Michelin air shuttles staff members to 10 plant cities

Pair of Hawker 850XPs provide primary lift, Learjet 45 and Citation Excel are supplemental when needed.

Dir of Aviation Dick Schliesman has been with Michelin’s flight dept since its inception.

On the Michelin shuttle it can be accomplished in a single day. Last year, more than 3000 Michelin passengers traveled on the corporate shuttle. About 65% of Michelin’s trips in 2008 were scheduled shuttle flights, and that has increased to 85% this year.

The remaining (nonshuttle) flights are classified as special flights, which typically serve destinations other than those of shuttle flights. Even special flights frequently have high load factors.

Schliesman recalls a recent special flight from GSP to HOU (Hobby, Houston TX) carrying a purchasing team of 8 pax for meetings with raw material suppliers. Michelin doesn’t use its corporate aircraft to cross the Atlantic, preferring instead to fly personnel between continents on the airlines and then pick them up in a corporate aircraft at a gateway airport.

It takes 1 1/2 Hawker-size airplanes to conduct Michelin’s regular shuttle schedule. The extra time on the second aircraft is available for special flights. The Hawkers each fly about 700 hrs a year.

Occasionally, supplemental lift is needed and Michelin handles this by leasing time on 2 business jets—a Learjet 45 and a Citation Excel—as required. Michelin maintains the airplanes and its pilots crew them on company flights.

Michelin can also access a King Air 350 on a dry-lease basis if it needs the capabilities of a turboprop. Michelin tracks the efficiencies of its flight operation, and last year calculated that it saved 22,000 man-hours of travel time.

In addition to direct cost savings, there are intangible benefits, Schliesman notes. “There is less wear and tear on our employees and it improves their quality of life, not to mention they are assured to make their meetings.

That’s a significant contribution.” Shuttle flights are available to any Michelin employee with permission from his/her manager. All they have to do is call Scheduler/Travel Coordinator Elaine Loucks to book a seat on a flight.

Scheduler Elaine Loucks matched more than 3000 Michelin employees with seats on the company’s aircraft last year.

Once a seat is booked, the employee traveling cannot be bumped. Carriage of guests or non-Michelin employees is rare and must be preapproved by the North American president.

Loucks plays a critical role in the department, scheduling passengers and making sure the seats are full. “She has a hard job trying to please a lot of people,” says Schliesman. “Half her calls are to tell people the schedule is full.”

Loucks is also responsible for comparing and negotiating fuel costs—something she calls “a constant challenge.” She has been performing the scheduling function for Michelin for 20 years, so she knows the routine well.

Some flights are scheduled up to a year in advance, since the airplanes operate on a schedule and Michelin employees frequently know well in advance when they’ll need to travel.

Operational managers and their teams can reserve seats until 30 days before departure, then the aircraft is opened up for any Michelin employee needing to travel.

Pilots don’t quit

Michelin pilots are valued for their contribution to company efficiency. It should come as no surprise, then, that in the depart­ment’s 22-year history no pilot has ever quit. Two long-time Michelin pilots—John Dyer and Bill Robinson—have retired over the years, although Robinson still flies part-time when needed. A Michelin pilot averages 550 flight hours per year.

Based on NBAA benchmarking, Schliesman says, that’s about 30% more annual hours than a typical corporate pilot flies, but the Mich­elin pilot has 50% fewer overnight trips. Requirements for joining Mi­chelin’s flight department are high.

Minimum flight time to qualify for consideration is 5000 flight hours, including an ATP and 1000 hrs of corporate jet time. New pilots are hired as captains. Of Michelin’s 6 pilots, 3 have been with the company for 22 years—Schliesman, Dave Chilman and Stu Swanson. All 3 flew together at Trane before coming to work for Michelin.

The others are Lynn Fleming, who has 10 years with Michelin and serves as the department’s safety mgr, Belton O’Neall, who is Michelin’s chief pilot and has been with the company for 6 years, and Kirk Phillips, the most recently hired, but who came to Michelin with more than 15 years of corporate flight experience and who had flown with some of Michelin’s other pilots on previous jobs.

Heath McDaniel is dir of aircraft maintenance for Michelin, and he’s not your typical chief of maintenance. In addition to his A&P licenses and a master technician rating from FlightSafety Intl, McDaniel holds an MBA from Southern Wesleyan University in Greenville.

He’s also a member of both the NBAA Hawker Beechcraft Technical Advisory Committee and the Greenville Technical College Aviation Maintenance School’s Advisory Committee.

McDaniel began his aviation career in Little Rock, where spent 4 years as a technician for Raytheon Aircraft Services. He joined Mi­chelin in 2000 as a technician and became the director of maintenance in early 2008.

Today McDaniel heads a department of 3, augmented by an A&P student intern. Both of Michelin’s Hawker 850s are maintained on progressive inspection programs, with the in-house maintenance department performing the B through F inspections.

McDaniel says this equates to 80% of the maintenance being performed by him and his staff, including all flight discrepancies.

A high dispatch rate

Operating from a maintenance shop and offices inside Michelin’s hangar, the maintenance department stores an extensive quantity of tools, parts and equipment needed to keep the Hawkers in the air.

“We know the most often needed items and keep them in stock,” says McDaniel. “I always make sure there are adequate spare parts on hand.” The approach clearly works. McDaniel reports that Michelin has maintained a high dispatch rate over the past 8 years.

“It’s extremely rare to have a flight cancelled due to maintenance,” he says. McDaniel attributes this success to his maintenance team’s expertise, to keeping high standards, paying attention to detail and having extensive experience with the aircraft.



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