Ford flight dept. shifts gears on fleet

 - May 7, 2008, 4:27 AM

Published news reports and “numerous rumors” of the Ford flight department’s drastic downsizing are not only premature but false. An article in a recent edition of The Wall Street Journal about Ford’s cost-cutting efforts began by saying that the Detroit-based automaker “is searching every nook and cranny–from selling corporate jets to cutting refreshments from company meetings–for cost cuts…” Later on, the article stated that Ford was specifically selling two company jets.

AIN doesn’t know how accurate the statement was on dropping goodies at company meetings, but the reference to selling corporate jets was not accurate. The company is selling its five Gulfstream Vs (two had been sold at press time), but they are being replaced by four Falcons–two Falcon 900EXs and two Falcon 2000s, according to chief pilot John Ratcliff. What’s more, Ford is retaining its other corporate jets: two Boeing 737s and a Hawker 800 based in Europe, and two 48-seat corporate shuttle Fokker 70s that remain “very much” a part of the flight department based in Detroit. There have been no layoffs within the flight department as a result of its changing fleet type, Ratcliff noted.

Ford has already received the first of its new Falcons–a 900EX. Another 900EX is scheduled to enter service with the company in November. Next month, the first Falcon 2000 arrives, with the second Falcon 2000 expected next May. No fractional shares have been purchased, nor are any planned.

These flight department changes are a recent decision based on an “overabundance” of airplanes for the kind of transportation currently required, Ratcliff told AIN. “We had too many GVs for the missions we are flying. The range and nature of the flying we are going to do will be more reflected in the Falcons we are acquiring.”

Ford’s aviation department is one of the pioneers in the industry. It has been flying company aircraft for more than 60 years, officially getting off the ground in 1941.