In his position as senior vice president of aviation services of Englewood, Colo.-based Air Methods, a job that covers flight operations, technical services and training, Archie Gray is responsible for managing about half of the company’s approximately 4,000 employees.
To help him and the vice presidents and directors who report to him keep track of some 450 aircraft at 290 bases in 11 regions, several years ago he implemented a mandatory morning teleconference every weekday. The meeting’s focus is on air medical bases served by Air Methods that are down for any reason, such as out-of-service aircraft or lack of a full-crew complement, including medical crewmembers. When a base is down, critical air medical services could be effectively unavailable in some parts of the country.
The teleconference is a simple concept that works hand-in-glove with another Air Methods principle, which Gray explains to every new-hire class of employees that he is able to meet. “I tell them no one will ever question their decision to take an aircraft out of service because they believe it is not safe for service. I tell them not to worry if I ask a lot of questions about it,” he told AIN. “I will ask you a million questions, because I want to know what the problem is and how it can be fixed. But I’ll never question your authority to make the decision.”
What about the new-hire classes he can’t talk with due to other obligations? “They learn my philosophy from the culture,” he said. “Their coworkers tell them.”
Gray credits the daily call with increasing the availability of Air Methods’ air medical operations by “a little over two percentage points, from [an already high] 95 percent to consistently over 97 percent, sometimes even 98 percent,” he said. He refers to the call simply as “the 8:30 call.” But if you ask other people at Air Methods what they call it, “they’ll tell you it’s the ‘Archie Call,’” he said with a hint of pride in his voice.
Gray’s honest, hands-on, get-’er-done management philosophy undoubtedly influenced his nomination and selection for the 2014 Bell Helicopter Lifetime Achievement Award.
In his endorsement of Gray’s nomination for the award, Aaron Todd, CEO of Air Methods, wrote, “Archie’s leadership and management style embrace accountability with fairness and equity. He is always available to teach and mentor those around him. Despite 40 years of service, his enthusiasm for his work is always present and is contagious to all who associate with him.”
Todd also stated, “Archie has been a pioneer in bridging the performance gap that can often exist between manufacturers and operators. He has educated both manufacturers and operators alike in what quality service can be.”
Indeed, John Garrison, CEO of Bell Helicopter; Marc Paganini, president and CEO of American Eurocopter; and Maria Della Posta, senior v-p of sales and marketing for Pratt & Whitney Canada, also endorsed Gray’s nomination.
Garrison wrote, “I know Archie’s emphasis on safety, quality and service has improved every OEM in our industry. They say a rising tide lifts all ships, and I cannot think of many individuals who embody this statement better than Archie. He is a man of high values and integrity who makes our profession better each and every day.”
Paganini wrote, “Having begun his career as an airframe and powerplant technician and grown into management roles, Archie has a healthy, from-the-bottom-up view of helicopter operations and has been instrumental in the successful management and growth for both PHI and Air Methods. He has helped Eurocopter design and produce more efficient helicopters with his constant involvement in aircraft development.”
“What can we say about the many mottos synonymous with Archie?” wrote Della Posta. “Expressions like ‘keep it flying’ or ‘be ingenious in what you do to make it happen.’ While these familiar words may echo through the hallways of Air Methods, know that they have made their way into our psyche as well, helping us to keep focus on what brings true value to our customers.”
Gray told AIN he had planned to go to law school after finishing college but changed his mind after completing his studies at Pensacola Jr. College, when he had an opportunity to attend Mid-Continent School of Aeronautical Science in Kansas City. After obtaining his airframe and powerplant license from Mid-Continent, he got his first job in aviation with PHI in Lafayette, La., in 1974. In July 2002 he moved to Englewood, Colo., to work for Air Methods. “I get up in the morning and look forward to going to work every day,” he said.
Along with Howard Ragsdale, Air Methods senior v-p of business development, who is receiving the Airbus Helicopters Golden Hour Award, Gray is one of two long-time employees of Air Methods to receive an HAI Salute to Excellence Award here at Heli-Expo 2014.