NBAA Convention News

Safe Flying Awards Part 91 Companies

 - October 29, 2012, 1:50 PM

The NBAA Corporate Business Flying Safety Awards have been awarded to a number of member companies, the oldest of which, ExxonMobil, has flown 268,819 safe hours over the past 80 years. The top four recipients in the corporate category for the year 2011 are listed below, with the number of years of safe flying and the number of safe hours flown. AIN interviewed representatives of these companies to find out more about their operations and their safety successes.

Exxon Mobil


80 years, 268,819 hours

ExxonMobil has flown safely for 80 years, operating a variety of aircraft starting with Beech Staggerwings and Douglas DC-3s. Today, the 66-member flight department operates two Gulfstream 550s, one Bombardier Global Express and five Challenger 300s.

James Johnson, who joined the company in 1991 and became manager of aviation services in 2007, told AIN that its excellent safety record is due to the company’s “strong safety culture throughout every affiliate, a very robust safety management system and years of dedicated service from all of the current and past employees who have ensured we accomplish our daily business in a safe manner.” He said ExxonMobil received its IS-BAO Phase II registration this year and Phase III is scheduled for 2014.

Johnson’s love of aviation started when he watched airplanes fly over his backyard. His parents took him to the local airport and, he said, “I was hooked from then on.” He served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years. “My last job in the military was with the 89th Military Airlift Wing, Washington, D.C., working in the presidential pilots office.

“I have enjoyed all of the aircraft I have had the privilege to fly, but probably the Global Express is my favorite because of the range, speed and passenger comfort it provides.”

Cooper Industries


69 years, 14,814 hours

Cooper Industries has been manufacturing lighting products for 180 years but its flight department dates back only 69 years. “In 1943, we began operating a Fairchild 45,” said Keith Nickles, who has been director of aviation since 2011. “Over the years, our fleet has included a large variety of aircraft.”

Currently operating a Falcon 50EX, Cooper has three pilots (including Nickles) and a chief of maintenance. “Cooper has a long history of manufacturing success. Our culture is one that emphasizes safety in all facets of our business, this is especially true with aviation,” Nickles said. “Our crews and technicians have embraced that culture and put it into practice each day. We have never hesitated to put safety at the top of our decision process, and that’s a philosophy that is encouraged and expected by all members of our executive team.”

Nickles, who was previously director of aviation for the J.E. Robert Companies, said, “My father was an enlisted air crewmember in the U. S. Navy, which had an enormous impact on me. For as long as I can remember, aviation has been my passion. I served a 20-year career in the Air Force. I flew the C-141B, KC-10, C20B [G-III] and C-37A [GV].”

Asked about which corporate airplane is his favorite to fly, Nickles named the Gulfstream 550.

Chevron Aviation Services

Oakland, Calif.

66 years, 103,872 hours

Chevron operates a fleet of aircraft that provides global transportation services for executives and employees. The company has approximately 58,000 employees working throughout around the world.

Joining Chevron’s aviation team in 2000, general manager Betty Uhrig started as a line pilot, working her way up to chief pilot and then to her current position. “One of the best aspects of flying for Chevron is that it gives you the resources to ensure safe operations,” she said. “Getting to fly to more than 100 countries is just another bonus of the unique flying that Chevron does, with 70 percent of its flight time being international.”

When asked about Chevron’s exemplary safety record, Uhrig replied: “Aviation Services achieved Phase I in IS-BAO in 2010 and will have the Phase II evaluation this year. IS-BAO was just another step in our quest for always keeping safety at the forefront. At Chevron, we aim to complete every task the right way every time and our safety management system helps achieve this goal.”

She credits the safety record to “continual awareness of the risk out there, good training and reinforcement of the importance our top executives place on safety.”

Owens Corning

Toledo, Ohio

66 years, 97,341 hours

The Owens Corning flight department, based at Toledo Express Airport, flies mostly in North America, with some European and Asian trips, said Terry Smith, director of flight operations. Owens Corning is a global company that produces glass fiber and foam insulation, roofing and composites.

Smith has been with the flight department for 33 of its 66 years, and has been director of flight operations for the past 18 years. He has logged more than 17,000 hours. He said his favorite corporate airplane to fly is “without a doubt, the Falcon 900EX.” At Ohio State University, he received his instructor’s certificate in the first quarter and he worked as an instructor for the next four years while attending classes.

Smith said that Owens Corning has an unconditional commitment to safety, which has led to its impeccable record. “We firmly believe that all accidents are preventable and that safety is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. Another reason is the extraordinary talent that makes up the flight department. “Everyone in the department is fully engaged and [all] are top performers,” he told AIN.

The Owens Corning flight department is IS-BAO Phase III registered. “Our safety management system has changed the way we operate on a daily basis,” said Smith. “We continue to strive for excellence in every aspect of the operation.”