FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE
Heart of America flies forward
King Air C90B and Cessna 182 let management visit 13 hotels and 17 restaurants across Upper Midwest.
Heart of America typically uses its King Air C90B to transport groups of 5 or 6 executives to the restaurants and hotels it operates throughout the Midwest. The King Air is also used for occasional longer trips to locations such as Washington DC.
While there he also became acquainted with Lewis, who came to admire Johnson's work ethic and his approach to safe flight operations.
While flying for Carver, Johnson began to study computer technology with New Horizons Computer Center and soon earned Network Plus and Security Plus certifications by CompTIA, a non-profit IT trade association.
Lewis learned that HoA was looking for a computer technician and encouraged Johnson to apply, thinking that his piloting skills would enhance his value to the company. It has. With a 2nd pilot on staff, the flight department can dispatch both aircraft simultaneously when travel requirements dictate.
This Cessna 182 Skylane, acquired about 2 years ago, typically carries groups of 2 or 3 executives to hotel and restaurant sites. Seen on the ramp at DVN where it is based, it replaced an earlier Skylane which was destroyed in a hangar fire.
"It works out great in the IT department," Johnson says, "because with all of our locations, if one of them has an IT problem, the IT director and I can jump in an airplane and get there really quick."
Lewis, who has logged more than 16,500 hrs in his career, attends annual King Air recurrency training at SimCom in Orlando FL. His CFI rating is current and he provides biennial flight reviews to Whalen and Johnson.
Maintenance for Heart of America's aircraft is performed by Carver Aero's DVN facility, where the aircraft are based.
Matt Van Landschoot is director of maintenance for Carver. A native of Davenport, he joined the US Army in 1983. There he was introduced to aviation maintenance, working on Grumman OV1 Mohawks.
Returning to civilian life after 6 years, he enrolled at Hawkeye Institute of Technology in Waterloo IA, where he graduated in 1992 with an A&P license. He joined Carver Aero as a line technician, and was moved to the shop 6 months later. He was named to his current position in 2011.
Dan Whalen is vp of construction for Heart of America. He has overseen the building of most of the company's hotel properties and frequently uses the company's aircraft to visit construction sites.
Van Landschoot also maintains 3 other King Airs based at Carver—a 350, a 200 and another 90. He received initial King Air maintenance training at the FlightSafety Intl facility in Wichita KS, and attends recurrent King Air classes at CAE SimuFlite in Dallas TX every 2 years.
HoA's King Air is maintained on a 4-phase inspection program, with 2 phases performed every year. The program is in accordance with Hawker Beechcraft factory standards and procedures. Most of the work is performed at Carver, including routine scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, SBs and compliance with most ADs.
Work that is beyond the scope of the Carver shop is sent to Emery Air at RFD (Rockford IL), an authorized Hawker Beechcraft service facility. Lewis cites the 10-year King Air wing bolt AD, accomplished on the HoA King Air about 2 years ago, as an example of work sent to Emery. Occasionally, an Emery technician will be dispatched to assist Van Landschoot on site at DVN.
Matt Van Landschoot is dir of maintenance for Carver Aero at DVN, where Heart of America's aircraft are based. He performs most of the maintenance on HoA's aircraft.
With just over 2900 hrs on the airframe, the King Air is several years from requiring engine overhauls, based on current utilization. Lewis says he expects the aircraft to be traded in on HoA's pending HondaJet before an engine overhaul is due.
The 182 is maintained to Cessna factory standards on an annual program. Van Landschoot installed a factory-remanufactured Lycoming IO540 late last year, along with prop and governor overhauls when the aircraft was at the 1900-hr mark.
Brian Johnson performs IT functions and also serves as the back-up pilot. He says the 2 skill sets are particularly valuable when he needs to handle IT problems on-site at locations away from his Moline IL office.
Avionics work for both aircraft is sent to the Elliot facility in DSM (Des Moines IA).
With its growing chain of hotels and restaurants, it's clear that Heart of America has become a hugely successful operation.
In 2013 HoA will begin franchising its Johnny's Italian Steakhouse restaurant brand, putting more workload on the airplanes. But when Michael Whalen opened his first restaurant in 1978, one of his goals was to become famous.
A HondaJet is scheduled to replace HoA's King Air later this year or in early 2014. CEO Michael Whalen notes that this one already carries an N-number ending in his company's initials—HA.
Recently, he says, he discovered conclusive evidence that, yes, his Iowa Machine Shed brand is famous. It was on a trip to Spain, when in a restaurant in Madrid one evening, he and Kim happened to engage in conversation with diners at the adjacent table who turned out to be from Brazil. The Brazilians asked the Whalens what part of America they came from. Of course, Michael and Kim said they were from Iowa.
"It turns out the Brazilians were in the pork business and they'd just come from the World Pork Expo in Moline," Whalen relates. "And they said, 'While we were there we went to the most wonderful restaurant—it was called The Iowa Machine Shed. Have you ever heard of that?'"
"And that's when I knew that, if we could travel to Spain and meet people from Brazil who knew and raved about our restaurant, we had achieved our goal. Clearly, we are famous."
Mike Potts is an aviation consultant and freelance writer. He worked in corporate communications for Beech and Raytheon Aircraft between 1979 and 1997.