Deere & Company—60 years of plowing the airways and sowing seeds of business

Gulfstream V, 2 Cessna Citation Xs and a Sovereign link MLI with ag and forestry markets in North America and around the world.

(L–R) Dir Global Av Services Dahl, Mgr Flight Ops Jay Sears, Mgr Flight Standards Tim Toal and Mgr Av Safety/Security Roger Schoutteet with one of Deere & Company’s 2 Cessna Citation Xs.

A weekly shuttle—normally with the Sovereign—operates MLI–IXD–MLI– IXD–MLI every Wednesday, while a twice-weekly shuttle (currently Tuesday and Thursday) goes MLI–IXD– RDU–IXD–MLI.

Any­one in the company can use the service, notes Dahl, provided they have a demonstrable business need. In addition to its US-based operation, Deere & Company has had a dedicated aircraft in Brazil for over 20 years.

A King Air 350 is based at POA to support operations in Brazil and Argentina. Regular destinations include São Paulo and Brasília as well as Rosario, Argentina.

Chief Pilot Brazil is Fábian Domingues Livramento—an 8900-hr pilot who has worked for John Deere for 20 years and flies the King Air throughout Latin America. His first officer is Fernando Cesar da Silveira, who has 7850 hrs TT.

Pilots and training

Mgr Flight Ops Jay Sears was always interested in flying. He started taking lessons at 16 and has been flying ever since.

To date he has amassed 15,000 hrs TT. Before he joined Deere & Company, Sears flew a Cessna 441 and an assortment of piston singles for a Quad City-based company from MLI. Although he has worked for Deere & Company for 22 years, Sears has a long way to go to break the record—his predecessor, former Chief Pilot Patrick Versluis, flew for the company for 33 years, and Bill Johnson flew for Deere & Company for 36.

Sears predicts that he will probably fly 450 hrs this year—the majority of them on the GV and Citation X, and mostly on international trips. Deere & Company flight department was awarded Phase 1 IS-BAO certification on Jul 1 2009.

A King Air 350 is based at POA (Porto Alegre RS, Brazil) to support Deere & Company operations in Brazil and Argentina. Pilot Fábian Domingues Livramento (L) and First Officer Fernando Cesar da Silveira.

It was Sears who shepherded the 2-year IS-BAO effort, starting with 6 months to sell the idea—and its benefits—to colleagues. And, while Sears “drove the project,” the entire de­partment was involved. IS-BAO certification required a huge amount of work, but Sears notes that it was a valuable teamwork-building exercise. “There was no change of culture involved,” he insists.

“We were a very good operation before. Now we can show we meet a standard as a Part 91 operation.” Mgr Flight Standards Tim Toal has 18,000 hrs TT and is typed on all 3 aircraft models.

Before he joined Deere & Company 19 years ago, he flew cargo for 10 years, including 3 years on Boeing 727s and 2 years on DC8s. Today he oversees pilot training and flight safety, and anticipates flying up to 450 hrs this year.

Toal notes that every pilot is trained annually on each type to which they are assigned. All 15 are Citation X qualified, while 8 are trained and typed on the GV and 10 are Sovereign rated and qualified. For pilot training Deere & Company uses FlightSafety Intl (FSI) and SimuFlite.

“We get the best—not the cheapest,” says Toal. Rough­ly speaking, this breaks down into 80% FSI (ICT, ORL and SAV) and 20% SimuFlite (DAL). The 2 Brazil-based King Air pilots attend Hawker Beechcraft/ FSI (ICT) once a year.

Pilots also contribute with nonflying duties such as maintaining the EFBs, coordinating with Jeppesen, working on Southern Border overflight permits, helping with training records and scheduling, assisting with charter company audits, coordinating with MedAire, participating on the safety committee and assisting with the Aviation Dept’s intracompany website.

Each aircraft type is assigned a standardization captain, who maintains the checklist and flight manual, coordinates maintenance and assists with pilot development. Each aircraft in the MLI-based fleet carries an automatic external defibrillator (AED) and MedAire enhanced first aid kits.

Deere & Company also subscribes to Med­Link in case an urgent medical need arises while in flight, in a remote part of the world or over water. If the situation requires it, MedLink connects a crew­member to an emergency room doctor in Phoenix for advice.

International trips can take place several times a month, depending on company need. Most international trips are set up many months ahead, and overseas flight planning and handling are done through Air Routing Intl (ARI) Flight Manager—an à la carte service billed weekly.

The schedulers build and coordinate trips well in advance, although pop-ups trips also occur. Several weeks before a trip the schedulers submit details to Air Routing. Pre-trip security briefs are provided by the company’s worldwide security department and iJET. Pilots do North American flight planning through ARINC Direct.

Flying “hasn’t dropped significantly” this year, says Toal, who sees more need for international flying in the future. He explains, “It’s part of John Deere strategy to maintain its position as the leading agricultural company in the world—and keep growing globally.”

Toal notes that Deere & Company uses commercial and security criteria to judge whether using a business aircraft is appropriate. For example, if 2 executives have to travel to Mannheim for a meeting, it’s obviously more economical for them to fly commercial to FRA, 45 min from Mannheim, than to fly on a corporate jet.

On the other hand, if a team needs to visit several locations (or “bounce around”) in Europe or China for a week, using a company aircraft helps them achieve far more. A small team—or an individual going to a single destination—will typically fly commercial, “saving the company plane for productivity purposes.”

Deere & Company uses its GV for missions to Africa and India not only because of the aircraft’s range but for security reasons. Longest trip yet was a 19-day GV epic in Mar 2007 to Russia, India and Europe.

Also in 2007, another crew was gone for 2 weeks on a trip via Europe through Africa (South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco), back to Europe, then to POA and back again to Europe. Longest nonstop flight was 13 hrs 15 min from POA–FKB. The GV has also been deployed successfully to Kazakstan.

Both the GV and the Citation Xs have made trips to Turkmenistan to further the company’s global business interests. Because of the complexity of international trips, the pilots, flight attendant and flight engineer work closely together as a team.

The efforts of the scheduling staff also play a significant part in meeting all customer service, legal and safety requirements.

Trip scheduling

Supervisor Flight Administration Dorette Kerr started with John Deere in 1990 and moved to Aviation in 1997. Until 3 years ago she was responsible for all the scheduling, while an administrative assistant helped with shuttle scheduling and processed invoices.

Now Kerr has 2 full-time schedulers (Katherine Carroll and Cindy Raschke)—plus 1 contingent (contract) administrative assistant (Linda Hughes)—reporting to her, and can focus more on strategic/management issues.

Kerr and her team handle all requests for use of company aircraft. They also interact with international handlers and arrange permits, slots and commercial transportation if necessary. The administrative assistant is responsible for scheduling shuttle pax, processing visa and passport applications, paying bills and other process improvements.


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