The National Business Aviation Association presents the Pilot Flying Safety Awards each year to member company pilots who have exemplary safety records. To be eligible for an award, a pilot must have flown corporate aircraft 1,500 hours without an accident. The actual number of safe hours flown by many of the 2011 top pilots is, in fact, above 20,000 hours.
Steve Warner, pilot
AIN first wrote about Steve Warner as a safe pilot in 2004, when he had 21,620 hours and worked for Duke Energy. He was sixth on the list. Now Warner is at the top of the list with 25,782 hours and today he flies pipeline patrol for Spectra Energy in a Cessna 206.
Warner first went flying in an airplane at the age of seven, and, he said, “I told my dad this is what I want to do!” After serving in the military, he worked as a crop duster for five years, piloting Grumman Ag-Cats and Piper Pawnees. He flew for Williams Pipeline in Oklahoma then Duke, before joining Spectra. In all, he has 40 years of pipeline patrol flying logged.
“I love the 206,” he said. “It’s forgiving and good for what we need it for. It’s a joy to fly, and I like the high wing.” He described Spectra as “a fantastic company.”
Warner said his safety philosophy is, among other things, “you don’t fly junk. You set your standards based on experience and you don’t exceed that.”
Don Johnson Aviation
From an early age, Don Johnson grew up with a dream of soaring through the air. His father’s orthodontist friend flew a Bellanca Cruisair, and at age 10, Johnson had his first flying lesson from that friend in an Aeronca Champ. He started flying gliders at 12 and soloed at 14. In high school Johnson flew friends almost every day, in his Cessna 172. At age 21, he owned the Holiday Haven Soaring School in Tehachapi, Calif., and, he recalled, “I lived in the towplane!” He subsequently formed an aircraft management company handling a Hawker 800, a Westwind, a Citation and two Fairchild Merlins. Currently, Johnson is flying as a contract pilot on the Gulfstream GIV and GV, and when we talked, he was heading off to Global Express school. Johnson said his favorite corporate airplane is the Falcon 20, which he flew for a fractional share company.
Johnson’s safety philosophy includes having an A&P certificate. “It helps me to have a better understanding of the systems,” he said. “I fly so many different airplanes that I have to go by the checklist and stick with the procedures. I always have a way out or an option if the weather or a mechanical issue were to arise. It’s important to review the flight, prepare for any obstacles and be ready to tell the boss ‘no’ if conditions are not right.”
Kenneth Pingel, line pilot
Monsanto’s flight department started out with Douglas DC-3s, Convairs and a PBY. Today the company flies two Falcon 900LXs and a 900EX and three Hawkers out of Spirit of St. Louis Airport. “Monsanto has an incredible safety culture,” line pilot Kenneth Pingel told AIN. “From headquarters down, safety is first.” Pingel has been flying for the multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation for 14 years. “I fly with a great group of guys,” he said, “and our flight department managers do a great job.”
Pingel also credits his father with instilling in him the basic fundamentals of safety and flying. He grew up on his father’s small airport in southern Missouri; his two brothers are also professional pilots.
Before joining Monsanto, Pingel worked for a medical company and flew for 15 years for Fabrick Tractor, a Caterpillar dealer.
Maurice Evans, pilot
When he worked for Willmar Air Service, Maurice Evans often flew for Duininck Companies, then in 19979 he joined the firm as its sole pilot. Duininck, which is based in Prinsburg, Minn., has six divisions: food, resort, golf, water and sewer and heavy construction. The company keeps its Piper Navajo, which has logged 16,000 hours, and two Mooneys in Willmar. Evans said the three aircraft are flown about 900 hours a year. He likes to fly both types but said the Navajo is faster and roomier.
Evans grew up around aviation. “Dad had an airplane on the farm from when I was an eighth grader,” he said. “We would go to Flying Farmers events, and my older brother flew. In college, my friends flew and we had a competition to see who got a license first.”
His safety secret is good maintenance, and, said Evans, “One should never go out the door with an issue. The five owners of the company are pilots and they understand aviation. If conditions are bad, don’t go. Safety is the number-one issue.”
Marion Maneth, pipeline patrol supervisor
Little Rock, Ark.
Spectra Energy, a provider of natural gas infrastructure, is headquartered in Houston, Texas, but Marion Maneth’s division is based at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (LIT) in Little Rock, Ark. The company also has regional offices in Boston, British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia. “Spectra Energy is converting its fleet of Cessna 206 patrol aircraft to the Found FBA3,” Maneth said. “We currently have two of them in Little Rock and are taking delivery of four more by 2014.”
Maneth joined the company in September 1989 and has been in his current position for 10 years. “When I was a young farm kid in Kansas,” he said, “my Dad was working on his private license. He used to take my brother and me to the airport to hang around while he took his lessons. I have always been interested in flying.”
After serving in the U.S. Army, where he joined a military flying club, Maneth worked as a charter pilot and as an aerial applicator in Liberal, Kans.
When asked his favorite corporate airplane to fly, Maneth said, “I’ve never met an airplane I didn’t like, just some more than others. Obviously, the Cessna 206 ranks pretty high.”
Asked about his safety record, Maneth said, “Spectra Energy has always had a culture and commitment to safety. From our equipment to our training, safety is the first consideration. Flying 900 hours a year at 500 feet off the ground,” he continued, “you really are safety conscious.”