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.

Maintenance team on parade at MLI. (L–R) Aircraft Mx Supervisor Chris Behn, Quality Control Inspector Ross Carbiener, Technicians Cronan McCarthy, Tim Newman, Mark Jacobs and Tim Harty with John Deere 4720 tractor, GV and Citation X.

Shuttles are very busy, says Kerr, and have consistently high load factors. Their primary role is to support marketing offices. The Sovereign is configured for 9 pax, the Citation Xs for 10. Part of Kerr’s role is to ensure the most effective match. Kerr and her team use CTA flight operations software (FOS).

Schedulers typically work 0700–1700 but have flex time. Typically, one team member works 0700–1530, another 0830–1700. The admin assistant works 0730–1600. After-hours coverage is managed on a 3-weekly rotating basis. All schedulers have Black­Berrys and laptops and (as part of an experimental/pilot program) can telecommute 2 days a week.

According to Kerr, the program is 4 months old at this point and working well. As current chair of NBAA’s S&D Committee, Kerr is a vocal advocate of educational opportunities for schedulers and dispatchers.

She stresses the importance of regular training—in particular the annual NBAA S&D conference, Schedulers Professional Development Program (SPDP) courses and FSI’s concentrated 5-day S&D course in St Louis MO.

Each scheduler also attends a scheduling software users conference every other year. “This is the best job I’ve ever had,” she says. “It’s just been fabulous.”

Safety issues

Mgr Aviation Safety/Security Roger Schoutteet joined Deere & Company in Oct 1989 and has worked in his current role since January this year.

A 12,000-hr pilot, he began his aviation career as an aerial application pilot and later flew Part 135 operations for local FBOs. He was a designated pilot examiner for 11 years. Schoutteet is typed on the Citation X and GV.

In addition to being res­pon­sible for charter audits, flight attendants and safety management—he put together the SMS portion of the department’s IS-BAO effort—Schoutteet is the department’s GV standardization captain.

Although his duties are now divided between flying (up to 450 hrs annually) and other responsibilities, Schoutteet says, “I really enjoy the SMS role. And I can’t imagine working anywhere else—it’s just a dream job.”

Keeping them flying

Deere & Company has operated a Part 145 certified repair station since 1969. Maintenance team members operate 2 shifts—0600–1430 and 1400–2230. One technician is as­signed to the first shift, which is primarily for line service. The second shift performs aircraft maintenance.

Team members also carry out line service (including towing and fuel farm management) and flight engineer duties on international flights. The technicians also perform plane captain duties, which consist of tracking due-list items on assigned aircraft, overseeing offsite maintenance and aircraft cleaning, reviewing OEM invoices and coordinating with the standards captains.

Five of the 6 maintenance personnel are FSI Citation X master technicians. Quality Control Inspector Ross Carbiener has been with Deere & Company for over 17 years. As repair station chief inspector, he acts as FAA liaison, manages all inspection work and has final sign-off authority. He also oversees all technical data.

Four of the maintenance technicians are alternate inspectors, and they report to Carbiener when performing that function. (Carbiener notes that, since maintenance supervision and quality control are considered separate functions, all the technicians have a dual role.)

As maintenance technicians they report to Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor Chris Behn, who has been with the flight department since Oct 1998. In addition to managing the technicians, Behn supervises maintenance budgets, training programs and internal and external maintenance. Since manpower is a limiting factor and downtime is obviously critical, any inspections and work requiring more than 7 days are sent out, says Behn.

“We’ve been given every justifiable resource we’ve needed to operate safely, effectively and efficiently,” says Carbiener. Behn agrees, adding that support from OEMs has also been excellent. He describes Cessna and Gulfstream support as “the best in the business.”

Behn also has high praise for Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Honeywell support. Most recent AOG event involved the Sovereign, which developed a preflight ground test problem during a trip to RDU.

Cessna Citation Service Center GSO (Greensboro NC) sent a tech who was able to resolve the problem “in a matter of 5 hours.” The trip was completed with a Citation X from OMA–RDU. Flight engineers from the maintenance staff are assigned to all GV flights to remote areas and to all company flights to China, India and Africa.

A flight engineer is also assigned to flights to Europe and South America if the trip includes several cycles and time away from home base. Often referred to as a form of “trip insurance,” the flight engineer troubleshoots any maintenance issues, performs postflight inspections and helps maintain a high level of safety and customer service.

Future plans

Today’s home base is a 33,225 sq ft facility on the south side of MLI. Office, technical and support areas account for more than 9000 sq ft of this, and while the 24,000 sq ft hangar can house the current fleet, it’s a close fit and requires precise maneuvering.

A new aviation facility is under construction on the west side of the field. Scheduled to open in 2011, the Deere & Company flight department’s new home will have double the floorspace of the existing building—70,400 sq ft—and provide almost 36,700 sq ft of hangar space.

According to Dahl, fleet planning for the next 10 years includes buying an additional ultralong-range aircraft and possibly a 3rd Citation X. The Sovereign may be phased out to reduce fleet diversity.

As Dahl notes, “We want to get back to 2 types for more efficient flight ops and reduced training costs.” The goal then would be to have 2 ultralong-range and 2 (or 3) ultrafast aircraft.

Flight dept as valued asset

Deere & Company Senior VP & CFO Jim Field is full of praise for the flight department, which he describes as world-class.

He sees its role as “to help contribute to positive shareholder value added (SVA) by enabling our executives to achieve maximum efficiency and enabling them to visit corners of the world that are hard to get to commercially... It’s a significant enabler to the organization.”

Field expects Deere & Company’s non-US business to continue growing. He notes, “We see great potential in emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China... [They] have huge agricultural needs and are always looking for increased efficiency.

There’s also a need for construction equipment.” Deere & Company has long defined its 3 strategic pillars at the enterprise level as disciplined SVA growth, aligned high-performance teamwork and exceptional operating performance.

Field notes that all 3 apply to the flight department, which he calls “a microcosm of John Deere philosophy” and “enables SVA growth by enabling executives to arrive well rested and ready to work.” He concludes, “Larrie and the team have built a unique esprit de corps which is really gratifying to see and be part of.

The culture is very consistent with what we’re trying to do at John Deere.” Within the flight department there is a clear connectedness that works on 2 levels—professional and personal. Dahl notes that he, like Schout­­­teet, Sears and Toal, grew up less than 30 miles from Moline.

In addition, he says, “Roger, Jay and I all grew up on a farm.” Dahl has the last word. “The team is just outstanding,” he says. “Everyone in the company is top-shelf. I’m having so much fun I wish I’d come here 20 years ago. It’s just a joy to work with people who understand that business aviation is part of the tool kit needed by the company in order to grow and provide positive SVA to our shareholders.” Then he adds as an afterthought, “Yes, we have yellow wheels.”


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