FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE

Schweitzer, with 2 Citation Xs and a Bravo, prepares to add new Sovereign

Mix of Citations proves essential to SEL in selling power protection and digital technology worldwide.


SEL Pres & CEO Ed Schweitzer founded the company as a result of work he'd done on a PhD project while attending Washington State University.

Corporate Aircraft Scheduler Kori Whitcomb explains that the corporate aircraft option substantially boosts travel efficiency. "We can fly to our plant at SLP in under 4 hours with the Citation X versus 12 to 15-hr airline connections, our office in Vancouver Canada is 40 minutes on the Bravo compared to 3.5 hrs airline and we can cut travel time dramatically to the Chicago area."

SEL takes full advantage of high-speed Citation X capabilities. Compared with the Sovereign the X is 45 minutes faster PUW-SLP and a recent launch PUW-PEK (Beijing, China), via ANC (Anchorage AK) and GDX (Magadan, Russia)-with augmented crew of 3 pilots-logged just 11.5 hrs on the Hobbs.

Routine Citation X flights to VCP (Viracopos, Campinas SP, Brazil) often attain FL 470 and Mach 0.90. SEL products are all over the place with installations ranging from public utility companies, petrochemical installations, naval battleships and even International Drive near Disney World.

This diverse market base requires supporting travel to such far-flung destinations as China, South America and Western Europe as well as client visits to out-of-the-way SCC (Deadhorse AK) and YBG (Bagotville QC, Canada).

Flight ops

An egalitarian flight operation, SEL engineers, quality control specialists and middle management routinely use company aircraft to boost productivity efficiency. More than 800 company employees have flown aboard the aircraft and SEL's schedulers work to fill empty seats when possible.

Average passenger load on the Citation X is 4.5-however, it's common for all seats to be filled. SEL's new Sovereign has been ordered with 11 seats in high-density seating to take better advantage of larger load opportunities.

Utilization rates run 400 hrs per year on the Bravo and more on the Xs with about 4 international trips (beyond Canada and Mexico) annually. With a max range of 1400 nm, and typical Mach 0.68 cruise, the Bravo services the US west coast and is a 1-stop proposition to Chicago or the east coast.

(L-R) Av Dept Mgr Mark Wray with Captains Brian Hemingway, Shane Andrus, Miguel Cisneros, Mark Sweeney and Brett Udy, and Chief Pilot Jeff Hilburn. SEL has been in active pilot hiring mode lately with the most recent flightdeck opening attracting 400 applicants.

Meanwhile, Citation Xs cover the world and routinely cruise Mach 0.87-92. Average stage on the Bravo and Xs is 600 and 950 nm, respectively. SEL uses a Customs & Border Protection (CBP) border overflight exemption (BOE) to return from Mexico to listed US destinations.

Closest customs airport to PUW is 56 nm away at GEG. "The Citation X is a time machine," says Wray, "and being based on the west coast, we use all of its capabilities." Prior to selecting the Sovereign, SEL also evaluated the Bombardier Challenger 300, Dassault Falcon 2000, Gulfstream G150/G200 and Hawker Beechcraft 800XP.

The flight department was impressed enough with the Challenger 300 to demo it at PUW. The Columbus evaluation process, which involved the CEO and the entire department, also considered the Dassault Falcon 2000 and Gulfstream G350.

Much of the reason for Sovereign and Columbus selections, says Wray, had to do with the existing relationship with Cessna and a superb level of product support.

Pilot lifestyles

While SEL tends to hire 5000-hr pilots for captain positions (as is the case for the 2 new-hires for the east coast base), the flight department routinely offers internships for potential first officers.

Citation Bravo FO Brett Udy interned at SEL during the summer of 2005 while he was a private pilot, flew with SkyWest Airlines to build experience and joined SEL full time in Oct 2008.

With 2300 hrs TT today, Udy is rated on the Bravo, flies 10-15 days per month and goes to Citation X school in June. "We believe in providing pilots and maintenance technicians with opportunities and we're big proponents of quality of life for all flight department personnel," says Chief Pilot Jeff Hilburn.

"Pilots can bid for weekends off every 6 months, we provide hard time off, short notice trips are extremely rare and our pilots are not required to come in on days off." Typical SEL flying schedules are 15 days per month with 8-10 RONs.

Benefits include industry average or better pay, medical/dental/optical coverage, a uniform allowance and an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). SEL is now a 100% employee-owned company with each employee provided with company shares as a retirement benefit. The flight department is working on becoming IS-BAO certified.

"Safety has always been our main focus and IS-BAO procedures, our ops manual and safety management manual (SMM) are just some of the tools we use to operate safer," says Hilburn. Capt Brian Hemingway, who joined SEL in 2002 after flying seaplanes in the Pacific Northwest, appreciates the safety culture and focus of his new posting.

"We never feel pressured to cut corners and we all work together to audit and evaluate ourselves and to take responsibility for safety," he says. For Capt Mark Sweeney, who joined in 2004, the flying variety and strength of the company are a plus.

"We work for a stable company in an unstable environment, safety is always number 1 and this is my dream job," he says. Capt Miguel Cisneros, who previously worked a 20-plus-day/month schedule for a Mexico-based family, feels that quality of life here is about as good as it gets.

Meanwhile, Capt Shane Andrus, who joined 3 years ago and flies both the Bravo and X, appreciates the flying schedules, operational variety and working with a great team.

Maintenance and dispatch

Aviation Maintenance Mgr Greg McCann and Aviation Maintenance Technicians Kevin Kinzer and Steve Piper have onsite capabilities at PUW for line maintenance up to, but not including, 36-month checks.

Facility Mgr Jim Heaslet is responsible for supporting aircraft, hangars and assigning winter duty on the flight department's snowplow equipment. An additional mechanic will soon be hired to support the Sovereign at CLT.

 

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