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.
(L-R) Facilities Technician Jim Heaslet, Av Maintenance Technicians Steve Piper and Kevin Kinzer and Av Maintenance Mgr Greg McCann.
"We had a pilot/mechanic looking after the original Bravo some years ago and when I joined in 2007 it was just me supporting 3 aircraft," says McCann. "Today, we have 3 mechanics-we're hiring a 4th-and much better capability than what we once had.
Product support from Cessna has been superb and we've had very few AOG or major mechanical situations." SEL's high-time aircraft-the circa 1999 Bravo at 4000 hrs TT-recently underwent full engine service, new interior and paint and is now like new again.
Both Citation Xs have been highly reliable at utilization rates in excess of 400 hrs per year. "We're looking at tooling up to do more heavy inspections," says Kinzer.
Corporate Aircraft Scheduler Kori Whitcomb uses Web-based Professional Flight Management (PFM) software and companywide BlackBerry wireless devices to set up corporate flights, provide pilot schedules and, soon, to file eAPIS reports on all flights.
Corporate Travel Mgr Donna Wolf and Corporate Travel Coordinator Rochelle Pedersen assist Whitcomb in achieving corporate aircraft scheduling efficiency.
SEL uses Universal Weather & Aviation and ARINC Direct for international trip support and takes full advantage of contract fuel and fuel discounts with Air BP, Avfuel, CAA, Colt Intl, Multi Service and UVfuel cards aboard all aircraft.
Favorite FBOs include Atlantic Aviation ELP (Intl, El Paso TX), DB Aviation UGN, Galvin Flying Service BFI and Wilson Air Center CLT. "We're always doing what we can, in choosing FBOs and fuel suppliers, to maximize cost efficiency," says Whitcomb.
"We routinely alert company employees to available seats on the corporate aircraft and add flight legs to trips to drop people off along the way in order to make a flight more efficient." Always committed to supporting local businesses, SEL buys fuel from PUW-based Inter-State Aviation and sources catering locally.
(L-R) Schedulers Rochelle Pedersen, Kori Whitcomb and Donna Wolf maximize efficiency of all SEL corporate ops.
Average fuel cost stateside, reports Wray, has reduced significantly over the past year-from an average of $4.03/gallon to $2.85/gallon today.
SEL plans to continue to grow corporate aviation capabilities as it expands worldwide sales and market reach.
While suspension of the Citation Columbus program was a surprise and disappointment, management and the flight department will look at new mission growth alternatives. Schweitzer is focused on continued conservative growth with safety an overriding priority.
"In this information age there are still times people need to get together," he says. "You can't do everything by teleconference and e-mail. Corporate aircraft are important tools for us and, as an employee-owned company, we want to make sure any new aircraft makes financial sense."
SEL values its inhouse flight personnel and resources. Says Schweitzer, "Having a flight department allows us to set our own higher standards for safety and efficiency. We would not have this level of control with charter for fractional options."
Rather than contracting during today's challenging economy, SEL is taking this period of economic commotion as an opportunity. "People say the economy is shrinking, but a better way to look at it is that the economy is on pause," says Schweitzer.
"This is a good time for reflection. Out of this will come new kinds of business and new applications for business aircraft. This may also be a wakeup call for the business aviation industry to come up with new, more efficient and more multipurpose products."
Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.