically involves a frenzy of flying activity over a 2-day period. Pilot lifestyles, international ops Turnover is low within Dole pilot ranks-last hire was Wells in 2001-but more hiring may occur soon.

The Global Express is currently crewed by Forsythe and Wells. "We review aircraft usage annually, and if there were a marked increase in either operation we would look at adding pilots to support flight schedules," says Walker. While the Citation II was previously crewed with 3 pilots, it's now a 2-pilot aircraft.

Dole Global Express crews are adepts at ops to the 4 corners of the world but overseas flying duty can be challenging and it's becoming a more costly proposition says Walker. "International handler groups have realized there is money to be made on overseas corporate travel," he says, "and locations that used to be a great deal are now becoming more expensive."

When the Dole aircraft landed at PSA recently parking was not available thus involving reposition to FLR. During a recent flight to India, Dole had to charter a local Citation Excel from Charter Club Air One to land at AGR (Agra, India) as the Global Express permit request would have involved 10 days.

While international trips are typically limited to 2 or 3 weeks they're normally operated single crew with a 14-hr duty hour and 12 flying hour caps. Longest flight to date was a mission from HIO (Hillsboro, Portland OR) to ICN (Incheon, Seoul, South Korea).

While the Global has VNY-FCO (Fiumicino, Rome, Italy) range capability longhaul ops to Asia can be more challenging with hold-downs as low as FL 240 over the Sea of Japan. Dole has imported its Global Express to the European Union to avoid cabotage issues and has a CBP blanket border overflight exception in place.

Castle & Cooke Aviation Exec VP Steve Friedmann is leading the FBO expansion and is shown here in Castle & Cooke's VNY executive terminal lounge.

While Dole pilot salaries reflect NBAA averages, with good benefits packages, it's the flying schedules that are particularly attractive. Most flights are planned well in advance, there are few pop-up trips and crews are not required to come in on all their nonflying days.

This flexible schedule allows crews to catch up on time spent on the road on longer hauls. Dole pilots can plan on hard time off for vacations but are encouraged to submit requests at least a month in advance.

And all flight department employees and their families are eligible for company-provided health incentive plans. Future directions-FBO network While Dole's existing Global Express is ideal for the current mission mix Murdock always keeps abreast of new technology-and it's even possible that Dole Food may operate a company SSBJ one day.

Meanwhile, Dole's Citation II is due for an upgrade over the short term-this will likely be to a supermidsize class of aircraft. Both Castle & Cooke Aviation and Dole Foods are in growth mode these days.

For the former, developments range from a new GA ramp and fuel farm for Jet A customers on the company's 97% owned island of Lanai to expansion of an FBO network, both on the islands and stateside. Says Friedmann, "Mr Murdock and Castle & Cooke are focused on growing a unique array of high-quality real estate projects around the world.

We are striving to bring elegant facilities and customer service to the FBO arena." Look forward to full service Castle & Cooke FBOs at HNL, LNY, PAE, VNY and other busy corporate fields around the country.

An FBO in the Boston area may be particular fitting as this is where Castle and Cooke resided in the early 1800s before departing to seek their fortunes. For company pilots these flying jobs are among the best in the industry with a constant focus on safety, efficiency and selection of just the right aircraft for missions.

In the future we may well see Dole operating a first-generation SSBJ, a fleet of VLJs and a full range of OEM equipment in between.

Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.




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