Perdue flies far to rule the roost

Beechjet 400A and King Air B200 help SBY-based poultry and agribusiness giant reach outlying markets.

Perdue is marking its support for Susan G Komen for the Cure with 1 million specially marked “pink ribbon” packages. (Upper R, L–R) Three generations of Perdues in 1957—a young Jim, his father Frank and company founder Arthur Perdue. (Lower R) Agribusinesses include grain operations.

Fleet and operations

Perdue acquired its 1991 Beech­jet 400A (with Rockwell Collins Pro Line 4 avionics) from Raytheon in Nov 1998. Bradham joined Perdue the following year. He recalls that the flight department was using the aircraft about 600 hrs annually.

The Super King Air B200 was bought new in Jan 2005, and was the third B200 to have Pro Line 21 avionics. Before the downturn, usage was running at 450 hrs for the Beechjet and 325–350 hrs for the King Air, says Bradham.

Last year’s figures were 300 and 235, respectively. With the flight department budget allowing for 300 hrs per year per aircraft, Bradham predicts that this year’s figures will be slightly higher.

So far, the Beechjet is flying 23% more flight hours this year, the King Air somewhat less but also up. Fuel consumption runs an average 247 gph on the Beech 400 and 114 gph on the King Air. Bradham observes that DOCs have risen dramatically in recent years.

Fuel needs are met in part by means of an on-site 12,000-gal fuel tank (kept no more than 80% full for safety). Perdue buys 8000 gal of fuel per month from Eastern Aviation Fuels.

In addition, some 40% of fuel purchases are made on the road. Pilot salaries are about industry average. There is no loss-of-license insurance. Crew­members generally know their schedules several days (or even weeks) ahead, and pop-ups are not very common. A typical year may call for 30 RONs, and weekend duties are rotated as much as possible.

The pilots operate a 14-hour duty day, followed by 10 hours off, and are on call 24/7. (If a 16-hour duty day is required, the rest period is 24 hours.) Martin describes Perdue as “pretty good with scheduling.” Cross also likes the schedule and enjoys flying the same 2 airplanes on a regular basis.

He adds, “It’s nice to fly with the same people and be part of a team.” Martin agrees, saying, “The people we fly are people who want to be home in time for dinner with their families. We pull longer days so we can enable them to do their jobs.”

Perdue Chairman Jim Perdue (L) with Senior Dir of Purchasing Howard Long. Perdue describes the flight department as “a great resource.”


“We typically go to the same 11 airports again and again,” says Bradham. “The trip captain checks fees, FBO prices, etc. Our longest trips are FSD (Sioux Falls SD), ROG (Rogers AR) and HOU (Hobby, Hous­­ton TX). Average leg time is 1.3 hrs in the Beechjet and under 1 hr in the King Air.

In fact, 95% of our trips are 2 hrs or less.” Flight department load factors average 57%, adds Bradham. Company aircraft are used entirely for business—not for personal use. Trips are undertaken after a financial assessment and require approval from Food Products Pres Mike Roberts or Perdue Agribusiness Pres Dick Willey.

Commercial airlines are normally used for longer trips. Catering is ordered if a customer requests it, but since most flights are relatively short this is rarely an issue. Exec Administrative Assistant Jan Haddock acts as the department’s scheduler. She has been with Perdue since Jan 1982. Based in an office at corporate headquarters, Haddock serves as assistant to 2 vice presidents—VP Regional Ops Lester Gray and VP Live Production & Logistics Mike Levengood—in addition to her work for the flight department.

Haddock uses FlightTrak for scheduling and normally works 0630–1600. Although Bradham backs her up when she is not there, he notes, “We couldn’t do our jobs as efficiently as we do without her.”

Safety, training and maintenance

Flight Dept Mgr & Chief Pilot Paul Bradham (L) and Senior Capt Clayton Pauze have been with Perdue’s flight department since 1999. Both are qualified as ATPs.

Bradham holds safety meetings monthly. The department does not have an SMS yet but the goal is to have one in place by the end of next year. All pilot recurrent training takes place at FlightSafety Intl/Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita KS. Perdue uses Air Repair ESN (Easton MD) for everyday maintenance.

Major inspections go to Hawker Beechcraft Services FTY (Fulton County, Atlanta GA) and Stevens Aviation GYH (Donaldson Center, Greenville SC). Bradham notes that Landmark ORF (Norfolk VA) does King Air inspections and that the department has also used Hawker Beechcraft Services TPA (Intl, Tampa FL). Meanwhile, Hawker Beechcraft Services FTY performs all avionics work on both aircraft.

Value added

Pilots James Martin (L) and Steve Cross in the cockpit of the Perdue King Air B200. Martin will commence Beechjet 400A training this fall.

Bradham has reported directly to Senior Dir of Purchasing Howard Long since 2006. “Paul has great ideas,” says Long. “He coordinates the budget through me and I get the approvals.” Long adds that the flight department “takes pride in [the company] and certainly enhances it.

They’re always ready and willing to go where they’re needed. They’re extremely capable and their goals are very well aligned with those of the company.” For Chairman Jim Perdue there is no doubt about the value of the flight department. “Our facilities are very rural,” he explains.

“What normally takes a full day flying commercial one-way these guys can do round-trip in a day. They’re a great resource, a very valuable service.” He continues, “It’s important to communicate, but it’s a logistical challenge. We wouldn’t be able to do it as effectively without the flight department. And Jan does a great job of coordinating.

That’s important. She makes Paul’s life easier.” Each May, at the start of the fiscal year, Perdue conducts a state-of-the-business review. As part of this, Jim Perdue, Food Products Pres Roberts and Agri­business Pres Willey split up, visiting each of the company’s 22 major operations. “This used to take a month and a half,” he reflects. “Because of the flight department we can do it in 2 weeks.”


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