A salute to McDonald's

Mickey D is honored as top flight dept 2012. Global 6000 and Challenger 300 bring Big Mac tasty profits around the world.

By Mike Potts
Pro Pilot SW Associate Editor

Members of the McDonald's flight department with the company's recently delivered Bombardier Global 6000 on the ramp at DPA (DuPage, Chicago IL).

When company founder Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald's restaurant—complete with golden arches—in Des Plaines IL in 1955, he didn't need an airplane. He had only 1 location. The company would grow rapidly from that point onward, reaching 700 locations around the US by 1965. International operations began in 1967, and grew rapidly after 1980.

Today McDonald's has evolved into a worldwide organization, with 34,000 restaurants in 119 countries, and its executives rely on business aircraft to transport them safely, securely and efficiently to all the places around the globe where they need to do business.

McDonald's Global Aviation Services is based at DPA (DuPage, Chicago IL), a short drive from the company's headquarters in Oak Brook IL, and operates a Bombardier Global 6000 and a Bombardier Challenger 300.

The latter is scheduled for replacement early next year with a Challenger 605, which the company believes is better suited to the frequent transoceanic missions the department flies.

The department is led by Global Aviation Services Senior Director Randy Hutton. Hutton was recruited to McDonald's 2 years ago by Kevin Ozan, senior vp and corporate controller, who is responsible for the flight department within the McDonald's corporate structure and was seeking to strengthen its leadership. "Randy has done a great job of building a culture of performance, discipline and accountability," Ozan says.

Hutton arrived with a vision for the flight department—to maintain world-class status for global flight operations, to be valued as a relevant business tool integral to the McDonald's business plan, to be a recognized leader and mentor in the business aviation industry, and to model integrity and respect for others.

Hutton also had a 4-step plan to achieve his vision:

• Create a work environment that supports employee pride and productivity
• Establish an organizational structure that provides leadership and accountability
• Leverage existing talent to achieve operational excellence
• Communicate this vision throughout the organization

As a first step toward revamping the organization, Hutton personally rewrote the department's standard operating procedures and general operations manual. To achieve buy-in from the department, he shared drafts of the rewritten documents with the flightcrews and maintenance personnel who would be using them, urging them to make suggestions and changes.

Senior Dir Global Aviation Services Randy Hutton leads the McDonald's flight department. Behind him is a fuel tank from a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Hutton previously directed the flight department at Harley-Davidson.

"By the time we were finished, they owned the documents," he says. "The department had defined for itself how it will operate. At the outset, nothing was set in stone—if a procedure didn't work, we changed it.

The objective was to create an operating environment that works for the way we fly and maintain our airplanes."

Hutton has established a 3-member aviation leadership team to help him manage the department. The team consists of Steve Kostas, director of aviation ops and chief pilot, Cassandra Ortiz, aviation administration manager, and Michael Delves, aviation maintenance manager.

Five line pilots and 2 flight attendants report to Kostas, 2 maintenance technicians report to Delves, and the executive travel specialist who handles scheduling reports to Ortiz.

The department is further organized into subteams with responsibility for each aircraft, consisting of a pilot, a flight attendant and a mechanic. "Jeff Doyle, Jennifer Doles and Wayne Sanchez own the Global," Hutton says, and "Nick Mauer, Glenn Anthony and Lisa Weissinger own the 300."

In addition, each pilot has individual responsibilities beyond flight duties, including one assigned to safety and quality assurance, one to training and standards, and another to security issues.

All of the department's pilots are captain qualified with extensive international experience. The Global 6000 typically flies about 500 hrs per year and the Challenger 300 has been averaging about 400.

Hutton says he expects flying with the 2nd aircraft will increase to 500 hrs a year or more when the 605 comes on line because of its added long-range capability and roomier cabin. McDonald's pilots log an average of 30–35 flight hours and 3–5 over­night trips per month. About 60% of all trips are to international destinations.

Team backgrounds

Pilots Dave Walter (L) and Nick Mauer on the flightdeck of McDonald's Global 6000. Both men are captain-qualified on the aircraft.

Chief Pilot Kostas has been with the department for about 10 years. He had been flying Boeing 727s and 737s with United Airlines—a position he considered his dream job—when he was furloughed after Sep 11, 2001.

Relocating back to his native Chicago, Kostas learned from his new next-door neighbor—Mike Delves—that McDonald's was hiring pilots. Kostas was hired, and soon discovered that he much preferred flying for McDonald's over his former airline position. When United called him back, Kostas declined.

He was pleased when he heard Hutton would be joining the department. "I'd heard about him before," Kostas says. "He had a reputation for doing things the right way and doing it while having fun. And when he got here, it was obvious everything we'd heard was true. It was like a breath of fresh air."

Hutton liked what he saw in Kostas as well, and promoted him to chief pilot in Apr 2011. One of Kostas's duties as chief pilot is filling any vacancies that occur in the flight­crew ranks. Basic requirements for a McDonald's captain include an ATP with a minimum of 3000 flight hours, including 1500 in multiengine jets.


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