Each year the National Business Aviation Association recognizes member companies with superb safety records. This year, the corporate flight operations (Part 91) of ExxonMobil, Cox Enterprises, Chevron, Owens Corning and Sears Holding are the top five in that category. NBAA Convention News talked with representatives of those five companies to find out more about their operations and their safety successes.
manager aviation services
75 Years | 289,036 Hours
Patricia Andrews, manager of ExxonMobil’s Aviation Services department,
emphasized that credit for the flight department’s excellent safety record goes to a lot of people, not just one person. “It’s a long-standing tradition,” she said, adding that the company has an overall principle of safety, a company culture that has as its mantra, “No one gets hurt.” This principle applies in all the company’s operations, which stop if appropriate safety margins can’t be met. The aim, she said, is zero accidents.
Conservative operational standards, hiring high-quality people and a willingness to invest in technology are all factors, she said.
ExxonMobil’s fleet includes four Bombardier Global Expresses based at Dallas Love Field, three Challenger 300s based at Houston and two at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. The flight department has 68 employees including 26 pilots. “We try to maintain a ratio of three pilots per aircraft,” Andrews told NBAA Convention News. There are 23 maintenance technicians in the department. Andrews said that because the company flies to some fairly remote locations in West Africa and Asia, the long-range aircraft always carry a maintenance technician. More than 50 percent of the long-range aircraft operations are outside the U.S.
Matt Miller, director of aviation
62 Years | 46,185 Hours
Cox Enterprises has flown 62 years and 46,185 hours without an accident, and director of aviation Matt Miller said the exemplary record has been attained because the company is conservative about safety issues. “It comes from the top,” Miller said. “The executives respect the crew’s decision and we are never pressured to make a trip.” He called it a very professional attitude.
Miller has been with Cox for 26 years, spending the last four as director of aviation. The company started operating aircraft 62 years ago with a Beech Staggerwing and later flew a Twin Beech, Lockheed Lodestar, and then all the Gulfstream models, from the GI to the GV. Today the flight department has 35 employees and, Miller noted, “My job has certainly changed over the years.”
Miller grew up flying with his father in his Luscombe “before I could see over the panel,” he said. He first flew commercially towing gliders, then flew a corporate Baron and King Air 200 before joining Cox in 1981. His favorite airplane is his Piper J-3 Cub, but his favorite corporate airplane is the GIV.
Based at Atlanta Fulton County Airport, the flight department now flies two GVs, two Hawker 800XPs and is awaiting delivery of a Hawker 850XP. Its 15 pilots all came from various civilian flying jobs except one who flew in the military.
Cox Enterprises is the parent company of an expanding number of firms, including Cox Communications. The company’s interests include newspapers, TV, auto auctions and Internet service firms.
general manager of aviation services
61 Years | 91,139 Hours
Chevron Aviation Services operates three Gulfstream IV-SPs out of Oakland International Airport. Including the 14 pilots on staff, the department employs about 30 people. “The number of pilots changes,” said Steve Sabree, general manager of aviation services. When asked which airplane is his favorite to fly, Sabree said he does not fly in his current job, but added that “our pilots are very happy with the ones we fly now.”
When asked to what he attributes Chevron’s long safe flying record, Sabree replied, “It’s hard to say for the whole 61 years.” He added, “Safety is no accident. It’s due to the people in this department. Safety is the service we sell. We’re in the safety business; anyone can move airplanes around.”
He continued, “Our customers, the executives, are totally on board. It’s never an issue about safety being number one. If they miss a meeting” because of a problem, “it’s okay.” He said that “It’s a big difference with that attitude in the front office. The crews know that the people in back respect them.”
Chevron travel is 60 to 65 percent international, so Sabree said the issues that concern them are security and safe operations in different countries.
Terry Smith, director of aviation services
61 Years | 91,023 Hours
Terry Smith, director of aviation services for Owens Corning, said the company’s unconditional commitment to safety is responsible for its outstanding record. “That’s our stand today,” he said. Second, he said, is the talent that abounds within the flight department. “I’ve been here 28 years,” he told NBAA Convention News, “and everyone here is extraordinarily talented.”
The department consists of 11 pilots, including Smith, and has 20 people total. “Our retention rate is high,” he said. “More than half of our people have been here more than 25 years.” The flight department itself has a 61-year history. Owens Corning produces glass fiber insulation, roofing, siding, acoustics and composites.
He said the management team is integrated with the flight department an
d treats its employees with respect. He also noted Owens Corning’s recent International Standard for Business Aviation Operations (ISBAO) certification. “It was a two-year process,” he said.
The Owens Corning flight department, based at Toledo Metcalf Field, flies mostly in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, with some European trips. It operates three Cessna Citation Sovereigns, all 2005 models. The previous fleet included two Hawker 800s and a Dassault Falcon 900EX.
Smith said that the Falcon was the most fun to fly. For his personal flying, he has owned a Citabria (he got his seaplane rating in a Citabria on floats) and a Piper Aztec.
One of the greatest problems facing business aviation today, he said, is access to airports. He said, “You can really see it in the Northeast, with the proliferation of TFRs.”
West Chicago, Ill.
director of aviation/chief pilot
61 Years | 119,657 Hours
Dean Maertens, director of aviation and chief pilot for Sears Holdings’ aviation department, said the company started flying 61 years ago with a DC-3. Today it has two Learjet 60s. The flight department has seven pilots, including Maertens and Joe McLaughlin, manager of flight operations and assistant chief pilot. There are two dispatchers and six mechanics, plus management and airport support personnel.
Sears operates from Chicago Dupage Airport, and flies mostly domestically, with some international flights to Canada, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Maertens said that Sears’ long safety record “has to be attributed to the people who have come before us and all of the current folk’s hard work.”