FLIGHT DEPT OF THE YEAR
Fleet of GV, G550 and 2 Citation Xs help Deere execs do business around the world
A reconfigured fleet and new hangar contribute to agricultural giant's expanded international mission.
New efficient hangar
(Top L–R) Deere flight ops has a lot of history. Some of the airplanes previously associated with Deere include a Travel Air 6000, Beech Bonanza 35s and 36s, a Grumman Widgeon, a Beech 18 and 3 Cessna 310s. (Center) Deere's new 70,500 sq ft hangar and office complex. (Bottom L–R) Atrium of the new hangar complex, an executive conference room, and the 335 x 120-ft maintenance and storage hangar.
A key feature of the Deere flight department today is its new 70,500 sq ft hangar facility on the north side of the airport toward the west end of MLI's Rwy 9/27. Design emphasizes ease of access and operation by pilots, technicians and passengers.
A tasteful reception area leads into an open atrium decorated in woods and fabrics that allude to John Deere's agricultural heritage. To the east are offices and a conference room. To the west is a 335 x 120 ft hangar—big enough to accommodate Deere's entire current fleet plus, perhaps, another Gulfstream or other ultralong-range jet.
The hangar backs up to a 335 x 30 ft tech space which houses the flight department's maintenance offices and shops, plus storage space. An equal-sized mezzanine above the tech space features a glass wall overlooking the hangar, with pilot offices, training rooms, lockers, a gym, records storage area (with safe) and flight planning facilities.
Mgr Flight Standards Tim Toal recently negotiated a new simulator contract with FSI. Deere pilots collectively spend 32 weeks a year in sim training at FSI.
Much thought and planning has gone into the facility's design, and there seems to be storage space for everything that normally gets set out on the hangar floor of most flight operations. Tool boxes have an alcove set aside for storage when not in use, and ground support equipment is stowed out of sight. Even the "honey wagon" used to service the aircraft lavatories has a dedicated storage stall, complete with potable and nonpotable water and compressed air to service it.
The crew car—a new Chevy SUV—has its own garage facility, with through access both to the front of the building and into the hangar. On the opposite side, the hangar has single-car-size garage doors to allow vehicle access without opening a main hangar door. Adjacent to the garage is a tornado shelter—a staple of life in the Midwest.
Inside, the hangar features a comprehensive fire detection and prevention system that will fill the hangar to the ceiling with foam when activated. Located along the walls throughout the facility are first aid kits and defibrillators.
Outside the hangar facing the parking lot toward the west end of the building is a false wall that conceals an emergency power generator to ensure the hangar can continue to operate if power from the public utility fails. The modesty wall is covered in the same metallic siding that sheathes the entire hangar, making it virtually invisible from the parking lot.
Mgr Av Safety/Security Roger Schoutteet participates in quarterly meetings with other flight departments to keep the Deere SMS on the cutting edge.
On the ramp side, a 9000 sq ft section of apron is heated with buried tubes carrying heated glycol to keep snow and ice away. And at the west end of the ramp is a fuel farm with capacity to store 50,000 gal of Jet A.
Robert Miller, facility engineer for Deere's Corporate Facility Engineering Dept, served as project manager for the facility, which is clearly designed to enhance the operating efficiency of the flight department and add significant shareholder value to the overall operation. The company visited flight departments all over the country looking for best-practice ideas to incorporate.
Quality and integrity
Line pilots (L–R) Jeremy Scales, Charlie Hager, Dan Bishop, Rob Fleming and Susan Potter. Deere pilots are qualified on both the Citations and the Gulfstreams, and nearly half their flights are to international destinations.
According to James Field, the new facility is intended to reflect John Deere's high standards of quality and integrity, and is designed to support growth in the flight department necessary to support the company's goal of doubling in size in the next decade.
The department already works hard to support the corporation's business objectives. Jay Sears notes that, compared with typical NBAA corporate flight patterns, Deere's aircraft are heavily used, with each logging around 800 hrs annually. Line pilots at Deere fly 500–600 hrs a year, and are typically on the road 70–85 nights a year, including training.
In a change from when the department operated 3 aircraft types, all pilots are now qualified in all of the company's aircraft—a process that simplifies scheduling and improves operating flexibility.
Pilot job openings occur infrequently at Deere—the last one came when a senior pilot retired—but when they do the company seeks candidates with at least 3000 flight hours. "We like to see turbine and PIC time," Sears says, "but we don't have hard minimums. Mostly we like to hire the individual—someone who fits well with the group." He notes that this frequently means people who are comfortable with the rural lifestyle around Moline.
Deere pilots also need to be comfortable with international flying. In addition to expanding operations in and to the BRIC countries, trips to other parts of the world are frequent and increasing.
For example, the department began supporting business activity in Vietnam last year, with HAN (Hanoi) and SGN (Ho Chi Minh City) becoming regular destinations.