The National Business Aviation Association Aviation Support Services Safety Award is presented to aviation personnel employed for three or more consecutive years by NBAA member companies primarily for support of corporate/business flight operations and whose company has had no aircraft accidents during their employment period. AIN interviewed the top recipients for 2011.
Ron Ludema, president/owner, 45 years
Linda Ludema, vice president, 45 years
Mick Osborne, director of line service, 40 years
Tulip City Air Service
Somewhat notably, three staffers from Tulip City Air Service, a full-service FBO, repair station and charter operation, have made it into the top five Safe Support Service award winner category for 2011. In first place is Linda Ludema, vice president, and in second place, her husband, Ron, who is president and owner. In fourth place on the list is Mick Osborne, director of line service. Tulip City, not coincidentally, is also at the top of the Safe Commercial Business Flying list.
Linda Ludema told AIN that her father opened Tulip City Airport (now Western Michigan Regional Airport) in 1947, as a grass strip. He put in the first paved runway, just 2,500 feet long, which has now increased to 6,000 feet. Linda was born and raised in a house on the airport, met her husband Ron there and started Tulip City Air Service with him. Her parts in running the business involve handling human resources and taxes.
Three of the Ludema’s children are learning to fly; they have soloed, and one planned to take his cross-country flight shortly after AIN spoke with her. The eldest daughter, Rhonda Hulst, works in the Tulip City Air Service charter department, as does a granddaughter, Ashley Ludema. Linda said that when Rhonda was little, and the airport less busy, she used to ride her tricycle on the runway and the pilots would call in, “Is Rhonda on the runway?”
Line service director Osborne has also been around the airport for many years. His stepfather based a V-tail Bonanza there, and as a kid Osborne spent a lot of time there. He earned his pilot certificate in high school, then Ron Ludema offered him a job at Tulip City Air Service. Osborne has been employed at the airport for 40 years, 30 in his current position. Asked his view on improving safety, Osborne said it requires “a lot of training. And in my department the crew is fantastic,” he added, explaining that one member has been there for 24 years, another for 12. He also believes longevity at a job is a safety factor.
The company’s outstanding safety record is a result of recurrent training, not only for the pilots but also for support staff, he said. In addition to outside training, employees also receive in-house training.
Peggy Bunch, office manager
Central Flying Service
Little Rock, Ark.
Peggy Bunch was working at a restaurant while attending high school when one day a customer offered her a job. It was Claud Holbert, owner of Central Flying Service, which bills itself as the “oldest fixed-base operation in the U.S.” Founded in 1939 to teach pilots in the Civilian Pilot Training program before World War II, the operation is based at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Ark.
When Bunch started at Central Flying Service in 1970, right after high school graduation, the firm operated a fleet of Beech airplanes: Model 18s, King Airs, Barons and Bonanzas. “Working different shifts in different departments,” she said, “and meeting and working with many people left impressions only a few are privileged to experience. I am not a pilot, but just being around aviation definitely gets it in your blood.”
Central’s charter department now operates Beech Barons and King Airs, a Mitsubishi Diamond and a Cessna Mustang. “Central has an outstanding safety record that I attribute to training,” Bunch said. “After all these years I am a firm believer in our vision statement: ‘To set the national standard for aviation customer service through innovation, quality and teamwork.’ I am forever grateful for the opportunity to work with such a company.”
In 1976, Holbert handed the business over to his sons Donald and Richard. The third generation of the Holbert family is involved in the company and includes Valerie, director of marketing and design; Taylor, director of operations; Susan, CFO; and Steve, manager of IT.