Cimarex flies Learjets for exec travel and site exploration

By Mike Potts
Contributing Writer

High standards

Av Mgr Tim Ganse (L) with his brother Line Check Airman Mike Ganse.

Experience requirements for a pilot's job with Cimarex are stringent, based on the company's safety culture. Ganse says a college degree, 5000 flight hrs with 2000 hrs of turbine time and an ATP represent the minimum for consideration. He prefers candidates who have flown with the airlines or the military because of the discipline those backgrounds typically instill.

Moreover, he says, a prospective Cimarex pilot needs to fit in with the department's culture. "We're looking for someone who is very structured," he says. "We operate with our flight ops manual, our SOPs and our company checklists.

It's all very ordered and organized. We want somebody who is going to fit into our system, how we're working things, and is used to that type of structure."

Ganse says the 6 pilots currently employed at Cimarex range in age from 34 to 43. All are married with children and most played some kind of competitive sport in school. This profile doesn't represent a requirement, he says, but reflects the department's and the company's family-oriented culture.

Ganse himself comes from an airline background. His first aviation job was working the line at DXR (Danbury CT) for 4 summers during high school. He attended Kent State University in Ohio where he got all his ratings.

After graduation, flight instructing and a Part 135 job flying a Baron built enough time for him to get into the regional airlines, and by 1999 he was hired as a flight engineer on Boeing 727s for United Airlines, working from the company's Denver base.

Airline jobs became shaky after Sep 11, 2001 and in early 2003 Ganse found himself furloughed. Wanting to stay in Denver, he ap­plied for a corporate job with Cimarex and was hired as a first officer on the company's Westwind.

It didn't take Ganse long to realize that Cimarex represented an excellent ground floor opportunity for him. He advanced quickly to captain and in 2007, when the aviation manager retired, Ganse assumed leadership of the department.

All new Cimarex pilots begin their careers as first officers, although they are trained to PIC standards for the Learjet 60 type rating. They then fly 6 months in the SIC role before taking a check ride and graduating to a status that the Cimarex ops manual defines as a "high minimums PIC."

New high minimums PIC captains operate with restrictions—including higher takeoff and landing minimums, increased runway requirements, lower crosswind limitations and restrictions on use of contaminated runways—until they have accumulated 100 hrs of PIC time.

In addition, SICs with fewer than 100 hrs at Cimarex may not fly with high minimums PICs. The premise, Ganse says, is to avoid putting a new captain into a worst-case situation until he has a high level of comfort and familiarity with the aircraft.

Extensive training

Training at Cimarex is "above and beyond what most Part 91 corporate operators are doing," Ganse notes. Pilot recurrent training is conducted every 6 months—twice what FAA regs require. Currently, Cimarex pilots are training at Bom­bardier Dallas where the only Lear 60XR simulator is located. Cimarex pilots have previously trained at Flight­Safety Intl Tucson.

Beyond basic recurrent requirements, Cimarex pilots are trained in low-visibility taxi procedures using surface movement guidance and control system (SMGCS) charts designed to facilitate the safe movement of aircraft when visibility falls below1200 RVR. Pilots are also trained every 6 months on low-visibility takeoffs.

Simulator training includes takeoffs, rejected takeoffs and V1 cuts in minimum-visibility conditions (500 RVR). Cimarex pilots also practice ILS-PRM/LDA approaches found in locations such as SFO which has closely spaced parallel runways. RNAV and GPS approaches are also part of routine recurrent training and the company expects to implement RNP approaches to take advantage of the equipment on the new Learjet 60XR.

In addition, new pilots receive MedAire training on defibrillator equipment the company carries aboard each aircraft, as well as the latest cardio­pulmonary resuscitation techniques. Every 2 years each pilot receives recurrent MedAire training to deal with possible medical inflight emergencies. Both aircraft are equipped with a direct line to MedAire so flightcrews can obtain immediate direct advice from a medical doctor if a passenger requires assistance.

New pilots also receive company-specific training. The department has a designated initial operating experience (IOE)/line check airman responsible for instructing new pilots in company procedures and familiarizing them with routes the department typically operates. The IOE captain flies for 25 hrs with new pilots who have successfully completed their initial type ride.

Other pilot training regimens at Cimarex include cold weather ops, crew resource management (CRM) and use of the minimum equipment list (MEL). Cimarex has a company MEL approved by the Denver FAA FSDO that is carried electronically aboard each aircraft. Cold weather and MEL training are conducted annually within the department, while CRM is reviewed every 2 years by an outside provider.

Pilots are also trained on aircraft servicing and ground handling, to include towing limitations and proper grounding for single-point fueling. The objective, Ganse says, is for pilots to understand how everything on the aircraft is operated in case they ever encounter inexperienced line personnel. These procedures are also reviewed annually.
While not required, Cimarex pilots have the option of attending high-altitude training at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs.

Focus on safety

Cimarex initiated a safety management system (SMS) program in 2008. The SMS is IS-BAO based and reviewed annually at the beginning of each year. It is also reviewed whenever there is a major change in department operations, such as the recent introduction of the Lear 60XR with its new avionics suite.

In addition, Cimarex has what it calls a HIT form, which stands for hazard incidence tracking. This is a companywide form that allows employees to recommend procedural improvements. HIT form recommendations are incorporated in the flight department's ops manual or SOPs on a trial basis, Ganse says, then made permanent if they prove to be effective over time.

Operations at Cimarex are conservative. NDB approaches were removed from the department's ops specs 2 years ago, replaced generally with RNAV or LPV procedures. Circling approaches at night in mountainous terrain are prohibited. ILS approaches with less than 3/4-mile visibility or 4000 ft RVR must be flown coupled with the autopilot.


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