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.

Aircraft Captain James McGovern is responsible for training and standards. A former naval aviator, McGovern was an FA18 instructor pilot.

A first officer should have 1500 hrs and 500 in multiengine jets. These minimums are not absolute—for Kostas, finding a candidate whose ethics and personality fit the department is more important than total hours in a log book.

"We can teach people to fly our way," he says. "It's much harder to teach someone the respect and caring attitude they need to succeed in this flight department."

Kostas says an important part of his duties is working closely with the pilots who are responsible for additional duties in the department, including training, safety and security, and making sure they have the resources they need to do their jobs.

Training and standards

James McGovern is training and standards captain, with responsibility for all training within the department, including pilots, flight attendants and maintenance personnel.

He came to McDonald's after 20 years in the US Navy, where he was a carrier-based FA18 pilot and also flew C20s (militarized Gulfstream III/IVs) from ADW (Joint Base Andrews, Camp Springs MD), transporting senior military and government officials.

In between he flew briefly as a flight engineer on 727s for United until being furloughed after Sep 11. He joined McDonald's as a line pilot in 2003.

Pilots attend recurrent training every 6 months, with Challenger 300 (and soon to be 605) training with Bombardier at DFW and Global 6000 training at Bombardier's Montreal facility.

McGovern schedules these sessions, typically at the same time every year with trips to Dallas in January or February and to Montreal in September. He works with the flight training organizations to tailor any special course work the department may want to emphasize and also to make sure all the pilots' procedures are standardized.

Steve Kostas is dir of aviation ops and chief pilot. He is a 10-year veteran of the McDonald's flight department.

In addition, McGovern conducts annual observation flights for all the pilots, sitting in the jump seat to watch crews interact and perform their duties.

A special emphasis this year, he says, is making sure crews understand and comply with all the requirements of the department's newly rewritten general operations manual and standard operating procedures.

"We are very standardized," says McGov­ern. "No matter who you fly with, it should always be the same." He notes there has been increased emphasis on standardization since Hutton's arrival.

Other flightchecks McGovern conducts are currency flights every 90 days, with 3 night takeoffs and landings, and introductory flights whenever a new pilot is added to the McDonald's roster.

Karen Gallisath is a line captain on both the Challenger and the Global, and she serves as the department's security coordinator. She joined McDonald's after a 20-year flying career ranging from night freight to United Airlines, and then a series of corporate jobs. She says she was fortunate that McDonald's was hiring just as her investment banker employer parked a Gulfstream IV in the 2008 recession.

Her security duties primarily involve working with McDonald's corporate security team to evaluate security risks at the around-the-world destinations where the department flies.
"We try to assess any issue that might affect a trip, or perhaps cause us not to complete a trip," she says.

"Do we need additional security for the aircraft or the crew? Do we need to make any special security arrangements for the executives once they leave the airport environment?"

Flight Attendants Lisa Weissinger (L) and Jennifer Doles in the cabin of McDonald's Global 6000. Both are trained to ensure safety and provide high-quality inflight service.

In some countries, she says, McDonald's will send an advance team to evaluate the situation on the ground and access potential risks.

In most locations McDonald's has local security. The corporate security specialists coordinate with local security to provide appropriate protection.

Gallisath receives a daily briefing from Flight Manager—the Rockwell Collins flight planning service—which includes security issues. She also receives briefings from McDon­ald's corporate security department on general security issues, as well as specific issues pertaining to upcoming trips.

For the flight department, she says, "We look at it more from the aspect of protecting the airplane and our crew while we are on site."

Dave Walter is a line captain and the department's safety and quality assurance facilitator. He has been with McDonald's for about 2 years. Previously he had spent 24 years with ATA Airlines, flying Lockheed L1011s, Boeing 707s, 737s and 757s from its MDW (Midway, Chicago IL) base until the company closed in 2008.

Cassandra Ortiz, manager of aviation administration, handles all accounting functions for the department, including the paperwork to buy and sell aircraft.

In his safety and quality capacity, Walter is responsible for downloading flight operational quality assurance (FOQA) data from the computers aboard both aircraft. The data is sent to a processing company and returned in a text-and-graphics analysis that identifies any deviations beyond established parameters.

"This is a nonpunitive system to identify operational safety issues," says Walter. He forwards the results to Kostas and McGovern for review and to identify potential corrective action. "I'm proud to say that, in more than a year of downloading data, we've never had a pilot exceed the operational parameters."

Walter also manages the department's aviation reporting (AVREP) system, which is a computer-based system that any flight department employee can use to identify potential safety concerns.


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