Commercial Operator Pilots Rewarded for Safe Flying
The National Business Aviation Association presents the Commercial Business Flying Safety Awards each year to member company pilots who have exemplary safety records in nonscheduled, revenue-producing flight operations. AIN caught up with some of the top award recipients for 2011.
Ron Ludema, director of operations
Tulip City Air Service
43 years, 30,943 hours
Tulip City Air Service, based at Western Michigan Regional Airport, is a full-service FBO. The company’s repair station maintains small aircraft as well as Falcon and Gulfstream jets. Its charter fleet includes a Cessna 310 and 401, Beech King Air A100, Falcon 10 and Gulfstream G450. Tulip City also provides flight training and hangar storage as well as jet-A and 100LL fuel. The company’s first aircraft, when Ron Ludema started the business in 1967, was a 1960 Beech P35 Bonanza. The firm now has eight pilots, and Ludema said it plans to add more.
“My interest in flying was generated when I worked on a ranch in Wyoming while in high school and the neighbor would fly in with his J-3 cub and land on our driveway,” he said. Ludema worked for the FBO at the local regional airport, and earned his pilot certificate in 1965. “One of the most enjoyable aircraft to fly,” he said, “was the old Gulfstream GI.
“We have always had the attitude–and taught our pilots–that the safety and comfort of our passengers is the number-one priority. I tell each pilot I never want to hear a story from a passenger about a bad ride; we’ll cancel a flight if we have to [because of weather or other circumstances].”
John Morgenthaler Jr., president
35 years, 84,096 hours
Aero Charter, based at Spirit of St. Louis Airport, has been flying charter for 35 years. “Safety is our number-one company core value,” John Morgenthaler Jr., president ofAero Charter, told AIN. “We teach all of our team-members that safety comes before anything else. We have a safety officer, a safety committee and we hold regular in-house pilot meetings that include safety panel discussions.”
Aero Charter’s fleet consists of three Citation XLSs and a CJ2, a Hawker 700A and a 400A, two Sabreliner 65s, two Beech King Air 200s and two Baron 58s, a Pilatus PC-12NG and a Piper Chieftain. Aero Charter employs 19 pilots, seven mechanics and four avionics specialists, with a total of 54 people. Included in the pilot pool are the two owners: Morgenthaler and Bob Thomas, co-founder and CEO. Aero Charter also transports organs for area hospitals. The avionics department specializes in custom installations and retrofits, and has an active aircraft sales division and an aircraft management program for owners who don’t want the headache of operating their own flight department, Morgenthaler said.
The company plans to expand its aircraft management, charter, FBO, avionics and maintenance departments, Morgenthaler said, “while maintaining our family-style environment and all our common core values.”
Don Harter, COO and director of operations
East Wenatchee, Wash.
28 years, 139,182 hours
Executive Flight is an on-demand jet charter operator that also provides FBO services and aircraft maintenance. The company transports organs in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Alaska. Based at Pangborn Memorial Airport in East Wenatchee, Wash., Executive Flight operates 10 jets and two turboprops.
COO Don Harter told AIN that he has been with the company since it was first formed and that its first responsibility is safety, then service. The secret of the company’s long safety record is excellent leadership, with emphasis on safety and customer service before profits, he commented.
Executive Flight launched with a Twin Commander, then operated Learjets and a Challenger 600. Harter said his favorite corporate aircraft to fly is the Twin Commander.
William Mayo III, CEO
28 years, 155,791 hours
“Safety is no accident,” said William Mayo III. “Intense focus and dedication to safety is the Mayo Aviation’s way of life.”
Mayo is CEO of the Rocky Mountain region-based aircraft management and charter service. Established in 1978 at Denver’s Centennial Airport, the company was started by William Mayo II and his wife, Gwendolyn, whose emphasis on safety was evident from the beginning. Mayo Aviation is one of the pioneers in general aviation charter operations. In 1979, the company was the first operator certified to provide flight ambulance service. At one point, Mayo Aviation was the largest King Air operator in the world.
William Mayo is a founding member and currently sits on the board of governors of the Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF). His company embraces the ACSF standards and is one of the operators listed on the ACSF Industry Audit Standard registry.
Under Mayo’s leadership, Mayo Aviation has grown to operate out of four locations in Colorado, as well as New Jersey and Delaware. The company operates a diverse fleet of turboprops and jets with an “uncompromising focus on exceeding client expectations,” William Mayo said. “We are a continuous improvement organization and are committed to adhering to and embracing industry best practices.”