FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE

Hammons climbs to success with Bombardier Learjet 45

Company team uses jet to find hotel and resort sites.


Flight department growth

Hotel Developer John Q Hammons (L) and Dir of Flight Ops Larry Glaser with the company’s Bombardier Learjet 45 at SGF.

For the next 7 years the department consisted of Stachniak and Lavenburg flying the Beechjet, then the Learjet 45, and occasionally using contract pilots to fill gaps and cover vacations.

In 2006 the decision was made to add a 3rd pilot—ideally a high-time Learjet 45 pilot with a maintenance background who could perform administrative and management functions.

Larry Glaser’s background and management ability fit perfectly. The company interviewed him, liked his philosophy and approach to corporate aviation, and hired him. Glaser grew up on a farm in central Nebraska.

His father was a crop duster and he began flying at the age of 13 in a Piper PA18 Super Cub. He soloed at 16. In 1984 Glaser joined the US Army fresh out of high school. Over the next 6 years he continued his aviation maintenance experience and became a UH60 crew chief.

While still in the Army he completed the training he would need to pursue a career as a professional pilot, including commercial, instrument, multi and instructor ratings.

Following his discharge in 1990, Glaser spent a season crop dusting. He then had a series of entry-level flying and instructing jobs before landing his first corporate job, flying a Falcon 10 for a private operator based at STJ (St Joseph MO).

After working as a Falcon 50 and Learjet 45 pilot for a construction company in Omaha NE, Glaser became a contract pilot. Over the next 2 years he developed an extensive client base and built considerable Learjet 45 and Falcon 50 international experience. When he heard Hammons was seeking an av manager, he applied and was chosen, and the department became configured as it is today.

Division of labor

Hammons pilots work a schedule giving them 2 weeks on and 1 week on standby. Before Glaser joined the group, Stachniak and Lavenburg were on call every day and each pilot handled the PIC role for a week.

Now, with 3 pilots, the PIC role is rotated daily, as are the functions of filing the flightplan and preflighting the aircraft. As a line pilot, Laven­burg is res­ponsible for keeping the aircraft stocked and the charts updated.

The group currently uses paper charts but is considering moving to an electronic system when the economy picks up. The department has no scheduler, so many of those duties fall to Lavenburg, including arranging hotels and rental cars. Training is accomplished at SimuFlite Dallas TX. Lavenburg explains, “We used to train as a crew.

Chief Pilot Paul Stachniak (L) and Line Pilot Bob Lavenburg on the flightdeck of the department’s Learjet 45.

We’d shut the flight operation down for a week and go together. Now there are 3 of us, we go individually.”

The department does light maintenance on the Learjet but, because the aircraft is still under warranty, most major work is accomplished at Bombardier’s ICT (Mid-Continent, Wichita KS) service center or by Duncan Aviation LNK (Lincoln NE).

The CAMP system is used to track maintenance events and requirements. A typical trip for the Hammons flight department begins with a call to Glaser from Hammons, usually about a week before the departure date. Hammons specifies an itinerary, and the flight department puts together a plan to meet the travel requirements.

An average trip lasts about an hour, although in the past decade the department has visited all 48 contiguous states plus Canada and Mexico. The department flies 300– 500 hrs annually. A typical passenger load is likely to include John Q Hammons and his personal assistant, plus an architect and the company’s vp of development.

Many trips are missions to inspect potential development sites. Over the years, says Glaser, John Q Hammons has developed criteria for successful hotel sites, favoring college towns, major convention centers, and along major interstate highways near exits at high traffic locations.

Glaser explains that it is not uncommon for Hammons to identify and acquire a piece of land, and then wait several years before developing a hotel on it. “He has a great sense of where things are likely to occur several years in the future,” Glaser notes.

Jeep trail to resort

Hammons’ biography describes an incident in 1974 where Hammons gave a jeep driver $25 to take him to the top of a remote mountain on Table Rock Lake in the Ozarks. Hammons decided the loc­ation would one day be the ideal spot for a tourist resort, so he acquired the land.

He held it for another 26 years before doing anything with it, and then had to blast the top 80 ft off the mountain to level it enough for the construction. Today the site is occupied by The Chateau—a $150-million 300-room hotel, spa and convention center that is one of the showpieces of the Hammons hotel network.

An important element of the Hammons flight department is its culture—what Glaser describes as the “circle of trust.” A key rule, he says, is that no one should ever say anything about another department member that he wouldn’t say with that person present.

It was a theme he repeated as he described how department members interact to provide a safe and professional flight operation. During the brief time John Q Hammons spent at the corporate hangar for an interview and photo session, it was quite clear he regards the flight department as a group of competent professionals all of whom are important members of his team.

Mike Potts is an aviation consultant and freelance writer. He worked in corporate communications for Beech and Raytheon Aircraft between 1979 and 1997.

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