Cimarex flies Learjets for exec travel and site exploration

Using 2 well equipped Learjet 60s, this energy firm searches for petro products with key personnel aboard.

By Mike Potts
Contributing Writer

Members of Cimarex Energy flight dept. (L–R) Av Mgr Timothy Ganse, Mx Mgr Kim Reuman, Line Check Capt Mike Ganse, Dir of Safety and Loss Control Miles Steel, First Officer Nick Henry, Line Capt Mike Bradley, Mx Tech Justin Kragenbrink and Line Capt Darren Jez.

Cimarex Energy is an independent oil and gas exploration and production company based in Denver CO, with principal operations in the geologic regions known as the Permian Basin, the Mid-Continent Area and the Gulf Coast Area.

The Permian Basin includes much of west Texas and the southeastern corner of New Mexico. The Mid-Continent Area spans most of Oklahoma, the southern half of Kansas and the northwestern corner of Arkansas. The Gulf Coast Area extends about 100 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico along the shores of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Cimarex was formed in Sep 2002 when Denver-based Key Production acquired the exploration and production assets of Helmerich & Payne of Tulsa OK. Last year the company reported sales of $962 million and proven reserves totaling 1.5 trillion cu ft of natural gas.

On its website the company describes its operating philosophy as "focused on drill bit driven growth in production and reserves," using its organization of geoscientists to generate drilling prospects and decentralized exploration teams to find and extract oil and gas.

To support this activity the company has come to rely heavily on business aircraft. "Our aviation department is an integral part of our business," says Cimarex Senior VP Stephen Bell. "We allocate capital in very large chunks—nearly $1 billion in total this year alone—to highly complex and technically challenging exploration projects.

Daily interaction between corporate decisionmakers and exploration region personnel is essential. Video teleconferencing doesn't cut it." The Cimarex flight department reports to Bell.

After a short time of relying on charter, Cimarex bought its first aircraft—a 1984 IAI 1124A Westwind II—in early 2003 and began operations from APA (Centennial, Denver CO). During its first 2 years the department averaged about 240 hrs annually, operating with 2 pilots.

A new Learjet 60

Cimarex Energy's Cactus Rig produces oil and gas in western Oklahoma.

In 2005 Cimarex acquired the assets of another energy company—Magnum Hunter Resources of Dallas TX—and the company's travel needs grew. In a move intended to enhance both safety and technology, the Westwind was traded against a new Bombardier Learjet 60.

A third pilot was added and flight hours jumped to 380 in the first year with the new aircraft. Flight activity at Cimarex continued to grow in the following years, averaging around 400 hrs in 2006 and 2007. To support increased demand the department added a fourth pilot and a director of maintenance in 2006.

By 2008 travel demand was up again, and the department acquired a second aircraft—a preowned Learjet 60. A fifth pilot and a maintenance technician also joined the company. Flight hours totaled 460 in 2008 and jumped to 590 in 2009.

On Dec 31 2009, taking advantage of bonus depreciation tax rules, Cimarex signed a contract for a new Learjet 60XR, using its original Lear 60 as a trade-in. A sixth pilot was added earlier this year to help accommodate the 620 flight hrs the department expects to log in 2010.

Aviation Mgr Tim Ganse says the decision to acquire the 60XR was based on a desire to incorporate the latest technology into the company's flight operation. "At Cimarex Aviation our mission is to stay at the leading edge of technology," he says. "When things are available that will make our operation safer in the air or on the ground it's something we always take a look at—see if it's right for our operation."

The result is that Cimarex acquired the most heavily equipped Learjet 60XR that Bombardier has yet delivered. In addition to the standard Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite, Cimarex selected options for wireless Internet in the cabin and a host of avionics upgrades.

The FMS is WAAS capable, and the aircraft is equipped for RNP ap­proaches. It has the second-generation Honeywell Runway Awareness and Advisory System (RAAS), which is called Smart Runway/Smart Landing.

The GPS-based system is loaded with Cimarex's 5000-ft minimum runway requirement and company stabilized approach parameters. If a takeoff or landing is attempted with less than 5000 ft of runway or the airplane is too high and/or not configured correctly on approach, an aural advisory will alert the crew.

Both Learjet 60s are RAAS equipped and provide additional aural advisories to the crew during taxi, takeoff, ap­proach, landing and rollout.

Cimarex's aircraft is also equipped with a Max-Viz EVS1500 enhanced vision system, with the camera mounted at the top of the vertical fin and two 5-in fold-out LCD displays—1 for each pilot—mounted on the cockpit sidewalls.

All of the optional systems were installed under STCs by Bombardier before the aircraft left the factory in Wichita KS.

Ganse says the Learjet 60s are well suited to Cimarex flight requirements. The average trip takes 1 hr 40 min, with the most common destinations being company field offices located at TUL (Tulsa OK) and MAF (Midland TX).

Production teams and groups of engineers frequently travel to destinations Ganse describes as "inside the oil patch," such as PPA (Pampa TX), RQO (El Reno OK) or ELK (Elk City OK)—locations where airline service is nonexistent.

Quarterly trips to investor relations meetings in New York require use of HPN, while similar flights to BOS, BWI, LAX, PHL or SFO are a requirement for senior executives of the publicly traded company. Average trip loads are typically 5 or 6 pax, and Ganse describes the flying as challenging, particularly in the summer when most of the oilfield destinations are located squarely in Tornado Alley.

Cimarex operates from a 25,000 sq ft hangar it leases on the east side of APA. The department also has 1200 sq ft of offices and a 250 sq ft maintenance workroom and storage space adjacent to the hangar.


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