FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE
Van Wall flies Citation V and Piper Lance to maintain business contacts throughout the US
Aircraft support dealerships for John Deere tractors, rec vehicles, motorcycles, wind turbines and irrigation gear
Shafts of sunlight shine on Van Wall's Citation V on the ramp at PRO where it is ready for departure. The Citation V recently replaced a Piper Cheyenne III.
Development and expansion of flight ops
This arrangement would continue until Barney retired in 1989 and sold his share in the company to Van Houweling. But what to do with the airplane?
"I asked Barney if he thought I should buy the airplane and get a pilot's license," Van Houweling recalls. "He told me 'No, Don, you're not patient enough. You wouldn't make a good pilot.' And I'm 100 percent sure he was right."
Instead, Van Houweling struck up an arrangement with a local farmer who owned a Cherokee Six and operated it from a nearby private strip. For nearly 2 decades, the big Piper single would handle most of Van Wall's business flying requirements.
As the business continued to expand, however, transportation requirements called for more capability and in 2005 Van Wall acquired a Piper PA31 Pressurized Navajo. A Piper Cheyenne III turboprop was added to the fleet in 2009.
The Van Wall flight department today consists of a 1993 Cessna Citation V and a 1978 Piper Lance. Both aircraft are new to Van Wall, the Lance having been acquired last winter to replace the P-Navajo and the Citation this spring replacing the Cheyenne. The Citation is equipped with 5-tube Honeywell GNS-XLS EFIS panel and dual FMS. The Lance carries a Garmin 530W in the cockpit.
Both aircraft are based at PRO (Municipal-Perry IA), which is located about 4 miles west on Highway 141 from the Van Wall headquarters facility. Airport Manager Randy Tarlton, proprietor of Tarlton Aviation, provides fueling and light maintenance on the Citation and general maintenance for the Lance.
Augie Hohl Jr is Van Wall's chief pilot, flight mgr and safety officer
August "Augie" Hohl Jr is chief pilot, and also serves as the safety administrator for Van Wall. When not flying he develops safety and training programs for the company's 300 employees.
Des Moines Flying Service at DSM handles most maintenance tasks for the Van Wall fleet. (L-R) Citation Maintenance Technician Kurt Gabriel and Doug Nehls, director of customer service in the maintenance hangar at Des Moines Flying Service.
Hohl joined Van Wall in early 2012 with a background that includes 29 years with the US Army on active duty, Reserve and National Guard billets as well as an array of corporate, regional airline and overseas contract pilot positions. He was introduced to aviation early in life by his father, August Sr, who was an Eastern Airlines captain.
Augie learned to fly in civilian flight training programs, earning his private license in Fayetteville NC. He then took advantage of the GI Bill to earn his commercial, instrument, multi and flight instructor ratings in Rockford IL.
He learned to fly helicopters in the Illinois National Guard and flew Bell UH1 Hueys as a warrant officer. During his Army career Hohl had numerous assignments related to safety and training that gave him good preparation for the non-flying portion of his responsibilities at Van Wall.
He served 2 tours in Afghanistan in 2003-2004 and again in 2006 in non-aviation positions with Army command staff before a family contact led to a job with Presidential Airways flying Bombardier de Havilland Dash 8s in the US and later CASA 212s in Afghanistan.
He began flying the Cheyenne III at Van Wall, taking Cheyenne training at SimCom, but knowing that the department was scheduled to upgrade to a jet.
PRO Airport Mgr Randy Tarlton is also proprietor of Tarlton Aviation, the FBO on the field. Tarlton provides fueling and basic services for the Van Wall aircraft and handles light maintenance on the Citation V and general maintenance for the Lance.
Augie Hohl played a major role in helping to select the new aircraft as the company considered a Citation II and an S-II before finally settling on the Citation V. Hohl credits aviation broker Rick Davenport of Harrisburg IL with helping Van Wall locate an excellent aircraft.
The final choice, Hohl says, was based on the Citation V's better performance characteristics for the Van Wall mission, which includes frequent heavy passenger loads and regular operation from PRO's 4000-ft runway where density altitude can be a factor during warm months.
When requirements call for another jet pilot, Van Wall typically uses Earnie Stonebraker, a contract pilot based as MSP (Minneapolis MN). Stonebraker regularly flew with Hohl when the Citation was first acquired. He also helped to write the company's flight ops manual and was intrumental in achieving the RVSM certification.
Hohl attended FlightSafety International's Citation type rating program in Atlanta, and plans to fulfill his annual recurrency training requirements there.
Matt Van Houweling is business manager for Van Wall and serves as an occasional pilot in the Lance when he is traveling for business in connection with his regular work. Van Houweling learned to fly at OJC (Johnson County, Olathe KS) while he was managing Van Wall's facility in Olathe KS. He added an instrument rating at Morey's West Coast Adventures at MFR (Medford OR).
Hohl says he expects Van Houweling will add a multiengine license later this year and will then attend FSI in Atlanta for a Citation SIC endorsement.
Aircraft mx done mostly at DMFS
Van Wall relies on Des Moines Flying Service (DMFS) at DSM to perform most maintenance tasks for both its new Citation V and its Lance. Previously DMFS also took care of Van Wall's Cheyenne III and its Navajo. DMFS has been a Piper dealer for more than 73 years.
Doug Nehls, dir of customer service for DMFS, explains that the Van Wall Citation V is maintained on Cessna's factory authorized CESCOM program, using a CAMP system at Cessna's service center to identify upcoming major events and keep track of all requirements. Both the Citation and Lance are on phase inspection programs, based on hourly and calendar intervals.
Aviation Mgr & Chief Pilot Augie Hohl demonstrates his aircraft parking skill with a John Deere tractor as he maneuvers Van Wall's Piper Lance into the hangar at PRO. The department's Citation V is in the background.
DMFS operates a Class III FAR Part 145 Repair Station and has 2 Citation-trained maintenance technicians on staff. The company performs all airframe maintenance and most basic engine service requirements. Overhauls, when due, are typically sent to Prime Turbines in Carrolton TX. Engine accessories are usually sent to Duncan Aviation at LNK (Lincoln NE).
DMFS performed the pre-purchase inspection on Van Wall's Citation and repainted the aircraft's selected N-number before it went into service.
CEO consider selected aircraft a key part of firm's sucess
The Van Wall aviation department offers an excellent example of how business aviation can support many aspects of a company's operations and contribute significantly to continued growth.
Don Van Houweling sums it up, saying "Our flight department has allowed this business to grow in more directions than it ever could have otherwise. It makes our people much more efficient and allows us to develop and maintain relationships that would have been impossible otherwise. The flight department is certainly a key part of how we do business today."
Mike Potts is an aviation consultant and freelance writer. He worked in corporate communications for Beech and Raytheon Aircraft between 1979 and 1997.
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