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.
Deere maintenance team keeps the department's airplanes flying over 800 hrs a year each. (L–R) Aircraft Mx Supervisor Chris Behn, Line Technician Blaine Roberts, Aircraft Mechanic Tim Harty, Retired Mx Supervisor Tom Smith, Aircraft Mechanics Tyler Cook and Cronan McCarthy, Quality Control Inspector Ross Carbiener, and Aircraft Mechanics Tim Newman and Mark Jacobs.
Toal provides supervision and performance management for half the pilots, and handles training for all of them. He recently completed negotiating an exclusive agreement with FlightSafety Intl (FSI) to provide simulator training for Deere's pilots in the Gulfstream and Citation X.
In addition, he coordinates with MedAire to provide Deere with inflight urgent telemedical service. All Deere aircraft carry enhanced emergency medical kits and the entire department has received automated external defibrillator (AED) cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training.
If there is an inflight emergency, MedAire coordinates with the aircraft crew in flight to arrange for a diversion if necessary and meet the flight with an ambulance if evacuation is necessary. Toal notes that one of Deere's line pilots, Greg Farley, is also an EMT and helps to coordinate and enhance the department's MedAire training.
Toal says Deere is in the process of adding controller/pilot datalink communication (CPDLC) capability to its aircraft. Training is part of an enhanced navigation package offered by FSI that provides WAAS approach capability as well as CPDLC.
Deere pilots attend simulator training annually in each type, so each pilot spends at least 2 weeks a year at FSI. With 16 pilots, this means there is a pilot away from the department in training approximately 2 out of every 3 weeks throughout the year.
Toal says he coordinates with another Deere line pilot, Mike Coffman, to ensure the training schedule functions smoothly without disrupting flight operations.
Roger Schoutteet is mgr of aviation safety and security. Over the past several years he has developed the department's safety management system (SMS). Schoutteet is a member of the Midwest Safety Roundtable (MSR), a consortium of area flight departments that meet quarterly to discuss safety issues and benchmark with one another to implement best practices.
Schoutteet credits his MSR membership with providing much of the groundwork necessary to develop the Deere SMS. He notes that the Deere SMS is an evolving document that changes to accommodate the ongoing needs of the department and incorporate current thinking in best practices.
Similar input was important in the department achieving IS-BAO Phase II certification. During the qualification audit, the Deere flight department was approved with no findings.
Schoutteet, who is also Aviation's primary contact with OSHA, notes that the company has just installed a fall protection system in the hangar for maintenance techs working above ground level on aircraft fuselages, tails or engines. In addition to his other duties, Schoutteet serves as standards captain for G550 ops.
Maintaining the fleet
Chris Behn is aircraft maintenance supervisor at Deere. He directs a 6-person staff—5 mechanics and a line technician—and is responsible for the department's Part 145 repair station.
Ross Carbiener is chief inspector for the repair station and reports to Dahl. The department performs all routine maintenance on the Deere fleet and generally handles any inspections and unscheduled maintenance that can be performed in less than a week.
Each aircraft gets a postflight inspection each time it returns to the hangar. First step is a face-to-face debrief with the flightcrew. Afterwards, squawks identified by the crew or discrepancies identified in postflight inspection are worked off.
Larger jobs, including major airframe inspections, are sent out, with the Gulfstreams usually going to the Gulfstream service center at ATW (Appleton WI) and the Citations to the Cessna service center at MKE (Mitchell, Milwaukee WI), although Deere has also used the Gulfstream facility at SAV (Savannah GA) and the Citation center at ICT (Mid-Continent, Wichita KS).
All the aircraft are equipped with Rolls-Royce engines, and Deere subscribes to the RR Corporate Care program to maintain them.
Deere also uses Honeywell's Avionics Protection Program (HAPP) for both Gulfstreams. The GV has an SPZ 8500 flightdeck and the G550 features an Epic PlaneView suite upgraded with Gulfstream's Certification Foxtrot program, which includes Honeywell's SVS as well as an enhanced navigation package that includes WAAS LPV, RNP 0.1, FANS 1/A and FMS V7.1.
Both Citation Xs are equipped with Primus 2000 avionics. Basic avionics squawks are handled by Tim Newman, one of Deere's 5 maintenance techs, who serves as primary avionics technician.
Maintenance training is done with FSI at ICT for the Citations and at SAV for the Gulfstreams. Five of Deere's flight mechanics hold FSI's Citation X master technician rating.
Deere also uses Global Jet Services of Wheatogue CT for personal development training for its maintenance personnel.
Behn says all of Deere's maintenance techs have taken Global's aviation interpersonal maintenance management program and the company has also provided training on changes in maintenance regulations.
Working for John Deere's aviation maintenance department is not necessarily a stay-at-home job. The service technicians serve as flight engineers on many of the company's international trips. Behn says flights bound for China, India, Africa and remote parts of Russia and South America usually carry a maintenance technician to deal with issues that might arise in areas where support services might be sparse.
Behn notes that Deere has adopted a system of assigning each maintenance tech to a specific airplane. The technician is given the title "plane captain" and his name is painted on the nose landing gear door.
Tim Harty, plane captain on Deere's G550, says having his name on the aircraft gives him an extra dose of pride and determination that the aircraft should be maintained perfectly and perform flawlessly. It also gives him an opportunity to travel. "I've been to Tokyo, Singapore, India and China—places I never thought I'd see," he says.