NBAA Convention News

Safe Pilot Awards: The common trait that's shared by the industry's safest pilots? Enthusiasm.

 - November 13, 2006, 11:11 AM

Pilot Flying Safety Awards are given by NBAA to the top pilots of member companies who have achieved exemplary safety records. Eligibility includes having flown corporate aircraft 1,500 hours without an accident, but the actual number of hours flown by many of the top pilots exceeds 20,000 hours.

This year’s top five, who have accumulated a collective total of 127,932 safe corporate hours, have appeared in these pages before. As we have in the past, NBAA Convention News talked with these high-timers to learn their safe-flying secrets.

T. William White

Chief Pilot

The Keller Companies

Manchester, N.H.

28,411 hours

Bill White has been among the top five on NBAA’s safety pilot list since 1992, and headed the list in 1998. He’s at the top again this year, with 28,411 hours. He told NBAA Convention News that his good safety record is due in great measure to his fellow pilots: “We have a highly experienced crew with lots of time in type, an average of 10,000 hours plus for each pilot,” he said. Those pilots fly the Mitsubishi MU-2–Keller operates two of the airplanes, the first one purchased in 1974–plus a Dassault Falcon 10.

White also credits good training, good equipment and excellent maintenance for the record. He also mentioned strong relationships with good, safe pilots, adding, “We have to know the pilots” being hired.

White became interested in flying when a family friend took him up for a flight–and that was what turned him into an airport kid. He worked for Nashua Aviation in exchange for flight instruction. After earning private, commercial, instrument and multi-engine ratings, he continued at Nashua as a flight instructor and charter pilot, flying various Cessnas and Pipers.

White joined Keller in 1969. “I was the only pilot then,” he said, “and the airplane I flew was a Cessna 310 Riley Rocket.” Today, White works with two other full-time pilots and a full-time chief of maintenance who also flies the Falcon 10 as copilot. The flight department also includes two additional mechanics, and his son Michael works part-time as a mechanic.

The Keller Companies is a group of eight family-owned companies manufacturing energy-efficient construction materials, with a major product being the Kelwall translucent panel.

The flight department primarily serves the installation and technical departments as well as sales, White said, with a little flying for management. Most flights are domestic, with a few Canadian trips as well.

He said that his favorite corporate airplane to fly is still Mitsubishi MU-2B-26M, N40KC. “It has 17,000 hours on the airframe. We took delivery of it in 1974. It has a lot of time on it and it runs well.”

White, in addition to his corporate flying, has served on the NBAA MU-2 technical committee. He is a member of the State of New Hampshire Aviation Users Advisory Board. “I represent corporate flight department issues, and the board has representatives for airport managers, commercial aviation, pure general aviation and businessman pilots. We advise the governor on aviation issues.”

For his personal flying, White had a Cessna 150 Texan taildragger conversion, which he has reconverted to nosewheel. His son, now 18, is attending New Hampshire Community Technical College in Nashua. He’s in the aviation technology program and plans to be an A&P mechanic.

William Smith

Chief Pilot


Franklin, Pa.

26,600 hours

“It’s been great,” William Smith remarked, reflecting on his 36 years as chief pilot for Conair, an equipment manufacturer for the plastics industry with worldwide operations. He started with the company as its chief pilot way back when the fleet consisted of a Cessna 182. He has watched the flight department grow over the years with a Cessna 310, a 401, a King Air 90, then a 100, a Citation 560 and now a Citation Excel.

Smith started out in aviation at 14 as the gofer at the local airport in Lynchburg, Va., where he grew up. He pumped gas and washed airplanes for the chance of an airplane ride. He said he had always been fascinated with airplanes. He soloed at 16 in a Super Cub and went on to get his private, commercial, instrument and flight instructor ratings. He said he has more than 6,000 flight instructor hours. After working as a flight instructor in Lynchburg, he became chief pilot for Penn Aire, a charter and flight school operation in Franklin, Pa.

Smith credits his safe record to his twice-a-year training at FlightSafety International for 32 years. He initially flew the King Air single-pilot (for some 12,000 hours), but Conair has been a two-pilot operation for the last 22 years and he requires the company pilots to take the same training. “It’s what keeps us safe and aware,” he said.

For his personal flying, he has owned a restored 1937 Clipped Wing Monocoupe for eight years. His favorite corporate airplane to fly, he said, is the Citation Excel, which he describes as “a nice flying airplane, with lots of performance.” But his personal favorite is the Monocoupe. “It was designed as a racer and was flown in the Cleveland Air Races,” he said. “It’s a fast little airplane and, with its 22-foot wing, a good aerobatic airplane.”

Milton Olsen

Bonneville Power Admin. (Ret.)

Portland, Ore.

25,118 hours

Milton Olsen flew all over the spectacular scenery of the Pacific Northwest in Super King Airs for the Bonneville Power Administration until he retired this year. Before joining the power administration, he flew in Idaho for the U.S. Forest Service after a long career flying in Southeast Asia and for two years in the Arctic.

The Bonneville Power Administration, which operates two Super King Airs and five Bell JetRangers, transmits power from the Columbia and Snake Rivers throughout the Northwest. Bonneville has 15,000 miles of power lines and 3,000 employees. The pilots fly executives, line repair technicians and mechanics over the territory, where fewer than 10 percent of the bases are served by commercial airlines.

As a child, Milt Olsen built model airplanes and watched airplanes in the sky, wondering what made them work. After graduating from Utah State University, with a degree in business, he joined the Army and volunteered to fly. He took basic training at San Marcos, Texas, and transitioned to helicopters at Fort Rucker, Ala.

It was in the Army that he decided a career in flying would be exciting. After receiving mustering-out pay, he spent two years flying exploration missions in Canada and the Arctic. “We took prospectors out looking for gold, in the Northwest Territories, Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. He once was stranded on Arctic ice for two days. Flying a Bell G-3 on floats, he was running short of fuel when his navigational aid failed. He landed on the ice to await rescue.

Next, after a six-month stint flying executives in Chicago, he made a big change– moving to Southeast Asia to fly for Air America for the next six years. Flying from Hong Kong, Bangkok and Laos, he operated Helio Couriers, Twin Otters, Pilatus Porters and Caribous. Not only was the flying enjoyable, he said, “we actually did some good. We delivered rice, moved refugees and brought in medical assistance.

“There were, of course, people who didn’t like us and who would take shots at us.” The upside of that, he said, was the hazardous duty pay.

Olsen next joined Transinternational Airlines, flying the Boeing 727, but after two years he turned to Continental Air Services, “doing the same thing” he had with Air America, a job he “enjoyed so much,” flying the DC-3, C-46 and Pilatus Porter.

“After the hostilities ended in Vietnam,” he said, “I moved to Singapore, flying oil exploration, moving crews around Burma, Borneo, Rangoon and the Philippines.” He flew Convair 440s and DC-3s during that time, until the operation was discontinued.

In 1976, he returned to the U.S. and went to work for the U.S. Forest Service, flying smoke jumpers in a DC-3, fighting forest fires. He was based in Boise, Idaho.

Olsen moved to the U.S. Department of Energy in 1978, taking the job with the Bonneville Power Administration, where he has been ever since, except for two years when he was called back to the Forest Service.

“The King Air is a good airplane for the stage lengths I flew in the Northwest,” he said, “an excellent way to spend time in the air.”

When asked to what he attributed his long safety record, he replied, “I’ve been lucky to stay healthy–and I enjoyed what I was doing.”

Paul Stinebring

Director of Administration and International Operations

Emerson Aviation

St. Louis, Mo.

24,115 hours

Soon after Paul Stinebring got married at 21 he saw an ad in the local paper offering introductory airplane rides. After a ride, “I spent a lot of time at the airport.” He attended Parks College in Cahokia, Ill., now part of St. Louis University, initially studying maintenance and engineering before moving into flying.

At St. Louis Lambert Field, he did maintenance work for TWA and continued flying. Before long he got his flight instructor rating and started teaching others to fly.

Stinebring began his corporate career in 1967, flying a Twin Beech for the Bank of St. Louis, at Spirit of St. Louis Airport, and then a King Air. After seven years with the bank, he joined Emerson in 1974 as a pilot and has since held positions of increasing responsibility. Currently, as director of administration and international operations, he draws upon his 39 years of experience to aid in the management of the company’s aviation unit and to coordinate projects with the local FAA office.

He continues to fly frequently. He told NBAA Convention News he has a helicopter rating but doesn’t fly the company helicopter. His FAA ratings also include ATP and flight instructor and his aircraft type ratings include the Cessna Citation 500; Dassault Falcon 10, 20 and 50; Gulfstream G150; Hawker HS 125; Lockheed JetStar and Learjet. In addition to his pilot ratings, Stinebring also holds an A&P. He lists the Falcon 900EX and the JetStar among his favorite airplanes to fly.

Stinebring has retired from the NBAA board of directors, which he joined in 1995, having served on the International Operations Committee and Air Traffic and Airspace Committee. “My work with NBAA has always been supported by the company,” he told NBAA Convention News. Stinebring has served on the Government Affairs Committee and is now a representative to the International Aviation Business Council, a group of 10 business aviation organizations around world. “IBAC gives us a voice in Montreal, representing business aviation at ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization].”

Stinebring currently has more than 24,000 hours of accident-free flight time. He attributes his outstanding safety record to “professional training and disciplined use of standard operating procedures.”

He told NBAA Convention News, “Training is very important and the company is very supportive, providing good training with no budgetary compromises.”

He also credits the “disciplined use of standard operating procedures, developed for all airplanes, and standards developed as a group. Everyone is involved as a department; we don’t always fly with the same people.

“Safety is a culture within the department; it starts with the chairman of the company and goes down to the people who fly.”

Gordon Czelusta

Director of Flight Operations

Rich Products

Buffalo, N.Y.

23,688 hours

In 1966, Gordon Czelusta was a highly skilled, highly paid tool and die maker. Then he took his first flight. “I thought, ‘This is what I want to do,’” Czelusta told NBAA Convention News. “I sold my brand-new Corvette and started taking flight instruction. I had a wife, two children and a mortgage, but I became a flight instructor. My father said, ‘That’s a really good move.’

“I would do it all over again,” Czelusta said.

Czelusta’s enthusiasm as director of flight operations for Rich Products of Buffalo, N.Y., is still high, and is in fact what he credits for his long accident-free record. “Number one is enthusiasm; there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. I have my hobbies and my J-3 Cub,” he said, but he enjoys his corporate flying time the most.

“If you’re not enthusiastic, the enemy is complacency,” he continued. “At Rich, we stress safety above all. Standardization, training, frequent pilot meetings, situational awareness and excellent maintenance practices are also big contributors.”

Another factor that adds to safety and smoothness of operation: “Our passengers always allow the crew to work in their own way, and never question the pilots’ judgment or decisions. In addition, the variety in the work we do continues to be challenging,” he said.

Part of Czelusta’s enthusiasm obviously comes from working with the Riches. The chairman, Bob Rich, died in February and his son, Bob Rich Jr., who has children working in company, became chairman. Czelusta described Rich Sr. as “a great guy–you’re lucky if you know five people through life that you think are really great and he’s certainly one of the five. There’s something to be said for working for a small company,” he continued, “you feel really a part of it.”

Czelusta was Rich’s first pilot, joining the company when it bought its first airplane, a Citation 500, in 1982. “The company has grown from a regional company to a worldwide operation. We went to a Citation II, a Hawker when we started worldwide ops, a Falcon 50, and then the 900B and a Learjet 35A. We’ve grown in small increments, steadily.” In addition to the Falcon 900 and Learjet 35, Rich now also operates a Falcon 20. Rich Food’s major trips are domestic, but 25 percent of flying is abroad.

“Rich Products,” Czelusta said, “is the world’s largest privately held frozen food company, with 22 plants in the U.S. and six worldwide–in Toluca, Mexico; Shanghai; India; Naples, Italy; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Canada. We’re the world’s largest producer of frozen shrimp. We buy from local growers and supply fast food companies with fish sandwiches. In addition, we make breads and pastries.”

Czelusta has flown trips to 122 countries promoting and supporting Rich products. A highlight was a flight over Antarctica. “We also now go to China, Nepal, Hong Kong, Africa, Pacific islands and New Zealand.”

In fact, when NBAA Convention News left a phone message for Czelusta, he returned the call from Sardinia, Italy.

Before joining Rich, he flew for Carborundum, which was taken over by Kenicott Copper, and then Standard Oil of Ohio. He also flew for Wer Industrial of Grand Isle, Neb., which was later bought by Emerson Electric.

Czelusta said his favorite airplane to fly is his 1941 J-3 Cub. “It’s my version of fun flying,” he said of the airplane, which he’s had 19 years (he had a Pitts before that). For corporate flying, the Dassault Falcon 50 is the choice. “I really enjoy the Falcon 50. It’s really smooth and quiet and has a great cabin.”