Professional Pilot Magazine July 2018

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Best Line Tech Pat Walter Signature MSP Best US FBO Signature MSP Best CSR Betsy Wines Meridian TEB


Best Independent US FBO Texas Jet FTW

Best Mexican FBO Cabo San Lucas FBO CSL

Best Caribbean FBO Cherokee Aviation MHH

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Best Large FBO Chain (11+) Million Air

Best Small FBO Chain (3-10) Wilson Air Center

Best Middle East & African FBO ExecuJet DXB

Best Asian FBO Hong Kong Business Av Ctr HKG

Best European FBO TAG Farnborough Airport FAB

Best Latin American FBO Aerosupport FBO BOG

Best Canadian FBO Skyservice YYZ

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JULY 2018

In SE Arizona, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office flies an Airbus EC130-T2 for law enforcement, firefighting and border patrol. Backdropped by the n Huachuca Mountains behind their base at FHU, Sierra Vista Airport, are tio n e (L-R) Deputy TFO Bobby Zavala, Pilot Don Hooper, Sheriff Mark Dannels, nv co N Ops Div Commander & Pilot Sam Farris, and Deputy TFO Tom Fair. O AP

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July 2018


Advertisers Index

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Vol 52 No 7

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Contributors in this issue GRANT McLAREN, Editor-at-Large. BRUCE BETTS, PhD. Dir Science & Technology, The Planetary Society BRENT BUNDY, Phoenix PD Officer/Pilot. AS350, Cessna 210/182/172. AL HIGDON, Cofounder of the Sullivan Higdon & Sink Ad Agency. KARSTEN SHEIN, Comm-Inst. Climatologist, Natl Climatic Data Center. BOB ROCKWOOD, Managing Partner, Bristol Associates. DAVID BJELLOS, ATP/Helo. Gulfstream IV, Sikorsky S76, Bell 407. DOUG WILSON, Pvt SEL/Helo. Pres of FBO Partners Professional Pilot ISSN 0191-6238 5290 Shawnee Rd, Suite 201, Alexandria VA 22312 Fax: 703-370-7082 Tel: 703-370-0606 E-MAIL:


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July 2018 Vol 52 No 7



8 POSITION & HOLD A cohesive editorial on the State of the FBO Industry, 2018. by Doug Wilson 32 AIRBORNE LAW ENFORCEMENT Cochise County Sheriff’s Office by Brent Bundy Southeast Arizona agency flies Airbus EC130-T2 helicopter for firefighting, border patrol and SAR missions.

62 40 PRASE SURVEY 2018 Pro Pilot readers rank the best in aviation ground service by Pro Pilot staff Plaudits go to top FBOs, MROs, line techs, CSRs, catering, fuel, credit cards. 62 INTERNATIONAL OPS Hotel and local transport considerations by Grant McLaren Book with plenty of time in advance and be mindful of security needs.


66 STAYING FOCUSED The art of mindfulness in the cockpit by David Ison Letting your thoughts drift when you’re flying can be very dangerous. 70 WX BRIEF Clouds by Karsten Shein Reading clouds gives clues about current and coming flying conditions.


74 EVENT COVERAGE EBACE 2018 by Brent Bundy This Geneva-based aviation convention attracts exhibitors and attendees from all over the world. 78 SPACE EXPLORATION LightSail 2 by Bruce Betts Testing the use of light propulsion to propel spacecraft.

The b singl Desig for im a gen

78 4  PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018

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PHENOM 300: IT’S AMAZING “We looked at all different kinds of models, and there’s nothing that really jumped out and excited me until the Phenom 300 came along. The Phenom 300 won out, simply because of the reliability and its maintenance aspect. The most frequent comment I’ve had with the people in the cabin is how quiet it is. They can carry on their conversations; they don’t have to yell over the engine or the wind noise. What the Phenom 300 will carry, weight wise and baggage wise, was the first thing that impressed me. I looked back there, and thought, ‘Man, I’ve got all kinds of room.’ And sure enough, on our golfing trips, we usually have been able to put in six guys. Usually I can put six golf bags, six suitcases, two more suitcases for the crew, eight suit bags, miscellaneous bags, shoes, umbrellas, and all the different accessories they want for their golf trip, and I still have room left over. It’s amazing. From the very beginning to the very end of the purchase of the aircraft, it’s been just a really phenomenal experience.”

- Gary Sides, Phenom 300 Chief Pilot, Shamrock Capital Corporation Watch Gary’s story and request more information at

The best-selling light jet in the world for six years running, Embraer’s Phenom 300 platform has achieved breakthrough status and dominates as the fastest, longest-range single-pilot aircraft on the market. And now, with the introduction of the brand-new Phenom 300E, a whole new standard in value and customer experience has been set. Designated “E” for “enhanced,” this modern, clean-sheet light jet delivers top-tier performance and next-generation avionics, along with a revolutionary new interior design for improved ergonomics, ease of maintainability, advanced connectivity and unmatched comfort and space. Add to that the industry-exclusive upper technology panel, plus a generous baggage compartment and low operating costs, and it’s easy to see why the Phenom 300E is truly in a class by itself.

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July 2018

Vol 52 No 7

Departments 14 VIEWPOINTS Bob Rockwood talks about the evolution of aircraft mx support. Manny Aviation Services president & CEO explains the need for a Mexican business aviation association.


2,150 Experts

20 TERMINAL CHECKLIST Quiz on procedures when flying helicopters into JFK (New York NY). Answers on page 22. 24 SID & STAR Oscar Lugnut flies by helicopter to an offshore oil rig, eats alligator and gets a contract. 26 SQUAWK IDENT Pilots tell what services they want at FBOs when making tech stops. And turboprop pilots express their preferences in TP performance over bizjets. 76 AL LOOKS BACK Business aircraft sales are always closely tied to the economy.


Duncan Aviation was founded in 1956 as an aircraft sales organization and is a founding

In SE Arizona, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office flies an Airbus EC130-T2 for law enforcement, firefighting and border patrol. Backdropped by the Huachuca Mountains behind their base at FHU, Sierra Vista Airport, are (L-R) Deputy TFO Bobby Zavala, Pilot Don Hooper, Sheriff Mark Dannels, Ops Div Commander & Pilot Sam Farris, and Deputy TFO Tom Fair. Photo by Brent Bundy.

member of NARA. Since 1956, we have conducted more than 3,500 transactions. Backed by 2,150 aviation experts worldwide, each with an average of 12 years with the company. The aircraft sales team partners with these experts to provide technical support before, during and after the aircraft transaction.

This July 2018 edition marks the 45th year that Professional Pilot has published results of its annual survey tallying reader votes to determine the best ground service providers in the aviation industry. Domestic and foreign FBOs, ITPs, fuel companies, caterers and MROs are rated. In addition to being showcased on our front cover, top performers are featured with photos and writeups in the text. Cover designed by Pro Pilot Art Director José Vásquez.

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POSITION & HOLD an editorial opinion

State of the FBO industry, 2018 By Douglas Wilson President, FBO Partners Pro Pilot West Coast Contributor


hough it was uttered long before the advent of the airplane, the phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” perfectly summarizes this year’s winners of the Pro Pilot PRASE Survey. Many of the PRASE Survey winners in 2018 were after all, very much the same winners as in 2017. The top spot traded hands again, back to Independent FBO favorite Texas Jet at FTW, swapping places with the number 1 winner last year, Signature Flight Support MSP. One can almost envision a running joke between these 2 perennial favorite FBOs, where a friendly wager involving barbecue and lutefisk gets out of hand quickly, if not good-naturedly. The top 10 saw 8 of the same FBOs place from the top 10 of the previous year, and among the top 25, an even split between chains and independents. A note of special recognition to small chain Wilson Air, who saw not only all their FBO locations place in this year’s survey, but 3 out of 4 place in the top 10 again. And likewise, congratulations to perennial favorite Betsy Wines who may have accumulated the most wins in the CSR category in the history of the PRASE Survey. Though awards and recognition are treasured by FBOs and their employees alike, after the photo shoots, speeches and celebrations fade into the distance, one is quickly reminded the business of operating an FBO business waits for no one. As in past years, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to review notable FBO ownership changes of the prior PRASE Survey period and prognosticate on the direction of the industry overall, and this year is no different. Texas Jet regular top winner in the PP PRASE Survey. This year they were voted Best Independent US FBO. Holly Hopkins (red blazer, below) was also a winner, earning the #2 spot for Best CSR. Inset shows Texas Jet Founder & President Reed Pigman.

Signature MSP wins the 1st place crown in the Pro Pilot 2018 PRASE survey. Team members L-R: Kyle Schmaltz, Peter Landis, Doug Drescher, Matthew Hall, Latricia Edwards, Zachary Larson, Traci Gustafson, Pamela King, Karen Hardiman.

Changing hands While FBO acquisitions were predictably quiet after year-after-year record numbers, there were a few notable changes in the industry, most recently BBA’s announcement of their intent to acquire Epic Aviation, an aviation fuel supplier – subject to DOJ approval. While vertical integration is not a new phenomenon in the aviation industry, it often takes a more recognizable form of a fuel supplier acting as a holding company of sorts, purchasing a trip planning service, a credit card processing firm or a contract fuel company. In this case, parent company BBA owns several aviation businesses already, such as Dallas Airmotive, Ontic and, most notably, Signature Flight Support. To say BBA’s concentration leans more towards the FBO side of the house, however, is an understatement, as Signature alone accounts for some 69% of all of BBA’s revenue, according to the most recent annual report. The addition of Epic Aviation brings with it a fuel supply stream to some 205 independently-owned FBOs, opening the door to a host of other services and opportunities yet to be imagined. And, while some bristle at the thought of the big getting bigger, one must be reminded growth is a business imperative. In other FBO acquisition news, Orion Jet Center in OPF (Opa Locka FL) and JetSource in CRQ (Carlsbad CA) became Atlantic Aviation locations, while both Ross and Lynx each added a location, with the former picking up Alaska AeroFuel (Fairbanks AK) and the latter adding Fly Arkansas in Little Rock to its growing roster. A newcomer in the growing list of mini-chain start-ups entered the ring as well this season, with Air Wilmington being acquired by Modern Aviation, a new chain backed by private equity group Tiger Infrastructure Partners.


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Wilson Air Center traces its hospitality roots back to the same Wilson family that founded the Holiday Inn hotels. All of their locations made it into the top 25 of this year’s PRASE Survey. Pictured at right is CEO Robert Wilson.

The leadership gap In terms of FBO industry prognostications, this year’s predications admittedly strike a more alarmist tone than in past years. The cockpit equivalent of the Master Caution is now illuminated for the FBO industry, and the answer isn’t in the QRH, because the situation has never occurred before. In short, FBOs are facing a leadership gap of epic proportions, and it’s about to get much worse. Contextualized, the leadership gap in the FBO industry is the lack of qualified applicants for the general manager (GM) role across the country, as well as those for second tier supporting roles such as assistant general managers, station managers, line managers, and the like. In the time between the release of the PRASE Survey results in the May edition and this edition, a perfunctory search of job sites revealed some 15 plus GM jobs across the country either came open, or remain vacant at major airports. If 15 vacant positions seems small, consider that another 10 second tier management roles also remain unfilled. In some cases both key leadership positions at a single FBO are empty. More concerning is that these 25 or so top tier vacant management positions are at the top 100 airports in the US by GA operations, enplanements, Jet A gallons, or virtually any similar metric. Said another way, one quarter of every major airport in the US has or had a vacant managerial position at the FBO in the last 60 days.

How did we get here? It’s easy to look at the recent jobs report number published by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) and find the unemployment rate was 3.8% in May, the lowest unemployment rate since 1969. One might reasonably conclude the whole country is facing a shortfall of available employees, which on the surface, is accurate. However, such a conclusion fails to consider the precipice on which the FBO industry is teetering. While the larger employment numbers trace some of their macroeconomic roots to those shared by other segments of aviation, namely airlines and MROs, microeconomic factors are what set them apart. Not a surprise to most, generational forces are rapidly

approaching a peak moment in history. The baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) have been retiring from the workforce for years now, at an ever accelerating pace. This much is known. But like an onion, there are many layers, and the layer marked by the year 1957 is rather telling if one considers it in context of related statistics. First, the aviation industry is historically a male-dominated industry, and 2017 FAA airmen data bears this out. Today, a mere 7% of all certificated pilots in the US are female. If one considers the ATP rating only, the representative female pilot population is even less, at only 4.3%. This tragically underrepresents women by contrast to the general US workforce and is especially frustrating to this author who is the proud father of 2 daughters, and whose wife is an ATP. Yet for the purposes of this leadership gap study, it’s important to note because some of the earnings data that follows was purposefully selected as male-centric due only to the disproportionate representation of males in the aviation industry. According to, a firm which tracks compensation by a multitude of demographics, the year in which a male worker earns the most is age 49, statistically speaking. For women, the peak earning year is age 40. After the peak, a male worker in the US can expect relatively stable income between age 50 and age 61. Regardless of male or female, all workers statistically see a drop in income at age 62 – though it’s more pronounced in men. And then, the following year, both hit the average age of retirement in the US, age 63, according to the US Census Bureau. This is not to suggest that these ages are hard and fast rules, but they bear fruit statistically when considering a large populace or data set. And there is no such larger populace or data set than the year 1957. The baby boomer population is represented by a classic bell curve of birth rate and births, and there were never more babies born in the US than in 1957 – before or since – except, interestingly, in 2017. In 1957, 4.3 million babies were born. As those boomers entered the workplace, they would have enjoyed peak earnings in 2006 at age 49 and enjoyed relative job and earnings stability for another 10 years. This year, they are 61, the last year before pay drops significantly, and only 2 years from average retirement. By 2022, at age 65, those baby boomers will have mostly retired. Certainly another generation is always there to take the reins of the previous generation, no? While the simple answer is yes, the devil is always in the details. The generation entering their prime earning years now is the Generation X, comprised by those born between 1965 and 1979, according to Pew Research. By 2022, a new crop of those in their prime earning year – those born in 1973 – will be there to replace those born in 1957. Except, that’s where the devil turned up because 1973 saw the lowest number of births in any year since World War II. As birthrates tend to follow boom and bust years, the oil crisis of 1973 did America no favors, caused massive instability and families concerned by that instability deferred having children. So much so that the year 1973 kicked off a 4-year window of the lowest birthrates in the modern era. Comparing 1973 to 1957 for example, show some 1.2 million fewer children born, or 27% less than in 1957. This is about one quarter less humans, which curiously mirrors the FBO leadership vacancy percentage at the top 100 airports today.

10  PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018

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Alaska AeroFuel (Fairbanks AK) was acquired by Ross Aviation, which also acquired AirFlite Toyota in Long Beach in late 2016. The previous iteration of Ross Aviation’s then 20-location chain traded hands to Landmark Aviation in 2014. At left is Jeff Ross, CEO of Ross Aviation.

While interesting on the macroeconomic level, this massive retirement wave plays a clear role in the pilot and mechanic shortage as well. Similar, well-publicized studies show the scope of the problem in the pilot shortage. A Boeing forecast in 2017 pegs the need for pilots at 637,000 over the next 20 years based upon mandatory retirements and a projected market demand for 41,000 airliners during that same time period. As Part 121 air carriers are now mandated to have ATP-rated pilots, those 637,000 new aviators by definition then are ATPs. To meet that demand, some 87 ATPs will need to be issued every day for the next 20 years. On a yearly basis, that’s 31,755 new ATPs. Yet last year, a mere 25,172 ATP ratings were issued – a 21% shortfall. Again, nearly a quarter shortfall. Does it sound familiar yet? How do airmen statistics have anything to do with FBO manager vacancies? Ask an FBO manager. Simply put, a reflection by any FBO manager of his or her current workforce will reveal a statistically significant number of pilots in training now working as line service technicians or customer service representatives than say, pilots in training that one might find at the local grocery store. FBO employees know that by working at an FBO, every customer is a potential future employer. It’s aviation networking at its finest. And for several reasons, FBO employees are choosing pilot jobs over FBO-related management jobs, thus widening the FBO leadership gap each year.

The law of unintended consequences In addition to macroeconomic forces that laid the ground work, the law of unintended consequences means the industry itself also bears a certain amount of responsibility for the leadership gap. Returning to 2006, the year the most boomers turned 49 and incomes peaked, another phenomena occurred coincidentally – the great FBO industry consolidation began and lasted 10 years. That 10-year period between 2006 and 2016 saw no less than 120 transactions where some 418 FBOs changed hands. Although that number seems inflated, it isn’t, as in many cases the same FBO transacted 2 or 3 times – or more. The result was completely unintended, but catastrophic. Over the course of 10 years, more than 400 GMs went home to their families, and at the dinner table one evening, carefully explained that their FBO was being acquired.

Continuing to grow their network, Atlantic Aviation purchased independent Orion Jet Center in 2017, which was a relative newcomer that opened in 2009 at OPF (Opa Locka FL). Picture shows GM Joe Therrien.

No doubt the response from a worried spouse or partner was singular: “Will the new ownership group keep you as GM?” In some cases, the same family had that same stressful conversation around the dinner table 3 times in as many years. The stage had been set. Even if the GM was retained in a transaction, acquisitions served as a subtle reminder of the fragile nature of employment in the FBO industry as one moves higher up the pyramid. As a result, the GM position began to lose its luster. What was once a stable, family-wage career position that rewarded entrepreneurial spirit, has at some FBOs taken on the look of a role more befitting a temporary steward of the business. It’s human nature to crave stability. Actually, it is a hardwired survival instinct. So for FBO employees coming up through the ranks – those who watched the GM role gradually become a revolving door – any desire to move into that position themselves vanished in favor of the illusive but all-important need for stability. In the next few years it won’t be a lack of interested private equity firms that stymies FBO industry growth. It will be a lack of available leaders to run these newly acquired businesses. As 2019 approaches, the FBO industry is wise to implement ab initio (from the beginning) style training programs to fill the growing leadership gap. Emblematic of such initiatives on a company level is Signature Flight Support’s new Manager in Training Program, which offers qualified candidates a path to the GM role in as little as 18 months. NATA has also recognized the problem and work is apace on a Certified FBO Manager program, which will be available to all NATA member FBOs. Be it home grown initiatives such as Signature’s or an industry-affiliated management development program, leadership training will be as important to the industry’s growth and sustainability as the next acquisition – perhaps even more so. Douglas Wilson started as a lineman at JGG (Williamsburg VA). An active pilot, he now serves as president of FBO Partners, an aviation consultancy providing business management advisory services to fixed base operations.

12  PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018

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VIEWPOINTS editorial opinions

Rockwood talks about aircraft support services over the years and Romero-Vargas explains why Mexico needs a national business aviation association. Bob Rockwood Managing Partner, Bristol Associates The evolution of aircraft support services n the beginning, if you wanted an I airplane, you found one and figured out how to operate it. If you go back far enough to the days of Orville and Wilbur, you even had to build it. My... how things have changed. Today, there is at least one company that will not only sell you a jet, but will maintain and operate it, all in return for one monthly check. More on this later. As the private aviation market grew, opportunity and need combined to create businesses that made owning and operating a plane easier and mitigated financial risks. One of the earliest examples of this was when Rolls-Royce introduced their Power by the Hour (PBH) program. It was in 1962 and was designed as a pay by the hour program to support the RR Viper jet engine that powered the Hawker Siddeley 125 private jets (originally called the Jet Dragon, believe it or not). In 1972 the TFE 731 engine came out. To say there were problems would be like saying the US has a little bitty deficit problem. So their (Garrett/Allied Signal’s) paid Maintenance Service Plan (MSP) came into being. Like PBH, you paid in monthly based on utilization, and most, if not all, of your engine maintenance costs were covered. In the late 1980s, Jet Support Services (JSSI) came on the scene. I’ll discuss how they differ from the OEM programs further on in this article. Since then, a host of paid maintenance support programs have come into being to cover engines, avionics, rotables, and entire airframes in a similar fashion to the programs mentioned.

Let’s visit some current maintenance programs Any discussion of this subject must start with Gulfstream’s Aircraft Ownership Service (AOS) program. When you buy a new or used Gulfstream SAV (Savannah GA) is a 679,199 sq ft facility’s that offers support for G650ER, G650, G550, G500, G450, G400, G350, G300, GV, GIV-SP, GIV, GIII, G280, G200, GII, G150, G100, Astra-SPX, Astra-SP, and Astra airframes.

Embraer has authorized service centers in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany and Geneva, Switzerland, where RUAG Aviation’s specialists take care of mx, cabin design, painting, and system modifications and upgrades.

Gulfstream from them, you can order as many or as few of the services offered, up to and including the operation of the plane. Yes, in return for one monthly check, you can be covered for all maintenance (scheduled and unscheduled), insurance, hangar, crew, etc, etc, etc. Are there limits? Yes. You can’t wrap your financing into this program, and you (at least for now) can’t operate on a 135 certificate. Gulfstream has been overwhelmed with inquires and demand for this program, so it is not making the service available to current owners. Don’t be surprised if they eventually do, or if other organizations don’t duplicate or mimic the service. Gulfstream is uniquely positioned to offer this comprehensive program given their relationship to Jet Aviation. But again, it is easy to see other organizations teaming up to exploit the market. Not specifically a part of the AOS program, but also available, are Gulfstream’s FORMS, PlaneConnect, and PlaneConnect HTM-AHTMS data transfer and tracking systems. FORMS collects and transfers or downloads a plane’s operational data. If you are the pilot and are thinking about going Mach a Billion, best reconsider. PlaneConnect tracks and stores flight deck CAS data from takeoff to top of descent. This information can then be fed back, or later downloaded to both the operator and, if allowed, to Gulfstream. PlaneConnect HTM-AHTMS, available only on the G650 and new G500 and G600, is PlaneConnect on steroids. The best way to sum it up is consider it a trend monitoring system that looks at everything including the quality of the last cups of coffee. Going forward you will hear more and more about predictive maintenance. It is this font of information that makes it possible. Other OEMs are offering maintenance coverage, but not operational services as does Gulfstream. Embraer has 3 levels of coverage you can choose from, with the highest level covering both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. They do not bundle programs from outside vendors (for example, RR, GE) as Gulfstream is doing. Embraer’s Ahead program can provide all the information described in the Gulfstream discussion. This data must be manually downloaded on older models but start-

14  PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018

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Textron now has 21 company-owned MROs located around the world to take care of Beech, Hawker and Cessna needs. Factory-trained techs provide general mx, inspections, parts, repairs, flightdeck upgrades, cabin connectivity installations, and refurbishments.

Falcon business jets at Dassault Aircraft Services in Little Rock AK. This class I, II, III, and IV airframe repair station also performs scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and aircraft pre-purchase evaluations.

Servicing at Bombardier’s new hangar at BQH (London Biggin Hill Airport, UK) officially began on December 1, 2017 with a Global 6000.

ing with later Phenom 100s and 300s, and incorporated in the newer Legacy 450 and 500 models, communication of the data can be in real time via WiFi. Cessna Diagnostic Maintenance System and Aircraft Recording System. Cessna’s programs are similar in that you can select some or all of their coverages. Ultimately, if you want everything covered, other than corrosion, damage, and cosmetic refurbishment, you can do so. And of course, as a leader in our industry, Cessna, on their newer offerings, provides data analysis and information as described via these 2 programs. As with all these programs, the objectives are to provide real time information about a plane’s performance and problems; share it with the OEMs technicians; and ultimately to provide predictive analysis that anticipates problems. Both Dassault Falcon and Bombardier offer maintenance programs to cover their aircraft. Of course, Bombardier was one of the early providers of such programs with their Smart Parts program going back to the 1980s. Unfortunately, I was unable to confirm current information in time for this article, so I am reluctant to make any statements about their status. However, a trip to their websites for contact information will answer any questions you might have. So far we have focused on programs provided by airframe, avionics and engine OEMs – whether stand alone or, as with Gulfstream, bundled as a single payee program. As most of you know, there is an alternative provided by Jet Support Services Inc, more commonly referred to as JSSI or “Jessey.” There are a number of factors that differentiate JSSI from the OEM programs, and they all stem from the fact that JSSI is a financial instrument, not a direct service provider. The single greatest advantage this affords is the ability for an aircraft owner to transfer their contract (and some

or all of its residual value) to a different plane. In all cases, when one sells a plane that is on an OEM program, the program goes with the plane. And, this will be true also for a JSSI covered plane most of the time. But let’s say you have an old plane that, even on a program, is only worth $1.5 million. It has been on JSSI so long there is a $1.5 million residual built up in the contract. Since you could transfer this residual to the plane you are buying, you have 2 advantages. First, your old plane has some scrap value, even without the program, so your net sales price is (let’s say) $100,000 plus the $1.5 million value of the JSSI program. The bigger advantage is that you can now shop for replacement planes that aren’t on programs. All else being equal, these sellers will be forced to take a lower price. You have gained on both ends of the transaction. One must accept that, on an actuarial basis, you are going to pay a higher direct cost for these services than if you took the entire risk of providing your own maintenance. But according to Tony Kioussis at Asset Insight, Hourly Cost Maintenance Programs (HCMPs), especially engine programs, definitely add value and increase selling prices versus the same plane without. In fact, valuation guides such as value certain planes under the assumption they have paid up and transferable engine HCMPs and call for a significant deduction in value for those that don’t. Perhaps more importantly, planes with these programs sell faster, spending less time on the market. The resulting cost savings can be significant. Tony points out, and I would add that, with the efficiency gained from predictive maintenance, information sent ahead to enable servicing the plane upon landing, the potential efficiencies of having OEM technicians involved in diagnosis, and a host of other time saving benefits, the combination of direct and indirect costs could easily be lower than without maintenance programs. If you also factor in better financing terms, improved logistics for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, and lower training costs, this is almost guaranteed. So, are these comprehensive maintenance programs here to stay? Regardless of their actual costs, whether greater or lessor than self maintenance, the answer is “yes.” They provide greater security for lenders. They require an owner to employ fewer maintenance people. They provide better information up to and including, in the future, predictive maintenance (mitigating both cost and risk). And from the provider’s side, especially for an OEM, they enhance the strength of the marriage between company and customer.

16  PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018

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Manuel Romero-Vargas President & CEO Manny Aviation Services The need for a Mexican NBAA equivalent and easing of flight restrictions for GA and bizav ops in and out of country is imperative.

Association – an MXBAA. It should include private and air charter operators, FBOs, handlers, MROs, in-flight caterers, flight schools, dispatchers, and other business aviation suppliers. Efforts to incorporate this type of entity have been tried – and have failed – several times. Mexico does have the National Chamber of Air Transport (Cámara Nacional de Aerotransportes; which has several committees. One committee represents air charter operators, but is missing the other important industry segments mentioned. Just like in the US, it’s essential to elevate our presence in the industry and have a collective force before the Mexican Civil Aviation Authority (Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil “DGAC”). We must push to be properly recognized for the value and growth that the GA and bizav industry brings to Mexico. An MXBAA can be instrumental in advancing necessary changes to simplify operations at all levels. An MXBAA could team with and gain recognition and support from the more broadly representative CANAERO. Together, we can create a real dialog with our authorities to make positive changes for local and foreign suppliers to general and business aviation. These aviation segments perform thousands of flights to and within Mexico every year, which are beneficial to everyone. We have addressed certain topics to the DGAC that affect foreign non-revenue private operators due to a failed ruling published by DGAC in June of 2014 identified as CO SA 02/14 R1. Areas that can certainly be fixed if all interested parties join efforts in a MXBAA entity include: • Foreign private pilots flying under FAR Part 91 aren’t allowed to bring certain sporting items, such as golf clubs. This is according to a ruling about crew and passenger luggage and other cargo issued Dec 1, 2010. If the aircraft owner or principal allows it, crews should be permitted to carry sporting equipment that doesn’t present a hazard to flight operations. Extended stays and RONs should be included. • Private non-revenue operators in Mexico are still being required by certain local DGAC offices to exhibit their Mexican insurance policies. This action violates the Civil Aviation Law (CAL), as well as an official memorandum issued by the Aeronautic Safety Office from the DGAC stating that a Worldwide Insurance Policy should be the only one required. • Foreign private operators should be able to secure single event authorizations allowing them to bypass MMTP or MMCZ when flying from Central or South America or the Caribbean, as stated in NOTAM A0313/08 dated Jan 16, 2008. This would translate into huge operational savings.

Photo courtesy MAS

believe it’s imperative for Mexico to have a non-profit Isionals organization that gathers together all aviation profesto form a robust general and business aviation

Both Mexican and foreign registry business aircraft visiting Mexico keep increasing. Therefore, there is a need to make it easier for these aircraft to fly in and out of Mexico.

• It currently takes from 6 months to over a year for Mexican nationals and foreign operators to obtain Air Operator Certificates (AOCs) and permits for commercial non-scheduled operations. And this is after operators have already spent considerable time and effort gathering and submitting extensive paperwork. These permits should be priority items and should be rapidly accomplished. • What our CAL and Regulations describe and mandate about cabotage is clear. However, Article 12 of the Regulation contradicts the CAL establishing that foreign commercial non-scheduled operators cannot pick up passengers who weren’t previously flown into the country by the same operator. This restricts the passenger’s flexibility to choose the charter operator of their convenience. And some local DGAC offices still consider what Article 12 dictates as cabotage, when it’s not. Foreign operators struggle with this inconsistency, and many will not consider operations into Mexico. • There is a lack of communication between DGAC HQs and all the local DGAC offices throughout Mexico. This is especially true during weekends and holidays, when there is a need to coordinate single event landing authorizations for commercial, non-schedule flights. In addition, DGAC HQs don’t operate around the clock 24/7, and there is no way that operators can apply for permits or authorizations online. • Ongoing NAFTA renegotiation; we’ll see what steps come next when signers offer changes for the good of the agreement. I hope the new President of Mexico (election day is July 1, 2018) will bring enhancements to the attention of US and Canada for the freedom of private air ops between our nations. A proposal has been in place for a few years now, but the time is late – we must take the initiative and move forward now to improve GA and bizav flight ops in and out of Mexico.

18  PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018

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Terminal Checklist 7/18 Answers on page 22



lowing questions:

1. Select the items required to fly the approach. a Baro-VNAV equipment. b Kennedy Intl altimeter setting. c WAAS-certified GPS equipment. d GPS equipment approved for IFR approaches as per TSO C129.

 



 

 



     

  




 



  



  

  



    


 

    

  

 





 


 

 





 

    




   

 



 

  

 

 







  







     


 




  

     



Not to be used for navigational purposes c Structure locations and elevations shown near the heliports can be relied on to avoid all obstructions. d The MSA of 2900 ft MSL provides 1000 ft of obstacle clearance within a 25 nm radius of HELOG waypoint. 9. During the visual segment of a PinS approach, the minimum visibility requirement of ½ sm applies if maneuvering to a landing site under special VFR a True b False

7. Select the true statement(s) regarding flying the visual segment of the approach. a The elevation of all 3 heliports is 7 ft MSL. b West 30th Street Heliport (JRA) is 12.5 nm from HELOG. c East 34th Street Heliport (6N5) is on a heading of 019° from HELOG. d The pilot must contact ATC prior to HELOG to cancel IFR and proceed VFR.


     

















  

5. Select all that apply to flying the initial approach segment. a Course—064°. b Course—030°. c Maximum speed—70 KIAS. d Minimum altitude—1800 ft MSL. 6. Which combination of criteria apply to the final approach descent? a Ground speed—70 knots; descent rate—508 ft/min; descent angle—3.00°. b Ground speed—90 knots; descent rate—653 ft/min; descent angle—4.10°. c Maximum speed—70 KIAS; descent rate—508 ft/min; descent angle—4.10°. d Maximum speed—90 KIAS; descent rate—653 ft/min; descent angle—4.10°.

 



 



Reproduced with permission of Jeppesen Sanderson. Reduced for illustrative purposes.

4. This approach is restricted to helicopters with a maximum VMINI of _____ a 70 knots c 80 knots b 75 knots d 90 knots


3. Select all that apply. PinS approaches are established_____ a if the flightpath requires turns greater than 20°. b only when obstructions exist around the landing site. c when the MAP is more than 2 nm from the landing site. d with a VFR segment between the MAP and the landing area.

 

2. Select the true statement(s) regarding RAIM if flying the approach with GPS equipment that is not WAAS-certified. a The GPS receiver performs a RAIM prediction at WERIN. b If RAIM is not available prior to initiating the approach, another type of approach system should be used. c If the GPS equipment indicates RAIM failure after WERIN, a climb should be initiated and the missed approach procedure performed. d If the GPS equipment displays a RAIM failure after WERIN, the descent may be continued to the MDA and the missed approach performed at the MAP.

  

 




Refer to the 22-7 COPTER RNAV (GPS) 028 at JFK (Kennedy International, New York NY) when necessary to answer the fol-

8. Select the true statement(s) regarding obstacle clearance flying the visual segment of the approach. a The highest charted obstacle is just north of Downtown Manhattan/Wall Street Heliport. b IFR obstruction clearance is ensured if the aircraft maintains the MDA when proceeding from HELOG to the landing site.

10. Which apply to the missed approach procedure? a Maximum speed of 70 KIAS. b Maximum speed of 90 KIAS. c A parallel entry to the holding pattern. d Minimum climb gradient of 400 ft/nm. e Minimum climb gradient of 600 ft/nm.

20  PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018

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Answers to TC 7/18 questions 1.

b, d To fly RNAV (GPS) approach procedures with lateral navigation, GPS equipment must be approved for IFR approaches according to TSO C129. WAAS or baro-VNAV equipment is not required for lateral navigation only. Procedural note 2 in the Briefing Strip states “use Kennedy Intl altimeter setting.”


b, c According to the AIM 1-1-19, if RAIM is not available prior to beginning the approach, use another type of approach system. When flying an approach with non-WAAS GPS equipment, the receiver performs a RAIM prediction at least 2 nm prior to the FAF. If the receiver does not sequence into approach mode or indicates RAIM failure prior to the FAF, do not descend to the DA or MDA—proceed to the MAP, perform the missed approach, and contact ATC. If the GPS equipment displays a RAIM failure after the FAF, initiate a climb and perform the missed approach.


c, d “Copter” Point-in-space (PinS) approaches, which involve a VFR segment between the MAP and the landing area, are used at locations where the MAP is more than 2 sm from the landing site, the path from the MAP to the landing site has obstructions that require avoidance actions, or the flight path requires turns greater than 30°. Each of these criteria apply to this approach.


a PinS approaches are restricted to helicopters with a maximum VMINI of 70 KIAS and an IFR approach angle that enables them to meet the final approach angle/descent gradient. According to the FAA Instrument Procedures Handbook, final approach angles/descent gradients for public approach procedures can be as high as 7.5°/795 ft/nm. At 70 KIAS (no wind), this equates to a descent rate of 925 ft/min. Helicopters with a VMINI of 70 KIAS might have inadequate control margins to fly an approach with the maximum allowable angle/descent gradient or minimum allowable deceleration distance from the MAP to the heliport.


b, d Airspeed is typically limited to 90 knots on the initial and intermediate approach segments of a Copter RNAV (GPS) approach. Procedural note 1 in the Briefing Strip only limits the final approach and missed approach speeds. According to the plan view, a course of 030° at a minimum altitude of 1800 ft MSL applies to the initial approach segment from BANKA to COVIR.

6. b Procedural note 1 in the Briefing Strip indicates a maximum indicated airspeed of 70 knots. However, the descent/timing conversion table is based on ground

Terminal Checklist 7-18 lyt CS.indd 22

speed. The descent angle indicated in the table and on the profile view is 4.10°. To maintain this descent angle at a ground speed of 90 knots, a descent rate of 653 ft/min is appropriate.


b, c Ballflag note 1 on the plan view provides headings and distances to 3 heliports (JRB, JRA and 6N5) from HELOG. A note in the profile view indicates that helipad elevations are on the plan view. Although both JRB and JRA are at 7 ft MSL, the elevation of 6N5 is 10 ft MSL. According to the FAA Instrument Procedures Handbook, the pilot must contact ATC upon reaching the MAP, or as soon as practical after that, and advise whether performing the missed approach or canceling IFR and proceeding VFR.

8. a, d According the AIM 10-1-3, IFR obstruction clearance areas are not applied to the VFR segment between the MAP and the landing site. Obstacle or terrain avoidance from the MAP to the landing site is the responsibility of the pilot. An arrow indicates the highest charted terrain point or obstacle—in this case, a tower with a height of 1806 ft MSL just north of Downtown Manhattan/Wall Street Heliport (JRB). Structure elevations cannot be relied on to avoid obstructions because higher uncharted obstructions might exist. Minimum safe/sector altitudes (MSAs) are for emergency use and normally provide 1000 ft clearance over obstructions within a 25 nm radius of the indicated facility. 9.

b Although fixed-wing airplanes must maintain 1 mile visibility under a special VFR clearance, helicopters have no minimum visibility requirement but must remain clear of clouds and operate at a speed that is slow enough to give the pilot an adequate opportunity to see other aircraft or an obstruction in time to avoid a collision.


a, c, d Procedural note 1 in the Briefing Strip limits the missed approach air speed to 70 KIAS. A parallel entry is appropriate when proceeding direct to CO VIR after making a left turn at HELOG. A minimum climb gradient of at least 400 ft/nm is required unless a higher gradient is published on the approach chart. The copter 20:1 Obstacle Clearance Surface (OCS) requires a 400 ft/nm climb gradient to allow a Required Obstacle Clearance (ROC) of 96 ft/nm for each nm of flightpath.

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24  PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018

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uality of service, convenience, availability of fuel, maybe hangarage during winter ops, parking space, maintenance support (not essential but desirable), and close to suitable hotels for RONs are some features we need. For international ops, an FBO that has a working relationship with a convenient and efficient customs/border facility is desirable. Of course the FBO should also have knowledgeable and friendly staff who aren’t so procedure-bound that they can’t offer flexibility in customer support. Wally Epton ATP. Hawker HS125 Director & Chief Pilot WJE Associates Crowthorne, Berskshire, UK

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When you make a tech stop, what features of known enroute FBOs influence your selection?


mportant factors for PHI Air Medical operations are dependability of access and turn-around speed. I look for an FBO open 24/7 or that has a dependable callout service, and that will commit to providing a quick turn. After these needs are met, other key considerations include ease of access on the field, IFR facilities to ensure arrival/departure options, and the cost of fuel. James Holbert ATP/Helo/CFII. Airbus EC135P2 Captain PHI Air Medical London KY


fficiency is what I prize the most. Cost is important too, but I’m looking for fuel on arrival and reliable service I can count on. Christophe Delbos ATP. Falcon 7X Captain TAG Aviation UK Fillière, France

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uel price is my main consideration. Next is speed of service followed by clean, adequate restrooms and facilities. Harold Watson ATP/CFII. Cessna C421/C414 President BJAerospace Denton TX


lways looking for fast service to make the tech stop a quick turn. My company has a concurrent refueling procedure so we don’t have to disembark passengers during the refueling process from the FBO or local authority. If customs is needed, we prefer an FBO with customs inside, or even better if the officer goes to the aircraft. Felipe Abrahão ATP. Gulfstream G650ER & Falcon 7X Captain PAIC Participacoes São Paulo SP, Brazil


rovider or FBO must be on the Corporate Aircraft Association fuel provider list. I think that FBOs have to be transparent on their service fee schedule and their jet fuel prices, which are discounted for CAA members. John Calderone ATP/CFII. Conquest II Av Dept Mgr Farmers Investment Gilbert AZ


afe FBO ops are the most important, but I’m also looking for lots of ramp space, quick refueling and availability of customs if needed. A speedy payment or invoicing system is also very important. David Rada ATP. Gulfstream G550 Finance Mgr & Pilot DuPont New Castle DE

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ase of approach to and departure from the airport is near the top of my list. And fuel price is certainly a factor. Also appreciate a friendly staff and good FBO amenities. Don Walker ATP. Gulfstream G550/G450 & Challenger 300 Captain Independent Contractor Waleska GA


here are several features I consider when choosing an FBO for a tech stop. Contract fuel pricing is a strong consideration, as are any ramp or service fees. I do like to patronize and support the nonchain and independent FBOs when I can. Previous online reviews left by other pilots also influence my decision. I want to determine how well-staffed the FBO is, how fast my airplane can get fuel, and how I can get back into the air quickly. Jay Brentzel ATP/CFII. Embraer Legacy Chief Pilot Bridge West Group Carlsbad CA


e try to find a tech stop with minimal paperwork hassles and quick service. Finding a good stop can be challenging here – in the more remote areas we’re just happy to find a place with running water and a flush toilet. Tim Harold ATP/CFII/A&P. Pilatus PC-12/PC-6 Captain Yajasi Sentani, Papua, Indonesia


bility to efficiently service the airplane with singlepoint refueling, the availability of a ground power unit and lavatory service are the big concerns for me. It’s also preferable to have a towered field with good approaches so I know I can get in. Joseph Kosobucki ATP. Phenom 300 Captain NetJets Bradenton FL



onsiderations for me include airspace in and out and how busy they are – I don’t want to wait for service at an enroute stop. I try to pick airports like LBB (Lubbock TX) with fast, steady descent arrivals and direct departures. An IAP is a must; precision approach is preferable. I also consider fuel prices and whether they have a well-trained line team. But I’m always ready to change quick turn airports since weather trumps the best of plans. Steve Kingston ATP. Phenom 300 Pilot Private Capital Mgmt Naples FL


ption to prepay for all services prior to arriving is an important feature for me. Then all the required services must be ready and waiting for our arrival. Availability of ATC services is also just as important. Jeff Jacober ATP. Gulfstream G650 Chief Pilot Renco Group Bensalem PA


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eatures for enroute FBOs and airports that we look at are fuel price, location of alternate airports, number and type of instrument approaches, maintenance availability, and crash/fire/rescue services. We also consider what airport, airway and other charges or fees may apply to our flight. Andrew Cohen ATP. Falcon 2000LX & Gulfstream IV President Aviation Consultants of Aspen Castle Rock CO


uick turns are usually required at tech stops. Important considerations include arrival and departure airspace congestion, FBO services such as fueling efficiency, passenger lounge facilities, catering, and speedy checkout with CSRs. All play a role, especially if boss or clients are aboard. Contract fuel and price are also important. Darren Rogers ATP/Helo/CFII. Learjet 45 Captain Jet Linx Claremore OK





e want to know what fees are charged, the price of fuel, and the ease of getting a quick turn. We also review known prior service – how they’ve performed in the past. Jodi Novak ATP/CFII. King Air B300 Captain GAMA Aviation Fowlerville MI

apability for a quick turn and fuel prices are the factors influencing my enroute FBO choice. John Tatone ATP. Gulfstream IV & Citation X Captain Sun Air Jets Canyon Country CA


esides the importance of where the enroute airport is located as relates to our destination, we look at fuel price, facility charges, and landing and service fees. Edward Baro ATP. Hawker 800XP President Compass Aviation Intl Hobe Sound FL

Cabo San Lucas This MMSL facility won the 2018 Pro Pilot award for highest quality and professional service. • All airport with security 24/7, certified • Immigration & Customs permanently staffed • The biggest hangar in all the state • Ramp and hangar space available • Luxury transportation service available • Hours: 6 am to 8 pm local time daily and overtime upon request • Catering provided by The Coffee Air • 7000 ft runway HIRL, VOR/DME, no restrictions Source: 2018 Pro Pilot PRASE survey

’m looking for FBOs offering quick turns and I also consider the price of fuel. I wouldn’t expect a quick turn at a major center like JFK no matter how hard the linecrew tries. Ryan Duchene ATP. Gulfstream IVSP & Hawker 850XP Captain Onex Flight Innisfil ON, Canada nroute FBO must either be on the list approved by my employer or be approved by DoD. Otherwise, I pick an FBO with the best quality of service closest to my route of flight. Michael O’Brien ATP/Helo/CFII. Leonardo AW139 Captain PHI Cantonment FL


peed of turnaround, availability of decent food, and close proximity to a hotel if we need to RON are important factors for me. Walter Bradshaw ATP. Citation CJ3 Owner ATR Inc Punta Gorda FL


he features that I look for are good fuel prices, good customer service reviews and reliable access afterhours. Robert Oehl ATP/CFII. Gulfstream G100 Owner Express Air Starke FL


umber 1 concern is good weather to keep the pax at ease. Fuel price and dual hose overwing are #2. FBO amenities are #3 – I hope we’re only there 20 minutes. Gregory Von Urff ATP/CFII/FE/A&P. Citation V Captain West Rac Contracting Dix Hills NY

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omplimentary transportation or an available crew car are important to us. Danny Dominguez ATP. Gulfstream III/II Pilot Avjet Big Bear Lake CA

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ain feature we look for is the fuel program for prices and discounts. Secondarily we want prompt service and clean facilities. Good runways and ramp space are also important for enroute airports. John Rich ATP. Citation Excel Manager & Captain H2C Air Hamilton OH


AA fuel membership is #1 since they screen prices and service. Second is closeness to our route to minimize deviations. Third is quick turn speed and 4th is amenities. Jim McIrvin ATP/CFII. Phenom 300 & Boeing 767/757 Owner & Chief Pilot McIrvin Aviation Warrenton VA


o help me control my known costs, I look for enroute FBOs that are on the Corporate Aircraft Association Preferred FBO list. Gary Hamilton ATP/CFII/A&P. Citation CJ2/CJ1/CJ Owner & Manager Airworx Niceville FL


hat I look for are maintenance and avionics facilities just in case I have unplanned issues. Fuel prices are always a factor too. The King Air is incredibly capable, but the airport still has to be suitable with runway length, etc. Having a 2nd runway is also a nice option. Thomas Rivera ATP. King Air C90 President, CEO & Owner ATR Realty San Juan PR

If you fly a turboprop, why do you? What advantages do TPs have over jets?


ing Air 200 is perfect for our normal trips of 300-500 nm. The TP is more efficient than a jet at these distances and gets us there in a reasonable time. With today’s fuel prices I think the King Air offers the right balance for what we need. Bruce Rainwater ATP/CFII. King Air 200 Pilot HLAF AETA Richmond TX


iloting a Pilatus PC-12 now, but I’ve also flown the King Air BE90, Daher TBM700 and de Havilland DHC6 Twin Otter. For shorter flights and at lower altitudes the economics work out better for a TP than a jet. The ability to go into much smaller fields is also a bonus. Raymond Brown ATP/CFII. Pilatus PC-12 President & Chief Pilot Circadian Knight Avon Lake OH


’ve flown the King Air 90, B200 and the Cessna 425, as well as many corporate jets and find that the turboprop is by far the most economical for trips up to about 600 miles. You can’t beat it for short field access and the shorter missions. Pratt & Whitney’s PT6 engine is practically bulletproof and is my personal engine of choice. Dudley Weber ATP. King Air C12/B200 C12 Instructor CAE Dothan AL


lying an HC144 (TP based on the CASA CN235) with the USCG. Compared to my old Falcon 20, I have the advantage of immediate response to power inputs for goarounds and much better fuel efficiency for my lower altitude flying. I also can get into and out of shorter or even unpaved fields. Brad Winans ATP. EADS HC144 Ocean Sentry Pilot USCG Mobile AL

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ne critical feature for me is the availability of reliable WiFi. Being able to quickly upload and download EFB data such as manifests, weather, etc, is critical to keeping our passengers happy and overall mission success. David Stock ATP/CFII. Beechjet 400 & Embraer EMB110 Bandeirante Captain Wiggins Airways Wilton NH

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ots of reasons why a turboprop offers us a better choice than a jet. Our average leg length is 500 nm, and with a large cabin, 4000 lb useful load at 285 ktas and better fuel economy the Merlin offers lower operating costs. We can also fly single pilot ops, which is enough for our operation. James Kimbrough ATP/CFII. Swearingen Merlin IIIC Captain Double R Aviation Bossier City LA


ur 36,000 lb Dash 8 takes us all over the state of Alaska. From normal paved strips to frozen lake strips on the North Slope of Alaska. I suppose you could do them in a jet, but the Dash is super versatile and responsive in challenging conditions like Valdez Alaska. Aaron Rocereta ATP. de Havilland DHC8 & Beechcraft B1900 Chief Pilot Corvus Airlines Anchorage AK


love the ground handling on icy surfaces. Adjusting blade pitch into beta adds considerable control when brakes are rendered useless by contaminated conditions. Larry Taborsky ATP/CFII. King Air 200 Instructor Florida Flight Tng Center Venice FL


he King Air B200 serves us perfectly since 99% of our flying is to/from the Florida panhandle, Corpus Christi and Houston. We’re based in the DFW area so our legs are 2-3 hours or less. Operating a jet for such short flights would be exorbitant over that of a TP. The passengers enjoy the large cabin and the King Air’s ability to handle heavy loads without the time-consuming CG calculations. The owner is elated with the B200, commenting repeatedly how well it fits our mission. Right now we wouldn’t even consider a jet. Charles Hackett Comm-Multi-Inst. King Air B200 Chief Pilot Seagull Management Denton TX


very light jet that might be able to operate out of shorter fields does not have the range and payload of a turboprop. Also the speeds are actually very similar to the TBM I’m flying which is at substantially lower operating cost. David OMalley Pvt-Inst. TBM700 President De Omalley Inc New Lenox IL


rivileged to fly turboprops as a military flight instructor in the T34C and T6B. I can see why the Navy used them. They’re very reliable, robust, forgiving, and suited to the Navy’s fairly short training fields. They also have a lower fuel burn rate at lower altitudes. TPs definitely have advantages over jets for our flight training mission. Michael O’Brien ATP/Helo/CFII. Leonardo AW139 Captain PHI Cantonment FL

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Cochise Co Sheriff’s Office flies Airbus EC130-T2

CCSO Sheriff Mark Dannels utilizes all equipment at his disposal, including the Geronimo helicopter, to protect his deputies and the citizens of his county.

By Brent Bundy

Phoenix Police Officer-Pilot AS350, AW119, Cessna 210/182/172

Since its inception 4 years ago, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Section has proven its helicopter’s worth with airborne law enforcement, border patrol, firefighting and SAR missions across the deserts and mountains of southeast Arizona.

Photos by Brent Bundy


ver 150 years ago, Apache warrior Geronimo fought to protect his people from foreign invaders of their lands in the southwest region of what is now the United States. Today, in some of the very same territory, a new defender has taken up a similar cause, to provide protection and overwatch to the residents of the area. This modern-day Geronimo does not ride on horseback but instead flies hundreds of feet above the desert of southern Arizona to provide security to the people and maintaining vigil along the country’s border. This guardian goes by the call sign “Geronimo” and is the helicopter of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).

Background Cochise Co is home to over 130,000 residents spread across 6219 square miles in the Chihuahua Desert, nestled in the far southeast corner of AZ. Formed in 1881 as an offshoot of neighboring Pima Co and named after Chiricahua Apache war chief Cochise, the region was the epicenter of the infamous Wild West and home to years of clashes with Native American tribes and Mexican militia. While the populace arrived to work in the extensive mining operations during the latter part of the 19th and throughout most of the 20th centuries, it is probably best known for “The

Shootout at the OK Corral” in the then county seat of Tombstone in late 1881. This incident and the lore surrounding it helped establish tourism, which along with agriculture, have become the major economic forces in the area as the large mines shut down in the 1970s. Over the past several years, Cochise Co has become a hotbed for the national security debate as the county abuts Mexico along 83 miles of international border, including flatlands and mountainous terrain. The border challenges and all other law enforcement in the county fall on the shoulders of Cochise Co Sheriff Mark Dannels. The self-proclaimed “Sheriff for


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CCSO Aviation Section

Pilot & Ops Div Cmdr Sam Farris leads the aviation section with 30 years of LE experience.

all the People” has held this title since his election in 2012 and unopposed re-election in 2016.

Sheriff Dannels dedication Dannels began his law enforcement career with the police department in Bisbee AZ, the Cochise Co seat, after serving as a mailman in the US Army where he was stationed at nearby Fort Huachuca. In 1986 he transferred to the CCSO as a deputy and worked his way up to the rank of deputy commander before retiring in 2008. After a 3-year stint as a police chief in Oregon, which allowed him to “test my abilities as a leader,” as he declares, Dannels returned to AZ where the current sheriff, Larry Dever, was to groom him to run for election. Unfortunately, Sheriff Dever was killed in a motor vehicle accident, which accelerated Dannels plans. He was put onto the ballot at the last minute and won the post. After a 34-year career in policing, Dannels’ enthusiasm and dedication to the job, his deputies and the people of his county are stronger than ever. As the leader of multiple law enforcement organizations, both local and national, his voice can be heard by a broad audience – particularly on border issues. “The border has always been instrumental in how we police here,” Dannels explains. This fact was a key reason for his implementation of the aviation division in 2014.

When asked about the birth of the CCSO Av Section, Dannels is quick to give credit to one particular benefactor. “If it weren’t for the generosity of Howard Buffett, we would not have this program.” Buffett, the son of multi-billionaire investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett, has carried on his father’s benevolence. Howard Buffet owns property across Cochise County as part of many endeavors, including his research for advancing third world agriculture. His stakeholding in the area, combined with his longtime affinity for law enforcement, brought him together with the sheriff where they agreed on a need for a helicopter to patrol the county. Dannels states, “We are the 38th largest land mass county in the United States, with 93 sworn deputies to support our mission which includes 83 miles of international border. That is a challenge. And at a time when our community was still recovering from the recession, Howard Buffett was gracious enough to cover all expenses of this aviation program. There is not one penny of taxpayer dollars that go to this program, thanks to him.” With county leaders not wanting to outright own an aircraft, an outside company was brought in to provide the helicopter and pilots. Initially they operated a Bell 206L LongRanger. However, things did not begin well. Within 7 months of their start, the leased helicopter encountered a mechanical issue in-flight and the pilot was forced to execute an autorotation landing, which resulted in significant damage to the aircraft. “My son, who is a Sierra Vista PD detective, was actually on that flight working as a Tactical Flight Officer (TFO)”, Dannels relates. Four months later on December 31st, 2014, their replacement helicopter, another Bell LongRanger, was being flown back to the county after maintenance work in the Phoenix area, when it crashed and both pilots were killed. “This tragic loss forced me to reevaluate the program, so I suspended it for 1 year. Howard Buffett supported this decision, as well as the decision to restart the operation the following year.” After looking at the pros and cons, Dannels decided that the people of his county and his deputies needed an airborne asset. “This aviation program has several benefits, but the number 1 reason we have it is for the safety of my deputies. The decision to continue operating a helicopter was the right decision,” he declares.

Pilot Don Hooper has flown nearly every type of available helicopter assignment there is. The police mission is one of his favorites.

Almost 1 year later, a new management company was brought in and a new helicopter, an Airbus AS350 B2, took to the skies over Cochise Co. They continued with this arrangement for just over a year until additional evaluation moved them to their current setup with Cave Creek AZ-based Aerial Solutions providing an Airbus EC130-T2, call sign “Geronimo.”

Leadership When Sheriff Dannels made the decision to reactivate and reorganize the air unit, he wanted to make sure he had the right people in place. One of those people is Operations Division Commander Sam Farris. Farris joined the CCSO in April 2017, bringing with him a wealth of law enforcement and aviation experience. The Michigan native moved to Scottsdale AZ during high school, and after graduation enlisted with the US Army. It was during his 3 years as a recon specialist in Germany that he was bitten by the flying bug. “While in the Army, I’d see the BlackHawks and Little Birds flying in and supporting us on operations. It seemed pretty magical. But I thought it was out of reach for someone like me,” Farris recalls. After his military time, he returned to AZ and joined the Phoenix PD. While working patrol, he remembers his 1st exposure to airborne law enforcement. “I was in a foot pursuit of a suspect at night when all of a sudden things got loud and really bright when the helicopter arrived overhead and helped us catch the guy. I thought it was the coolest job but still didn’t think I could to it.” However, his perseverance paid off and, after various assignments in patrol and investigations, he made his

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The CCSO’s Airbus EC130-T2, currently flies 400 hours a year for regional ops. At right, Cmdr Sam Farris and Pilot Don Hooper keep a watchful eye along the US–Mexico border on a recent mission.

way to the Air Support Unit, obtained rescue pilot status, and spent the remainder of his 18-year full-duty career there. This was followed by an additional 10 years as a reserve pilot. A successful foray into real estate couldn’t quell his love of aviation, so Farris tried his hand at Electronic News Gathering (ENG) then in 2014 began flying Emergency Medical Services (EMS). ”I was assigned to some locations in Colorado, which gave me some great experience – especially with the weather and high-altitude flying,” he relates. During this time, he also became the AStar FAA check airman and training captain for the company. With a pending sale of the EMS operator he worked for, along with his desire to return to AZ, Farris left EMS flying in late 2015. The timing was right as he had been told about a contract job flying for CCSO. He applied and was hired a week later. When the changeover to a new operating company occurred in 2017, Farris applied for and was awarded the Commander position.

Mission With his new rank, Farris oversees the Operations Division, which includes aviation, patrol, investigations, and special operations sections. While he still flies, he has also had to tap into his experience as a reserve sergeant with the Phoenix Police as well as decades of organizational abilities in aviation for his new assignment. “Our primary mission is law enforcement support, and that includes our local, state and federal partners. This aircraft, because of its high-altitude and payload capabilities, is also used for extensive support of border patrol. Along with that, 28% of the operations are for firefighting, which is a huge

deal. We are the only helicopter in this county or any bordering counties, except for Pima,” he explains. “With the very strong winds we see, fires can spread rapidly, and the capabilities of this aircraft allow us to conduct evacuations as well as aerial recon.” The CCSO helicopter is also utilized for search and rescue (SAR) work to assist the primary regional asset, the AZ Department of Public Safety. “We don’t have a hoist or other SAR equipment but there are many situations where we can step in to help prior to the arrival of the Dept of Public Safety helicopter,” Farris points out.

Personnel To complete the mission, the Geronimo helicopter is staffed with 2 fulltime and 2 part-time backup pilots, flying day VFR only. One of those pilots is Don Hooper. Although not a sworn deputy for the CCSO, he flies law enforcement missions as a contract pilot since joining in December 2017. Born and raised in Phoenix, Hooper spent 4 years in the US Coast Guard stationed in Alaska, where he had his 1st helo flight in a Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican. “I was assigned to a lighthouse that was only accessible by helicopter. One time, my commander let me sit up front and that was it, I was hooked,” Hooper remembers. After returning to civilian life, he began his flight training while working for the post office. He eventually earned his commercial, instrument, flight instructor, and instrument instructor ratings in helicopters along with a private rating in airplanes. After a short stint working for the department of corrections, Hooper began a nearly 30-year career of helicopter flying, in just about every field including EMS, ENG, tour, construction, and now law enforcement. He has been

assigned to locations covering most of the western USA and even Hawaii. More than 10,000 hours of flight time later, Hooper is glad to be back in AZ and flying this type of mission. “It’s a fun challenge to my skill set. Whether working radio calls with the deputies or dropping border patrol agents up into the mountains, I like it better than flying point A to point B,” he states. CCSO pilots work a schedule of 7 days on, 7 days off with 12-hour shifts, which Hooper enjoys. He also prefers working with the flexibility of a Part 91 operation. “This is a great program with very talented people involved. The only true negative is the same thing affecting everybody: money. But it is a very new program and we are well-funded at this point. It’s a great job and I really enjoy flying here, supporting the deputies.” Each flight is also staffed with a TFO. As a county-wide, multi-jurisdictional asset, the CCSO taps into the city of Sierra Vista for assistance with staffing. There is a pool of 15 TFOs – 10 from the county, 5 from Sierra Vista – who can be called upon at any time there is a need. Deputy Bobby Zavala, a 6-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, has been involved with the program from its onset. Born and raised locally in Bisbee, Zavala wanted to be in law enforcement from the time he was a young boy. After high school, he followed in the footsteps of his older brother and joined the US Army where he became a military police officer. His 3-year commitment eventually turned into a 23-year career, culminating with the rank of first sergeant. Zavala moved back to Cochise Co to be near family and joined the Bisbee PD in 2010. In that role he worked extensively with county deputies and saw more chance of mobility and advancement within the CCSO, so he made the move in 2012.

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Deputy/TFO Bobby Zavala served 23 years in the US Army before joining the CCSO in 2012. He plans to earn his wings and become a pilot for the Av Section.

Of the many hats Zavala wears for the sheriff’s office, being a TFO as well as the training officer for the Geronimo program is easily his favorite, although he is also a honor guard, accident investigation team leader, and physical fitness instructor. “I was able to do quite a bit of flying while I was in the military and I’ve seen the incredible asset the aircraft can be for the forces on the ground. So when I had the opportunity to be part of this program, I knew right away I wanted to be involved,” he says. Zavala relates an example of this with a recent call of a vehicle fire in a remote area. On that day, he was working as a patrol deputy and was the first on the scene. When he arrived, he observed bullet holes in the burning vehicle. He and a fellow deputy extinguished most of the fire but could see no one inside. The Geronimo helicopter also responded and on their 1st orbit was able to spot a subject with a gun within 30 yards of the scene, hiding in the brush. The ground officers then switched to a tactical approach to the subject. Moments later the suspect took his own life. However, as Zavala related, “If Geronimo would not have been there, this very easily could have been an ambush situation and the outcome would have been far different.” When asked if he wants to become a pilot, Zavala responds, “Without a doubt!” He is currently finishing his bachelor’s degree after which he will apply the remainder of his G.I. Bill towards flight lessons. “Being a TFO in the Geronimo program is the best thing I’ve done in my law enforcement career and I look forward to taking it even further.” Also on that list of TFOs is Deputy Tom Fair. Fair has lived in the area since a teenager and began his long

Deputy/TFO Tom Fair brought decades of EMS, SAR and LE experience with him when he joined the Geronimo program at its founding in 2014.

career in public service as a firefighter and EMT for the city of Sierra Vista in 1983. Throughout the 80s and 90s, he received SAR training and worked with a variety of agencies. He later became the medic for the CCSO SWAT team which led to becoming a reserve deputy. In 2011, he left the fire department and took a position as a flight medic. Two years later he joined the CCSO as a full-time deputy. With his medic, tactical, SAR and helicopter experience, he was a shoein for the TFO spot. “This is a combination of everything I love to do. It’s a great job that allows me to incorporate all my skills,” Fair states. “This is a great place to work. The leadership allows you to present ideas for improvement – and they listen. They lead by empowerment. And the public really appreciates the Geronimo program, especially when they find out there is zero cost to them.”

Aircraft, facilities, future Currently the Geronimo Air Unit consists of a single 2014 Airbus EC130-T2 helicopter, which is housed at a hangar provided by the city of Sierra Vista at Sierra Vista Municipal Airport. Other than the paint and the Technisonic TDFM9000 multi-band police radio, it is similar to a standard EC130. However, the reorganized program is less than 3 years old and still in the 3-year grant renewal process. As the Buffett Foundation evaluates the operation, Commander Farris would like to see the capabilities of the aircraft expanded with the addition of more law enforcement equipment. “We could benefit from FLIR (infrared camera), night vision goggles, a public-address speaker, and video downlink. That equipment, especially the downlink, would be game changers and would expand the services we could provide

to our customers. Also, we’re flying around 400 hours a year and we would like to fly more.” Farris is grateful for the generosity of the Foundation that keeps the program running and, at this stage, is hesitant to ask for more from them. Both he and Sheriff Dannels feel that the benefits to the officers and citizens will continue to be recognized and may lead to an expansion of the program, perhaps even the addition of more pilots and aircraft.

Conclusion From Wild West gunfights of times past to modern day smugglers, the border region of southeast Arizona has always proven to be a challenge to law enforcement. As the criminal elements have advanced in their ways, so have the men and women providing protection to the citizens of Cochise Co. Sheriff Mark Dannels has made it clear that he will do everything in his power to safeguard the people under his watch from threats, both foreign and domestic. To further that goal, he has provided a force-multiplier to his deputies in the form of an airborne platform. For those who wish to circumvent the law in Cochise Co, be forewarned: the sheriff in town these days will be bringing the fight from above, and its name is Geronimo. Brent Bundy has been a police officer with the Phoenix Police Dept for 26 years. He has served in the PHX Air Support Unit for 16 years and is a helicopter rescue pilot with nearly 4000 hours of flight time. Bundy currently flies Airbus AS350B3s for the helicopter side of Phoenix PD’s air unit and Cessna 172, 182s and 210s for the fixed-wing side.

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2018 PRASE WINNERS Signature MSP is #1 US FBO. #2 Texas Jet FTW, #3 Pentastar PTK, #4 Million Air HOU, #5 GlobalSelect SGR. Best US Independent FBO is Texas Jet FTW. Most Improved Sheltair TPA. Best US FBO Chains: Small (3-10) Wilson Air Ctr, Large (11+) Million Air. Aviation ground service is a very complex business with demanding customers. Loyalty is earned. Pro Pilot readers recognize the best, most consistent providers in this 45th annual PRASE Survey.


roviding industry-wide recognition of outstanding performance is the sole purpose of the Preferences Regarding Aviation Services and Equipment (PRASE) Survey. And you can trust that the results came straight from the operators who use them – Pro Pilot only provides the categories, our readers provide the names, votes and rankings.

Regardless of where your mission takes you, we’ve got you covered across the globe. Our Top Intl FBOs/ Handlers category gives you some of the best aviation services by region. The Other Services section will provide you with information on the best in catering, fuel brands, preferred aviation credit cards, international trip planning services and MROs.

This year Signature MSP regains the crown as #1 US FBO from 2016/2015/2014, replacing Texas Jet FTW the top winner last year, now #2. Pentastar PTK placed #3 for the 2nd year. Million Air HOU #4 from #7 in 2017, and GlobalSelect SGR ranked #5 from #23 last year. Continuing the top 10, Wilson Air CLT #6, Million Air ADS #7, Wilson Air HOU #8, Banyan Air Svcs FXE #9 and Signature STP #10. Finally, we thank the Pro Pilot readers for rating the best Line Techs, CSRs and also our best writers. Take a moment to review readers choices for the top of each section. They may just have a place as one your favorite service providers. Congratulations to all the Pro Pilot 2018 PRASE Survey Winners. Top US FBOs US – Signature MSP Independent – Texas Jet FTW Most Improved – Sheltair TPA Small Chain – Wilson Air Ctr Large Chain – Million Air Top International FBOs/Handlers Canada – Skyservice YYZ Mexico – Cabo San Lucas FBO CSL Caribbean – Cherokee Aviation MHH Latin America – Aerosupport FBO BOG Europe – TAG Farnborough Arpt FAB Middle East & Africa – ExecuJet DXB Asia – Hong Kong Business Av Ctr HKG FBO Personnel Line Tech – Pat Walter, Signature MSP CSR –Betsy Wines, Meridian TEB Other services Catering – each region has a winner with no overall national one. Northeast – Rudy’s NJ area South – Silver Lining MIA area Mountain – Perfect Landing APA

Owner/Operator Trey Willis is an ATP/CFII with over 12,000 hours in Learjets, Turbo Commanders and Cirrus aircraft. He flies the Learjet 45/75 for his aircraft management and consulting business covering the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean. Trey knows FBOs and aviation service – he designed, built and ran 3 flight departments, has assisted dozens of others and was an award winning pilot with Walmart for 15 years. He evaluated multiple FBOs, CSRs and services on his 2018 Pro Pilot PRASE Survey response. His form is 1 of the 1211 received providing 29,301 individual evaluations.

Fuel Brand – Phillips 66 Aviation Fuel Credit Card – Colt Intl by World Fuel Services Intl Trip Planning – ITPS Intl Planning Svcs MRO - West Star Pro Pilot Writer – Karsten Shein

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Final results of the 2018 Professional Pilot PRASE Survey Signature MSP voted #1 US FBO Signature MSP clinches #1 again, distinction earned in 2014, 2015 and 2016. They placed #2 in last year’s PRASE Survey. Branch representatives pictured are (L–R) Customer Experience Rep Latricia Edwards, Duty Mgr Matthew Hall, Area Dir Doug Drescher and Area Dir Kyle Schmaltz.

( ) denotes 2017 ranking

US FBOs 2018 Airport FBO rank


did not place in 2017

Ranked by category scores and overall ratings Fuel Brand


Line CSRs Facility Amenities Promptness Value Overall 2017 team & efficiency for price rating rank 9.47 9.67 9.70 9.67 9.74 9.06 9.27 9.59 9.18 9.42 9.08 9.76 9.26 9.28 9.73 9.77 9.47 9.13 9.50 9.64 9.21 9.70 9.57 8.30 9.42 9.32 9.32 9.53 9.48 8.97 9.29 9.13 9.41 9.28 9.56 8.94 9.62 9.46 9.27 9.29 9.19 9.21 9.17 9.24 9.17 9.43 9.23 8.91 9.38 9.44 8.54 9.50 9.57 8.35 9.20 9.26 9.25 9.39 9.33 8.56 9.00 9.17 9.00 9.17 9.50 8.64 9.40 9.20 9.20 9.14 9.05 8.41 9.17 9.29 8.77 8.81 9.11 8.88 9.09 9.09 8.55 8.88 9.00 8.55 9.05 8.19 8.50 8.90 8.90 8.20 8.85 8.80 8.58 8.82 8.61 8.71 8.77 8.73 8.38

9.55 9.33 9.41 9.83 9.70 9.17 9.14 8.65 9.14 8.89 9.26 8.89 9.04 8.89 8.93 8.72 8.50 8.64 8.90 8.39 8.72 8.22 8.70 8.36 8.60 8.74 8.59 8.22 8.36 8.15 8.32 8.50 8.31

9.61 9.63 9.59 9.36 9.30 9.53 9.43 9.48 9.07 9.34 9.09 8.94 9.12 9.07 9.02 9.09 9.12 9.21 9.05 9.22 8.67 9.00 8.95 9.05 8.81 8.77 8.73 8.73 8.77 8.35 8.47 8.46 8.42

9.22 9.60 9.50 8.96 9.07 9.17 9.18 9.61 8.98 8.93 8.91 9.22 8.08 8.82 8.76 8.88 9.15 8.74 8.11 8.61 8.83 8.67 7.68 8.95 8.17 8.36 8.14 8.41 8.36 8.65 8.00 7.64 7.92

9.54 (2) 9.51 (1) 9.42 (3) 9.40 (7) 9.39 (23) 9.37 (9) 9.35 (10) 9.22 (15) 9.21 (5) 9.19 (4) 9.18 (17) 9.14 (*) 9.10 (24) 9.08 (8) 9.05 (20) 9.04 (12) 9.02 (16) 9.00 (6) 8.96 (*) 8.92 (*) 8.90 (*) 8.87 (13) 8.86 (21) 8.83 (22) 8.80 (30) 8.78 (28) 8.70 (29) 8.63 (31) 8.54 (27) 8.53 (*) 8.50 (25) 8.46 (33) 8.42 (32)

Ranking Criteria for US FBOs—For 2018 the total number of ranked US FBOs was 33. A minimum of 18 respondents with 6 categories giving 108 individual evaluations from PP subscribers. FBOs acquired after July 1, 2017 retained their former affiliation for this 2018 PRASE Survey.

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2018 PRASE WINNERS 2 Texas Jet FTW

Texas Jet Founder, Pres & CEO Reed Pigman stands in front of (L–R) Assistant Line Service Mgr Gabriel Cross, Customer Service Mgr Holly Hopkins and Line Service Mgr Mario Sanchez. In the background, sitting on an Embraer Phenom 300 wing, are proud customer service reps who helped the team secure the #2 spot in this year’s Pro Pilot PRASE Survey. Texas Jet FTW qualified 1st in our 2017 ranking.

3 Pentastar PTK

4 Million Air HOU

Pentastar PTK retains the #3 place for 2018. From L–R are President & CEO Greg Schmidt, VP FBO Services Bob Sarazin, Fivestar Gourmet Supervisor Jen McKenna, Line Service Supervisor Matt Sanzobrin and Customer Service Supervisor Krissy Ross.

Million Air HOU moves up from #7 in 2017 to the #4 spot this year. Fourth from the left (back row) is Line Svc Mgr Harvey Tucker. Seated second from the left is FBO Sales & Client Relations Elise Donald with VP of Business Development Anthony Ethridge.

5 Global Select SGR

6 Wilson Air Center CLT

Global Select SGR jumps from #23 last year to #5 in 2018. Proudly representing the team are (L–R) Asst Dir of Av Elizabeth Rosenbaum, Line Svcs Superintendent Ron Stroud, Line Crew Supervisors Guillermo Escobar and Dimas Renteria, ASR Supervisor Denise Beckwith (8th from left) and Airport Svcs Rep II Katie Senior (9th from left).

Wilson Air Center CLT rises from #9 in 2017 to #6 this year. Team members pictured are (L–R) Ops Mgr Brandon Popovich, Line Tech Ryan Sargent, CSR Joan Stewart, Line Tech Dylan Chance, Safety & Training Officer Tyler Klee, Concierge Lead Dexter Cherry, Line Supervisor Clifton Adams and CSR Lead Eileen Venuto.

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It means we successfully delivered on our unwavering commitment to exceed our customers’ expectations.


Thank You!



Edsel B. Ford II Chairman & Owner

Gregory J. Schmidt President & CEO

We appreciate your support in making us the most awarded aviation company in the PRASE survey for over a decade! | 800-662-9612

Private Jet Charter | Aircraft Management | Advisory Services | Aircraft Maintenance Avionics Services | Interior Services | FBO Services ©2018 Pentastar Aviation.

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2018 PRASE WINNERS 7 Million Air ADS

8 Wilson Air Center HOU

Million Air ADS improves from #10 last year to #7 in 2018. Standing with base CSRs are (Back row) Line Service Mgr Chris Neufeld (2nd from left), VP/Dir FBO Operations Jeff Zimmerman (3rd from left) and Dir Customer Service Melissa Thompson (front row, 6th from left).

Wilson Air HOU is proud to be #8 in this year’s PRASE Survey. From the branch are (L–R) CSR Penny Longoria, Concierge Gazigy Naim, Line Tech Cody Thorpe, Line Supervisor Ryan Walker, Line Mgr Kenny Tarrance, Line Tech Ariel Martinez and Line Tech Yazmi Cruz.

9 Banyan FXE

10 Signature STP

Banyan Air Service FXE placed #9 for our 2018 PRASE Survey under the leadership of President Don Campion (back row, 4th from left), Dir of Customer Support Jon Tonko (left of Don) and Dir of FBO Sales and Client Relations John Mason (right of Don). Photo shows Banyan’s 2nd shift customer support team.

Signature STP completes our top 10. Representing the STP location are (back row, L–R) Line Support Techs Bob Gilles, Andrew Eull (also oversees quality control) and Ryan Archer. (Front row, L-R) CSR Michaela Brown, Duty Mgr Sandy Tachovsky and CSR Carly Davidson.

Methodology The Professional Pilot PRASE Survey is an annual tabulation of customer opinions of aviation ground services. Executives in charge of flight departments, aviation managers, chief pilots, pilots, CEOs and other qualified subscribers to Professional Pilot magazine are polled once a year in order to determine the PRASE Winners’ List. PRASE is the gold standard of aviation ground service leaders. Pro Pilot uses a multistep process to ensure accurate PRASE survey results. 1 Ballots were sent to subscribers in 5 waves. • PRASE forms were sent to subscribers in Oct 2017. • PRASE forms were sent with the Nov and Dec 2017 issues of Professional Pilot. • Additional mailings were sent to Pro Pilot subscribers separately from the magazine in Jan 2018 and March 2018. Subscribers were instructed to return their completed ballots to Professional Pilot in Alexandria VA. Cutoff date for the 2018 PRASE Survey was April 12, 2018. Late ballots were not included in the tally.

Strict checking was done and only 1 ballot per participant was allowed. Voting was restricted to only qualified Pro Pilot subscribers. In categories where they compete, members of organizations or individuals were not permitted to submit ballots. Public relations, marketing and advertising personnel are ineligible. Ballots are checked thoroughly to ensure all information listed is current and correct. Careful verification of FBO names is made since some names change because of mergers or acquisitions. The 2018 PRASE Survey received a total of 1211 ballots. Of these forms a total of 1068 met the Pro Pilot acceptance criteria and were used in the analysis. There were 143 ballots disqualified due to inconsistencies, errors, duplications, and lack of required information. 2 Qualified ballots were sent to Conklin & de Decker to transfer the data from the original forms to an electronic database. 3 Database information was analyzed and tabulated by Conklin & de Decker at their headquarters in Arlington TX. A precount as a preliminary step was accomplished followed by a final count to determine the rankings and winners. The winners list was finalized on April 18, 2018.

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One Goal:

Exceeding Your Expectations

Our mission is to take care of your every need, no matter where or when you may be traveling. The professional FBO staff at Jet Aviation makes it a priority to accommodate the wishes of both passengers and crew, focusing on convenience, safety and with the greatest attention to detail.

USA & Caribbean – Boston/Bedford l Dallas l Houston l Los Angeles/Van Nuys l Nassau l Palm Beach l St. Louis l San Juan l Teterboro l Washington/Dulles EMEA & Asia – Berlin Schonefeld/Tegel l Dubai DXB/DWC l Dusseldorf l Geneva l Jeddah l Medina l Munich l Riyadh l Singapore l Vienna l Zurich

One Jet Aviation. Many Advantages. Maintenance, Refurbishment, Completions, FBO, Aircraft Management, Flight Support, Charter, Staffing.

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US FBO Chains

( ) denotes 2017 ranking


did not place in 2017

In the Pro Pilot PRASE Survey the definition of a small chain is 3–10 bases. A large FBO chain contains 11 or more. Those FBOs with only 2 locations are considered as 2 separate independents. FBO groups classified as networks are not considered FBO chains. A PRASE judges panel composed of top av dept mgrs established these definitions in 2011.

Best Small FBO Chain (3–10 locations) Wilson Air Wilson Air Center is thrilled to be the #1 Best Small FBO Chain, as voted by Pro Pilot readers for the 11th time (2007–2009, 2011–2018). The company wishes to thank its team members and customers for this accomplishment. From L–R are Line Supervisor Troy Pickett, CSR Mgr Chris Bell, CSR Amy Brothers, Concierge Deb Hullender, Line Technician Kevin Cusack, Ops Mgr Andrew Swain and Safety/Training Coordinator Louis Bell.

Ranked by category scores and overall ratings 2018 FBO Airport rank

Line CSRs Facility Amenities Promptness team & efficiency

1 WILSON AIR CTR (CHA, CLT, HOU, MEM) 9.60 9.43 9.04 2 JET AVIATION (BED, CPS, DAL, HOU, IAD, PBI, TEB, VNY) 9.11 9.27 8.76 3 JETCENTERS (APA, COS, FNL) 9.03 9.03 8.24 4 ROSS AVIATION (ANC, FAT, HPN, LGB, SDL, TRM) 8.86 8.93 8.55

9.05 8.64 8.14 8.10

9.41 8.95 9.03 8.90

Value for price

9.19 8.44 8.79 8.48

Overall rating

2017 rank

9.29 8.86 8.71 8.64

(1) (3) (2) (4)

Overall rating

2017 rank

9.08 8.76 8.75 8.74 8.52

(1) (2) (4) (3) (5)

Note: JETCENTERS includes Denver jetCenter, Colorado jetCenter and Ft Collins/Loveland jetCenter.

Best Large FBO Chain (11+ locations) Million Air Pro Pilot readers have voted Million Air as the #1 Large FBO Chain for the 7th year in a row. Representing the company are (L-R) Chief Brand and Business Development Officer Sandy Nelson, Dir of FBO Support and VP of Intl Ops John Bridi, CEO Roger Woolsey, Chief Information Officer Bruce Lambert, Chief Commercial Officer Terry Cross and Dir of Marketing Allie Woolsey.

2018 FBO rank

Line CSRs Facility Amenities Promptness team & efficiency

1 MILLION AIR 9.25 9.26 9.02 2 ATLANTIC 9.10 9.16 8.64 3 SIGNATURE 9.07 9.14 8.67 4 SHELTAIR 9.16 8.94 8.47 5 TAC AIR 8.65 8.84 8.51

8.93 8.43 8.53 8.37 8.06

9.12 8.85 8.86 8.85 8.61

Value for price

8.89 8.35 8.22 8.67 8.43

FBOs acquired after July 1, 2017 are considered as they were, as independent FBOs or part of the other chain, for this survey.

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Best Independent US FBO Texas Jet FTW Texas Jet FTW has won the Best Independent US FBO category for 3 consecutive years. (L-R) Founder, Pres & CEO Reed Pigman (brown suit) is with Assistant Line Service Mgr Gabriel Cross, Customer Service Mgr Holly Hopkins and Line Service Mgr Mario Sanchez holding the 2016, 2017 and 2018 signs, respectively.

( ) denotes 2017 ranking


did not place in 2017

Ranked by category scores and overall ratings Airport 2018 FBO rank

Line CSRs Facility Amenities Promptness team & efficiency


Representing Sheltair TPA are (L–R, back row) GM Clayton Lackey, Facilities Supervisor John Blondin, Cust Svc Mgr Rebecca Reres, (L–R, middle row) Line Svc Supervisor Kyle Wald, CSR Tonio Brooks, Line Svc Supervisor Zac Ringler, (L–R, front row) Line Svc Mgr Josh Purvis and Cust Svc Supervisor Amanda Andrix.

9.06 9.18 9.73 9.32 9.41 9.27 9.17 8.91 8.54 9.00 8.64

9.33 9.41 9.70 9.14 9.26 9.04 8.93 8.72 8.50 8.72 8.22

9.63 9.59 9.30 9.07 9.09 9.12 9.02 9.09 9.12 8.67 9.00

Value for price

9.60 9.50 9.07 8.98 8.91 8.08 8.76 8.88 9.15 8.83 8.67

Overall rating

2017 rank

9.51 9.42 9.39 9.21 9.18 9.10 9.05 9.04 9.02 8.90 8.87

(1) (2) (10) (3) (7) (11) (9) (4) (6) (*) (5)

Most Improved US FBO Sheltair TPA This award is given to the FBO that made the largest gain in ranking position as compared with the previous year. Sheltair TPA didn’t rank in the top 35 in the list of 2017 US FBOs but moved up into the 12th position in 2018. Hence, Sheltair TPA advanced by at least 24 positions to win Most Improved US FBO for 2018. 2018 rank


2017 rank

Sheltair Tampa Intl airport, Tampa FL up 24 places


Favorite Pro Pilot Writers

Karsten Shein Wx Brief

Karsten’s “Weather Brief” is the most popular feature in Pro Pilot. A NOAA climatologist in Asheville NC, Karsten is also a pilot and his articles have been voted #1 for the past 11 years in a row by PP readers.

Ranked by total number of votes 2 018 rank 1 KARSTEN SHEIN 2 GRANT MCLAREN 3 ARCHIE TRAMMELL 4 ALEX KVASSAY

2017 rank (1) (3) (4) (2)

Grant McLaren Intl Ops

Archie Trammell Radar-tech articles

Alex Kvassay Alex Remembers

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3 PEAT! Fort Worth Meacham International Airport



Texas Jet Ranked #1 Independent FBO Three Years Straight: 2016, 2017, 2018!

Texas Jet’s team shouts out THREE CHEERS to their amazing customers.

Texas Jet scores #1 Independent FBO ranking three years in a row. Texas Jet would not be where it is today without its incredible

for 11 consecutive years and the #1 Independent FBO spot

Texas Jet’s team has earned a Top Ten U.S. FBO ranking

at KFTW. We hope to see you again soon,” said everybody.

and loyal customers. In its 40th year at Fort Worth Meacham,

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three years straight. “Thank you for choosing us as your FBO

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International FBOs/Handlers In addition to US FBOs, the Pro Pilot PRASE Survey determines the best international FBOs/Handlers within the following areas – Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, Middle East & Africa, and Asia.

Best in Canada Skyservice YYZ Skyservice YYZ has been voted as #1 FBO in Canada for the 4th consecutive year. Pictured are (L–R, sitting) Customer Svc Rep Jill Dermott and Supervisor Customer Svc Cheryl McKean. (L–R, standing) Crew Chief Mackenzie Callaghan, Line Svc Ryan Balman, Customer Svc Rep Nick Corvera, Mgr FBO Ops Emmanuel Rodrigues, Line Svc Simon Mancini and Concierge Mic Kelly. ( ) denotes 2017 ranking


did not place in 2017

Ranked by category scores and overall ratings 2018 FBO Airport rank

Line CSRs Facility Amenities team


SKYSERVICE TORONTO YYZ 9.32 9.42 9.14 2 SKYCHARTER TORONTO YYZ 9.42 9.50 8.25 3 SIGNATURE VANCOUVER (Former Landmark) YVR 8.93 8.93 8.60 4 SKYSERVICE MONTREAL YUL 8.93 9.19 8.22 5 SIGNATURE TORONTO YYZ 9.46 8.77 7.69

Promptness & efficiency

8.92 8.42 8.33 8.04 8.00

9.20 9.33 9.00 8.59 8.92

Value Overall 2017 for price rating rank

8.81 9.14 8.92 8.97 8.73 8.75 8.56 8.59 8.31 8.53

(1) (*) (3) (2) (5)

Best in Mexico Cabo San Lucas FBO CSL Cabo San Lucas FBO grabs 1st place again in the “Best in Mexico” category in 2018 – 3rd time in a row and 4th overall. CEO Sebastian Romo is the head of this FBO. Team members posing on the ramp at Cabo San Lucas Intl include Airport Mgr Iria Romo (8th from left) and Supervisor Rossy Cazarez (9th).



9.58 8.86 9.27

9.58 9.13 8.73

8.68 8.43 7.91

8.58 8.71 7.45

9.42 9.13 8.45

9.11 8.50 8.18

9.16 (1) 8.79 (*) 8.33 (3)

8.20 8.71 8.15

8.00 8.41 7.79

9.10 8.88 8.79

8.80 8.71 8.28

8.80 (*) 8.78 (3) 8.51 (2)

Best in the Caribbean Cherokee Aviation MHH Cherokee Aviation, founded in 2004 by Sawyer family, is proud to be the #1 FBO in the Caribbean, as voted by PP readers. Brothers Claude Sawyer and Faron Sawyer lead the family founded and owned FBO (cover photo). Photo shows flight line and customer service staff. Cherokee Aviation gives recognition to their employees’ dedication and their customers’ loyalty.


9.40 8.94 8.94

9.30 9.00 9.12

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Location, location, location. (and services, services, services)

The most experienced rely on Bangor. Quick, efficient and cost-effective service has made Bangor International Airport and Bangor Aviation Services the preferred first stop for North Atlantic flights into the United States. And the first choice for U.S. pilots flying to Europe. Strategically located, Bangor also provides 24-hour refueling and fast, friendly customs services. So you’re in, out, and on your way in no time.

• Quick turn times for aircraft and passengers • Competitive ground handling services • Easy, uncongested access • Extensive experience with all kinds of aircraft • Contract fuel arrangements • 24/7 Customs and Border Protection services • Strategic location

CONTACT FREQUENCIES: Unicom frequency: 122.95 (0500-2200 hrs.) ARINC frequency: 132.00 (BGR Ops, 24 hrs.)

CONTACT INFORMATION: Tel: (207) 992-4582 Fax: (207) 945-5998

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2018 PRASE WINNERS ( ) denotes 2017 ranking


did not place in 2017

Best in Latin America Aerosupport FBO BOG Aerosupport FBO at El Dorado Intl in Bogotá, Colombia holds on to the #1 position they earned in the 2017 PRASE Survey. CEO German Salgado leads the best FBO in Latin America. Proud staff members pose inside of the company’s hangar at BOG.

Ranked by category scores and overall ratings 2018 FBO Airport rank

Line CSRs Facility Amenities team

Promptness & efficiency

1 AEROSUPPORT FBO - BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA BOG 8.89 8.78 7.89 8.33 2 LIDER AVIAÇÃO - SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL CGH 8.86 8.57 8.57 8.14 3 MAPIEX - PANAMA CITY, PANAMA PAC 8.80 8.80 8.20 7.60

Value Overall 2017 for price rating rank

9.22 8.75 8.64 (1) 9.00 8.43 8.60 (3) 8.40 9.00 8.47 (*)

Best in Europe TAG Farnborough Airport FAB TAG Farnborough Airport has been chosen #1 FBO in Europe for 13 consecutive years. Pictured from (L-R) are Watch Mgr Lee Hulls, Customer Svcs Agents Kim Keates and Lee East, Head of Customer Svcs and Terminal Ops Sophie Lesnoff, Concierge Milen Petrov and Firefighter Ashley Froud.


FAB 9.21 9.32 9.63 2 HARRODS LUTON LTN 9.20 9.07 8.93 3 SIGNATURE LE BOURGET LBG 9.00 8.93 8.53 4 SIGNATURE LUTON LTN 8.93 9.00 8.59

9.37 8.64 8.47 8.48

9.21 8.73 9.00 8.56

8.63 9.23 (1) 8.00 8.76 (2) 8.25 8.70 (3) 7.96 8.59 (4)

Best in Asia Hong Kong Business Av Ctr HKG HKBAC keeps its crown as best Asian FBO for the 11th year in a row. Standing in front of the company’s hangar are (L–R) Dir of Customer Relations Rita Tam (back row, center left, white blouse with black jacket), Financial Controller Herbert Tsang, GM Madonna Fung, Dir of Administration and Business Development Sheree Cheung and Dir of Flight Ops Christopher Barrow. 1 2 3


9.38 9.63 8.88 8.88 9.33 8.67 8.00 8.00 8.33 8.67 7.33 7.00

9.25 9.33 8.67

7.63 8.94 8.33 8.61 7.33 7.89

(1) (*) (*)

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2018 PRASE WINNERS ( ) denotes 2017 ranking


did not place in 2017

Best in Middle East & Africa ExecuJet Dubai UAE ExecuJet’s hard work has earned them the #1 position in the PRASE Survey Best FBO in ME & African category. Proudly celebrating this victory are (L–R), Customer Svc Agent Perizat Parmanova, Customer Svc Supervisor Yaman Gurung, Regional FBO Mgr Dumani Ndebele, Customer Svc Supervisor Nantia Bargouth, Customer Relations Mgr Ali Bacha, FBO Assistant Ronald Muwanguzi, Customer Svc Agent Gilbert Yulo, FBO Assistant Shabir Veetil and Senior Ramp Agent Kannan Arumugam.

Ranked by category scores and overall ratings 2018 FBO Airport rank

Line CSRs Facility Amenities team

1 2 3

8.75 9.25 9.75 9.50 9.00 9.00 9.00 9.00 9.00 8.67 7.00 6.67



FBO Line Techs and CSRs Best Line Techs

Promptness & efficiency

Value Overall 2017 for price rating rank

9.50 8.75 9.25 (*) 8.50 8.00 8.75 (1) 7.67 7.00 7.67 (*)

Pro Pilot subscribers also voted for their favorite Line Techs and CSRs, scoring them within the categories of Can-do Attitude, Knowledge, Attention to Detail, and Promptness & Efficiency.

1 Pat Walter - Signature MSP Pat Walter has more than 30 years of experience and knows how to anticipate the needs of executive passengers and flightcrew members. Signature Flight Support customers appreciate having Pat welcome them when they arrive at Minneapolis–St Paul Intl.

2 Bob Schaeppi Signature STP

2018 FBO Airport rank

1 2




Can-do Knowledge Attention Promptness Overall attitude to detail & efficiency

10.00 9.91

9.89 9.73

9.89 9.73

9.89 9.82

9.92 9.80

2017 rank

(1) (2)

Best CSRs 1 Betsy Wines - Meridian TEB Betsy Wines has been voted, once again, Best CSR by Pro Pilot readers. She has consistently clinched the #1 place in this category since 1996. Exceptions are 2011 and 2015 (ranked 4th), and 2016 (3rd place).

1 2 3 4 5


2 Holly Hopkins Texas Jet FTW


3 Latricia Edwards Signature MSP


10.00 9.92 9.89 9.83 9.67

10.00 9.92 9.78 9.83 9.67

4 Sandy Tachovsky Signature STP

9.93 9.92 9.89 9.92 9.67

9.93 9.92 10.00 9.92 9.67

5 Victor Seda Meridian TEB

9.97 (1) 9.92 (*) 9.89 (2) 9.88 (4) 9.67 (3)

56  PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018

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Betsy Wines (#1 CSR) and Victor Seda (#5 CSR) have been together in the Top 5 of the Best CSR category for the past 12 years.

Thank you “We would like to thank all of our customers and friends who voted for us in the 2018 Professional Pilot PRASE Survey. We truly appreciate your business and support.� Ken Forester, CEO

phone: 201.288.5040 email: web: Meridian Teterboro / 485 Industrial Avenue / Teterboro, NJ 07608

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Other Services

( ) denotes 2017 ranking


did not place in 2017

Catering, Fuel Brand, Fuel Credit Card, Intl Trip Planning, and MROs Pro Pilot subscribers assessed 5 additional services—Catering for Aviation, Fuel Brand, Fuel Credit Card, International Trip Planning and MRO service centers. These were scored based on Quality of Service, Value for Price, Dependability and Customer Satisfaction.

Best Catering for Aviation by region

Each region has a winner with no overall national one.

Northeast, Middle Atlantic, South, Mountain, Midwest and West

Rudy’s, Northeast Rudy’s Inflight Catering is a constant winner in the Pro Pilot PRASE Survey because of the food the company chefs prepare for flightcrews and executive passengers. This year marks the 7th consecutive edition of this survey with Rudy’s retaining the #1 position in the Best Catering for Aviation category in the Northeast region since the av catering regional divisions were established in 2012. And before that Rudy’s was the undisputed aviation catering leader overall for 23 years. Picture shows Co-owners/Principals Joseph (front, 4th from left) and John Celentano (front, far right) with proud staff members.

Ranked by category scores and overall ratings 2018 r ank

Quality of Value Dependability Customer Overall 2017 service for price satisfaction rank

Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT) 1 RUDY’S

NJ area (EWR, MMU, TEB)

9.47 8.42 9.55

9.33 9.19 (1)

9.78 8.00 9.78

9.78 9.34












Note: Not enough votes received to determine winners for these regions: West (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA),

Middle Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, VA, WV), Midwest (IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD, WI).

Best Fuel Brand Phillips 66 Phillips 66 has won as Best Fuel Brand in the 2018 Pro Pilot PRASE Survey, keeping the crown earned last year. The company was voted 3rd in 2016, 4th in 2015 and 2nd in 2014. Photo shows the Phillips 66 general aviation team based in Bartlesville OK.

2018 r ank

1 2 3 4


Quality of Value Dependability Customer Overall 2017 service for price satisfaction rank

9.61 9.48 9.38 9.28

9.33 9.06 9.14 8.96

9.67 9.47 9.44 9.38

9.66 9.52 9.41 9.29

9.57 (1) 9.38 (2) 9.34 (3) 9.23 (4)

58  PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018

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2018 PRASE WINNERS ( ) denotes 2017 ranking

Best Av Fuel Credit Card Colt Intl by World Fuel Services


did not place in 2017

Colt Intl, a division of World Fuel Services, keeps the top position for the Best Aviation Fuel Credit Card category in this year’s PRASE Survey. They earned 1st place in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Photo shows staff members at NBAA 2017.

Ranked by category scores and overall ratings 2 018 rank

1 2 3 4 5

Quality of service


Value Dependability Customer Overall for price satisfaction

9.71 9.33 9.43 9.32 9.25 9.14 9.20 9.00 9.11 8.71

9.63 9.51 9.24 9.33 9.09

2017 rank

9.67 9.59 (1) 9.50 9.44 (5) 9.31 9.24 (4) 9.15 9.17 (2) 9.06 8.99 (3)

Best Intl Trip Planning Intl Trip Planning Svcs International Trip Planning Services (ITPS) is crowned king of the Best Intl Trip Planning division in the PRASE Survey. Wearing a red shirt (top row, left) is COO Phil Linebaugh, President/Owner Richard Ezzeddine is in middle row (purple shirt, on left), and Vice President of Sales Scott Rapacki stands at left in front row.

1 2 3 4


9.31 9.19 9.31 9.44 9.31 (*) 9.20 8.85 9.10 9.15 9.08 (2) 9.23 8.63 9.26 9.17 9.07 (1)



Includes ARINC, Ascend and Air Routing

Preferred MRO West Star




8.90 (4)

(Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul)

West Star Aviation has been voted #1 MRO for the past 5 years. Pictured are (L–R) President & COO Rodger Renaud, CEO Jim Rankin and Chairman Bob Rasberry. 2 018 rank

1 2 3 4 5



9.63 9.41 9.43 9.14 9.07

9.26 8.53 8.67 8.27 8.50

9.63 9.44 9.24 8.95 8.71

9.68 9.44 9.29 8.73 8.64

9.55 (1) 9.21 (3) 9.16 (4) 8.77 (2) 8.73 (5)

60  PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018

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Hotel and local transport considerations Book in advance and be mindful of security needs.

Upon landing at DME (Domodedovo, Moscow, Russia) this crew meets up with secure transport for the ride to their hotel. While secure transport can cost 4 or 5 times standard transport rates, there’s peace of mind to consider.

By Grant McLaren Editor-at-Large


hen a short notice trip request comes in, particularly to a high-season destination or a location where a major local event is taking place, it can be a challenge securing crew accommodations and, to a lesser extent, preferred local transport options. There are times when adequate accommodations simply sell out. There are also cases where you may have to travel to the next town or island to source any acceptable options. Similarly, you might need to reposition your aircraft after dropping passengers to source suitable crew accommodations. “Two things in trip planning that always make me nervous are aircraft parking and crew accommodations, as they can be deal breakers for a trip,” says UAS Regional Ops Mgr Duke LeDuc. “If you’re not able to secure preferred parking and hotels, the trip is not going to happen the way you’d like to have it. We always recommend booking as soon as schedule is known to avoid accommodations issues.” Be mindful that there are fewer western-style hotel rooms per capita at major and secondary centers

overseas than in the US – and they’ll fill up if there’s a Davos World Economic Forum, World Cup event or Monaco Grand Prix going on, or if you land at a popular Caribbean or Mediterranean island during peak season. If you do find accommodations, they could run from $350 to over $1000 per night. Meanwhile, preferred local transport choices also have a way of running out during large sporting events, film festivals or even prime cherry blossom blooming season in Japan. At smaller Bahama island locations there might only be a couple of vehicles available. If you absolutely must have a gray colored Cadillac Escalade SUV or particular model of Land Rover at every destination, you may be out of luck here and there around the world. However, there’s usually adequate accommodation and local transport options to be had, even last minute, when working with international support providers (ISPs) and/or local ground handler resources. “Particularly with short notice trips to secondary destinations during peak periods, preferred accommodation choices may not be available,” says ITPS Ops Mgr Ben Fuller. “While you’ll usually find some sort of mainstream hotel accommodation, you may not be staying at hotels you’re used to staying

in. Crews may need to split up at hotels in different parts of the city, take a boat to the next island or travel some distance from the airport. You may be looking at Plan B options if no hotels are available, so it’s important not to have unrealistic expectations.” While it’s extremely rare for crew to have to sleep aboard their aircraft at destination, we’ve heard of cases where they’ve stayed in an FBO or the home of an FBO employee. In a pinch, a “capsule hotel” or even a by-the-hour “love hotel” may be considered in Japan, and perhaps 1 or 2 star properties or bed and breakfast in parts of Europe. If the destination is a secondary location in India or Central Africa, you might not have access to international chain properties, and hotel facilities may be noticeably more primitive.

Hotel availability “There are high season and local event periods here and there around the world where hotel availability becomes saturated,” says Jeppesen Vendor Relations Mgr Africa, Russia, Eastern Europe & Central Asia Ian Humphrey. “You may struggle to find 4 and 5 star hotel options, so you might need to consider second tier options. During busy periods,

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Corporate ramp at AZI (Bateen, Abu Dhabi) is spacious but it does fill up from time to time. During the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix event, for example, sourcing preferred accommodations can be a challenge.

it’s always best to try to book a few weeks or months in advance to grab preferred properties. And even then, you’ll often be faced with non-refundable or strict cancellation/ change policies, making it difficult to revise schedule later.” Local transport, likewise, may also be something of a struggle to set up at times, remind ISPs. In many parts of the world you’ll want to avoid public transport, public taxis and rental vehicle options for security and/or language reasons. Even at larger international destinations, Uber drivers get lost and taxi drivers, who may not speak your language, may drop you in the wrong place. Rent a car and you may find road signage and/ or local driving habits or aggressiveness difficult to understand. If there’s an accident, or you happen to run over someone’s chicken for example, there may be legal issues and potential delays to contemplate. “We had a case of a crew on RON in Ireland who chose to rent a car to view the rolling green hills,” recalls Universal Weather Client Relations Mgr Private Transport Tracie Carwile. “Well, as soon as they got 30 miles out of town the car broke down and their cell phones didn’t work on local networks. A passing dairy farmer offered assistance and drove them to his house to use the phone. Always have a back-up plan when renting vehicles at foreign locations, and make sure you have internationally-capable phones. Remember that traffic accidents are the #1 cause of fatalities for US citizens overseas.”

Security considerations If you’re traveling to higher risk regions or any area you’re not familiar with, security and mitigating poten-

tial risks should always be at top of mind awareness. You won’t necessarily have familiar international chain hotels at every destination. Even if there is one, it may be a 30-mile drive from the airport, maybe through a somewhat risky environment. “When traveling to new or unfamiliar areas, we recommend planning additional lead time to obtain security briefs and to have contingency plans in place,” says Jeppesen ITP Specialist Jean-Michel Sicaud. “In more volatile regions of the world, having a security plan and checklist is best practice, along with backup arrangements to get out quickly when needed.” Road transit from TLC (Toluca, Mexico) into the city often warrants secure transport. There have also been crime incidents reported on the long drive between KUL (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) and the city. “Even ‘secure’ parts of Mexico and other regions around the world are not necessarily secure,” explains UAS Mgr Global Risk David Camargo. “There was a case of a crew robbed recently while at a restaurant in Toluca. Although major international hotels worldwide are usually secure, local transport to/from the hotel, and within the city, can be the weak link. It’s important to take the time to set up secure transport if any viable threats exist.” ISPs suggest planning lead time when setting up secure transport arrangements. Plan on 24 to 72 hours lead time to ensure all transport expectations can be met. In cases where a client is very particular, additional lead time should be SOP. “If a customer only accepts a certain series of black Mercedes with tinted windows at all destinations, this will limit trip planning options and might involve

days to set up, depending on the location,” says Jeppesen Supervisor Vendor Relations Mark O’Carroll. In some cases, a helicopter transfer may be the preferred option. “We’ve had situations in Mexico, Africa, Sri Lanka and Brazil where we’ve set up helicopter transfers, for both security and logistics reasons. This also impacts trip planning lead time,“ adds O’Carroll. Camargo says it’s important to evaluate security information from a number of sources, including your ISP, in-house corporate security department, and local ground handlers. He also suggests having contingency plans when appropriate. “We have crews who routinely maintain a quick departure checklist, and keep the aircraft fueled, to give them the option to leave quickly if there’s a natural disaster or security issue. With an abbreviated checklist, sufficient fuel onboard, and security trained drivers who know alternate routes to the airport, these crews can get passengers back to the airplane and into the air as quickly as possible.”

Best practice tips ISPs suggest it’s best to not only book accommodations early but to look for options with the most flexible cancellation policies. “It’s always best to book crew accommodations as soon as schedule is known because during busy periods hotels can go from available to sold out within a few hours,” says ITPS Trip Planning Supervisor Jon Wells. “It’s preferable to have something booked, as it can usually be amended later.” In the past, major hotel brands routinely offered same day no-charge cancellation but these policies are usually now 48 hours or longer.

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Finding available hotel accommodations during busy local event periods always feels good. But if you need to change schedule or check out early, beware of potential penalties and non-refundable conditions.

“In terms of high season or event period bookings, you’re more likely to run into cancellation policies from 7 days to as much as 45 days ahead of the planned stay, with some bookings being non-cancelable or non-changeable right from the start,” says Universal Weather Supervisor Hotel Accommodations Craig Nussman. “However, there’s often some flexibility as ISPs, like us, may be able get same-day cancellation policies, or 72 hours in some cases, as opposed to the 7-day policy in place during high season periods.”

Creative options Creative options can be considered if the hotel situation at destination is very tight. If you’re dropping passengers at JTR (Santorini, Greece) or IBZ (Ibiza, Spain) during the season, it’s probably best to reposition to the mainland for crew accommodations and parking. In other cases you may want to consider an Airbnb, vacation rental arrangements, bed and breakfasts or even 1 or 2 star hotel options in order to be close to your passengers at destination. “This is normally only seen in rare circumstances during major special event periods and only considered with prior operator consent,” notes Nussman. Online consumer and hotel booking sites offer a good overview of local hotel availability, as well as attractive pricing, when accommodation availability is good. But when the situation is tight or you’re off to a far flung Pacific Island or smaller

locations in Africa, it’s usually better to have “boots on the ground,” in terms of ISP local offices or the local ground handler resources, to dig up preferred options.

Primitive accommodations “In smaller and remote locations there are often additional considerations in arranging crew accommodations,” says Nussman. “At African game reserves, you may be staying in small lodges or very high-end pricey tents. In the Maldives or in Fiji you may need to take a boat from the airport to the hotel location. And at smaller mining outposts in Siberia, available accommodations may be somewhat primitive.” Even when destination accommodation availability is good, ISPs, due to the volume of business they do with certain chains or individual hotels, may be able to get you a better cancellation policy, early or late check in/check out, a room upgrade and/or breakfast. “We’re able to guide crews to the best available options,” says LeDuc. “Often we’ll have better negotiating options. We can recommend the best properties or direct crews away from older chain hotels that may have become long in the tooth.” At many locations around the world, including Cairo, Kuwait, Bogotá, and Cancun, there may be current security threats to be mindful of, so obtaining hotel security briefs in advance may be best practice. “The world is changing every day and you

don’t want to leave safety considerations for later, in terms of hotel/area security threat assessments and the need to dig a little deeper in terms of pre-trip intelligence gathering,” recommends Camargo. Within the realm of ground transport best practice, when dealing with special event situations, is to consider all available options well ahead of the day of operation. “The closer you get to a major event period, the lower the availability will be and the higher the pricing will be in terms of preferred private and secure transport,” says Carwile. “Even for less busy destinations we recommend booking transport 72 hours prior for the best options.” You’ll pay a premium to set up private transfers, particularly if secure transport is needed, but there’s a payoff in terms of enhanced security, peace of mind, confidentiality, language compatibility, and transport reliability. Keep in mind that prepaid transport is a perishable commodity, like a hotel room, and usually must be canceled at least 24 hours in advance to avoid a charge.

Summary As the value of business aviation is in its on-demand, point-to-point and go-anywhere capabilities, you want to ensure that you don’t run into any unnecessary snags in terms of crew accommodation and transport at destination. It’s always best to book accommodations and local transport early, while being mindful of all logistical and security considerations. Ideally, you’ll want to maintain maximum flexibility in terms of revising schedules without incurring unnecessary last minute change/cancellation penalties. But if you know you’re going to the World Economic Forum, a popular Grand Prix event or will be dropping in at remote XCH (Christmas Island, Kiribati), you may need to utilize all available resources in order to ensure best crew accommodation options. Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.

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The art of mindfulness in the cockpit

Image Commons Wikimedia

Letting your thoughts drift when you’re flying can be very dangerous.

By David Ison, PhD

Associate Professor College of Aeronautics Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Worldwide


ave you ever been comfortably at cruise, sitting snuggly in your seat, warm and cozy, in smooth air? You probably begin to wonder what you will be having for dinner on your overnight. Or you become curious about what your significant other is up to at the moment. Has this ever happened? Of course, these are rhetorical questions as the human mind has the natural tendency to wander. Don’t believe me? Sit quietly, close your eyes, and do nothing. How long does it take for a thought to intrude? If you’re like most people, it won’t be long – seconds at the most. But no one is keeping score! In fact, this wandering mind is part of the evolutionary success of humans. Always thinking about what is next, or what

Being present. Being “in the zone.” Just being. These are ways to describe mindfulness. Staying mindful, living in the moment while in the cockpit is one of the most valuable skills for any aviator.

went wrong in the past so we can avoid it again. The desire to explore, to discover, to question. Yet there are often times, too often in fact, when our peripatetic minds take us to places we don’t need or want to go, like worrying about something years in the future or wanting to change something in the past. In aviation, if our mind is somewhere other than in the cockpit, it can cause us a bit of grief. Even worse, it could lead to tragedy.

Mindfulness and its benefits How do you keep your mind where it is supposed to be, in the “here and now”? The ability to stay within this present state is often referred to as “mindfulness.” According to the

American Psychological Association (APA), mindfulness can be defined as “a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment.” You may be thinking that this sounds like psycho-babble, but the benefits of mindfulness are undeniable; there has been a significant amount of research to indicate this truth. Moreover, it is already being utilized in a wide range of industries and professions – aviation included. What benefits can be reaped from mindfulness? Plenty. In a summary of a plethora of research studies on the topic, Doctors Daphne Davis and Jeffrey Hayes of the APA found practitioners of mindfulness had lower levels of “rumination,” essentially fretting over life. Individuals had “significantly better working

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In the moment



The basic elements of mindfulness can be adopted by any aviation professional, pilots included.


Acceptance memory capacity and were better able to sustain attention during a performance task compared with the control group.” This sounds like something every pilot wouldn’t mind having. Reduced stress is another betterment. Who couldn’t use less stress? And with less stress, you’re able to stay better focused on what is important, not to mention the potential resulting health bonuses. Speaking of focus, researchers found mindful people had an improved “ability to focus attention and suppress distracting information.” An additional positive to mindfulness is “more adaptive responses to stressful or negative situations… (and) faster recovery to baseline after being negatively provoked.” Thus if a mindful person gets stressed or disturbed, they handle it better and can let things go much easier. These skills clearly can be reaped by pilots in good times and bad. From a Crew Resource Management (CRM) perspective, mindfulness results in improved empathy and compassion, arguably essential (and often under-utilized) skills when interacting with individuals and groups alike.

Staying focused in the cockpit In a study performed by Meland, Fonne, Wagstaff, and Pensgaard on pilots – Norwegian combat pilots specifically – after 24 months of mindfulness training it was found that “there was a reduction in somatic anxiety related to performance and improvements in self-perceived skills associated with mindfulness, attention regulation, and arousal regulation.” In short, the researchers found that the pilots had less performance angst, were able to stay focused, and did not let their wits get away from them. Again, all good things for pilots, especially ones with fingers on triggers. You’re surely thinking this is all fine and dandy, but how does mindfulness practically play out in dayto-day operations? First, perhaps, it’s best to look at some examples of how the lack of mindfulness led to some unwelcome outcomes. Operating on autopilot can get folks into hot water fast – and I don’t mean operating the

aircraft’s autopilot. Instead, I am referring to doing things because they are familiar or “normal.” How many times have you driven home from work and not remembered much if any of the drive? That is your “mental autopilot” at work. Consider the Airbus 320 crew in Australia who painted themselves into a corner by selecting a flap configuration different than what was typically used. At some point, while operating on “mental autopilot,” a crew member entered V speeds for a different configuration. The departure wasn’t pretty, but at least no one got hurt. We can easily see how this could have turned out differently. If one is present in the moment, every moment, we could slow down and think, “hey, this is a different way of doing things – let’s be extra careful.”

Mission completion bias Another example of missing mindfulness is when pilots get trapped in “mission completion bias,” or what is less affectionately known as “getthere-itis.” Why is it that so many pilots run out of gas so close to the destination? Or why so many scud PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018  67

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Photo by Jose Vasquez

The focus and the concentration and the attention to detail that flying takes is a kind of meditation. I find it restful and engaging and other things slip away. —Harrison Ford.

running pilots end up in trees or the side of a mountain? It’s because they cannot recognize that they are allowing themselves be fooled by “but I am so close” or “I have to get there right now.” If pilots can slow down and examine their motives, they can examine their relative sanity. When would it ever make sense to roll dice on whether one has enough fuel to get to the desired airport? Why would anyone logically even try making it if they had an inkling they were running on fumes? When a Canadair CRJ started rolling down an unlit runway during night conditions, why did the crew not question their situation? Ignoring probably the most significant clue that could have saved them, they ended up going off the end of the wrong runway that was too short for a successful takeoff. Lack of being present – mindful of what should be versus of what is – can make all the difference in aviation. Similarly, not recognizing when your mind is pulling the wool over your eyes is asking for trouble. Take for example the infamous Tenerife collision. The captain of the Boeing 747 that decided to takeoff prematurely was likely in a hurry. In my book, the pressure of time is one of

the most prominent warning signs in aviation. Slowing down when you are in a hurry seems counterintuitive, but such caution is warranted. Are the decisions being made due to the pressure of time or because they are the correct and safe thing to do? Are a few seconds or minutes worth a skipped checklist or not confirming a takeoff clearance? Hardly.

How do pilots become more mindful? Although there is no correct answer, the traditional way of developing mindfulness is through meditation. By taking time to practice noticing thoughts and staying present, usually by focusing on one’s breath or a specific object, is a formal way to become more in tune with the way your mind works. While I believe that this is the most direct and structured way to acquire some level of mindfulness, I can also understand that it’s not for everyone. Thankfully, there are other ways to develop the skill. Simply by noticing things that on a regular basis you normally wouldn’t, will help hone awareness. Here are some examples of mindfulness in daily life. Someone cuts

you off on the road. You get angry. Then what? Some unmindful responses might be to engage in road rage without a second thought, let it ruin the rest of your day, or revisit what you could or should have done to the other driver. The mindful response is to recognize “I am angry” and leave it at that. No judgment. Just move on. Even eating can present mindfulness exercises. When was the last time you ate slowly, savoring each bite, flavor, texture, smell, and color? I’ll leave you with one example of mindfulness in a specific aviation situation which I experienced firsthand. I religiously checked the fuel tank caps on the aircraft I was flying at the time, especially after refueling. Well, that worked so well I got lazy. In a hurry, running inside to use the restroom while being fueled, I, for that one and only time, did not check the caps before firing up for takeoff. Thankfully I was mindful enough to notice an odd smell. It was fuel, but at a much higher dose that one might expect. Interrupting my modus operandi, I realized that my desire to hurry was clouding my judgment. Mindfulness interrupted this process and sent me back to the ramp. There I found one of the fuel caps in the grass and a fuel stained wing. Mindfulness is simply a pause in action or thought that is running amok. The simple act of noticing thoughts that distract us from what is going on in the moment can be a valuable tool for any pilot. So next time you notice your mind drifting from the present, respect it by a humble affirmation such as “I am hurried” or “I am thinking of something irrelevant” and return to the task at hand. You can slow down or realize that you can plan your dinner for next Tuesday, next Tuesday.

David Ison, PhD, has 32 years of experience flying aircraft ranging from light singles to widebody jets. Currently he is an associate professor for the College of Aeronautics at ERAU–WW.

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Clouds Reading the clouds gives clues about flying conditions. Lockheed C-130J Hercules approaches to land at Lielvarde Airbase, Latvia with stratocumulus clouds. Different types of clouds mean different weather states, and pilots use this information to anticipate flying conditions.

By Karsten Shein Comm-Inst Climate Scientist


t wasn’t so much the low deck of fair weather cumuli that were a concern. Those would just mean some mild bumps just after rotation. Rather it was the streaks of cirrus high in the sky. These clouds instantly told the pilot that he’d likely be facing some stiff headwinds and potentially strong turbulence if he climbed to his planned altitude. Going back inside to his computer, the pilot confirmed that he’d be better off at a lower altitude. For thousands of years, people have studied the sky and learned to associate the clouds they saw with certain weather conditions – primarily the likelihood of rain or storms. Even before the invention of the barometer and the discovery that changes in pressure could be used to forecast the weather, clouds and winds were how people anticipated impending weather. This is unsurprising, as both wind and clouds are to some degree associated with pressure. The term cloud itself is derived from an old English word “clud” meaning hill or heap, after the piled shape of cumuli. The word cumulus means “heaped” or “piled” in Latin. Individual cloud types were not formally differentiated until the early 1800s, but as the field of meteorology grew, distinctions between cloud types became necessary. Scientists began to discover how and why different clouds formed

at various altitudes, and what the presence or absence of those clouds meant to weather conditions. Today, pilots can use that knowledge to anticipate flying weather.

Clusters of droplets As we are well aware, a cloud is nothing more than a concentration of water droplets – or in some cases ice crystals – that is sufficiently dense to be visible to the naked eye. The way in which clouds form and dissipate is the basis for understanding their role in the weather. The water droplets that combine to form clouds are produced by the condensation of water vapor that is present in the atmosphere. Water is constantly being condensed and evaporated as heat energy is absorbed or released, respectively, by the water molecules. It is actually quite difficult for clouds to form, especially in clean air. Unless the air is at or near saturation (~100% relative humidity), there is always more evaporation taking place than condensation, so any water molecule that condenses into unsaturated air is quickly reevaporated. Even at high relative humidity, a solitary water molecule may exist in a liquid state for only a fraction of a second. If a number of condensed water molecules were to join together into a small droplet, they may last a bit longer, but the deck remains stacked against this. Small droplets have a high surface curvature, which means there is more surface area than if that same amount

of water was layering a flat surface. This curvature increases the evaporation rate relative to ambient conditions and serves to speed up the evaporation process of these tiniest of water droplets. Cloud droplets must therefore rely on an assist. This assist comes in the form of microscopic aerosols and particulates suspended in the air. Many of them, such as sulfates or salts are hygroscopic, meaning they attract water, and in doing so they can help cloud droplets form and persist, even when relative humidity is as low as 75%. These particulates are known as Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCN) and contribute to cloud droplet formation in 2 ways. First is that as water condenses in contact with the hygroscopic CCN, it completely or partially dissolves the particle to form a solution. The solution will have a much lower evaporation rate than pure water. This helps retain the liquid solution while simultaneously attracting more condensed water to it, increasing its size. The 2nd benefit of the CCN is that it helps the condensed water droplet start life at a much larger size than if it had just been a cluster of water molecules. This reduces the curvature effect and reduces the evaporation rate relative to the droplet’s size. The curvature effect is further reduced as the solution ensures a higher rate of condensation to it than evaporation from it. Of course, this process is taking place at a microscopic scale. A typical CCN may only be about 0.0002 mm in size, and in clean air there may be hundreds of CCN per cubic centimeter (thousands in polluted air). A typical cloud droplet is perhaps 100 times as large as a CCN – or around 0.02 mm. For a cloud to appear, there must be enough cloud droplets to geometrically scatter enough light to be apparent to the human eye. Below that threshold, the droplets may be present, but they remain transparent. Fortunately, that number is relatively low. A thin fog may become visible with just around 15 droplets per cm3, though against a blue sky, that number must be much higher. Most thicker clouds contain between 250 (stratus) and 1300 (cumulonimbus) droplets per cm3. Cirrus clouds are normally comprised of more reflective ice crystals and so become apparent even when there are fewer than 1 crystal per cm3. An important consideration for aircraft icing above the freezing layer is that, in general, the higher the concentration of droplets, the greater the liquid water content of the cloud.

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Cloud types and what they mean Meteorologists generally categorize clouds based on the altitude at which they occur and on their vertical development. There are 2 primary vertical development categories: stratiform and cumuliform. Stratiform clouds are clouds that develop in largely stable air and therefore exhibit little vertical development, instead spreading out horizontally over relatively large areas. Cumuliform clouds, on the other hand, develop in unstable air, and are characterized by vertical growth rather than horizontal. Once the vertical development category has been assigned, with a few exceptions, clouds are further typed as occurring in 1 of 3 tropospheric zones: high (cirrus), middle (alto), or low (strato). Cumuliform and stratiform clouds that appear in each of these zones are given the level name as a prefix.

Cirrus level clouds Above 10,000 ft msl near the poles and above 20,000 ft in the tropics, cirrus clouds are primarily non-convective ice crystal clouds. Cirrus and cirrostratus are the most common cloud types at these altitudes. Cirrus appear as streaky clouds, often with wispy tails due to strong and turbulent wind flow aloft. They are often the remnants of the anvil tops of cumulonimbus clouds that lofted moisture to the upper limits of the troposphere. The wispy tails of cirrus occur downwind, and give pilots an indication of the wind direction aloft as well as the degree of turbulence that may be expected. Cirrostratus are less of a cluster of clouds and more of a single thin deck of ice crystals that is nearly transparent

Cirrocumulus cloud deck over CCU (Kolkata, India). These high clouds often are early indicators of approaching convective activity that is injecting moisture into higher levels of the troposphere.

and often produces halos around the sun or moon. Cirrostratus are an indicator of high level moisture that often precedes an approaching warm front. Cirrocumulus clouds are the result of minor convection in a limited energy environment, and often appear as a region of atmospheric ripples, not unlike the ripple patterns of sand on a beach. Frequently, a cirrocumulus deck is described as a popcorn sky. Cirrocumuli occasionally produce minor virga and are often indicative of approaching convective weather.

Alto level clouds From the cirrus level down to around 6500 ft (~2000 m) is the middle or alto level. Because of the warmer air and more ample moisture available at this level, the clouds are thicker than those in the cirrus level. Altocumulus clouds are convective clouds that may cover a large region of sky, and often appear when there are atmospheric waves moving through the layer. These waves form the clouds into rows, or streets. Moderate turbulence is often associated with altocumulus decks. Lenticular clouds are a particular variety of altocumulus cloud (altocumulus lenticularis). These form as relatively stable air is forced over a ridge or mountain peak, and sets up in a lee wave. If there is sufficient moisture, the rising air will form a stationary cloud at the apex of the wave. Occasionally the lenticular clouds appear as a vertical series, and may also have a ragged rotor cloud in the wave trough. These clouds indicate strong to extreme wind shear and turbulence, and the area should be avoided by pilots. Altostratus are a thicker version of their higher altitude cousin. These decks are also widespread and still

translucent, but thick enough that the sun appears washed out or watery as it shines through the cloud. Altostratus may be a mix of liquid and ice, and are frequently found immediately ahead of warm fronts and areas of lower pressure.

Photo by Biswarup Ganguly

Photo by Jacek Halicki

Free convection allows cumuli to grow to significant height. Cumulus congestus, or towering cumuli, may extend tens of thousands of feet into the troposphere and occasionally transform into cumulonimbus. These clouds contain many of the same dangers and should be treated similarly to thunderstorms and be avoided by pilots if possible.

Stratus level clouds The lowest layer, from 6500 ft to the surface is the stratus layer. This layer normally contains the most heat and moisture, and so produces the thickest clouds relative to those at higher layers. Stratus clouds are the most common and are normally thick enough to be a dull grey when viewed from below. In most cases, stratus cloud decks form as a sheet that covers a wide area as moist but stable air is gradually lifted, such as ahead of a warm front, or when humid air is flowing onshore or across gradually rising terrain. If the stratus is in contact with the ground and horizontal visibility drops below about a half mile (~1 km), the cloud is termed fog. Stratocumulus is also a sheet type of cloud deck that forms when there is gradual uplift combined with limited convection and rain from other clouds. These cloud decks are generally patchy and have dark spots where individual convection has grown the cloud. They may form ahead of a line of storms, or in the warm sector ahead of a slow moving cold front. Stratocumulus clouds often produce the crepuscular shafts of sunlight that radiate toward the surface. In some cases, stratocumuli form into rows, or cloud streets, with clear air between the rows. Similar to their lenticular cousins, stratocumulus rows are a visual indicator of wave-like windshear that can produce moderate to strong turbulence, and the area PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018  71

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should be avoided if possible. A 3rd type of cloud is common to the lowest cloud zone. Often called fair weather cumulus, cumulus humilis are cumuli that are separated by clear sky in a scattered to broken layer. They are the result of limited convection and generally do not produce any precipitation. The convection that produces these clouds is frequently due to the solar heating of the surface under a dominant high pressure region. The heat simply evaporates surface moisture and heats the overlying air, creating weak thermal currents that produce these clouds. Normally a temperature inversion a few thousand feet aloft limits any further vertical growth. Pilots should view these clouds as an indicator of weak to moderate low level turbulence that will dissipate above the cloud tops. However, the presence of these clouds also suggests that there is enough heat and moisture present in the surface layer to potentially produce some afternoon airmass thunderstorms.

Vertical clouds Limited moisture, convection or temperature inversions limit most clouds to a shallow layer within a particular cloud zone, or to individual decks at several different levels. For the most part, these clouds are thin and normally do not produce precipitation. However, there are some situations where plentiful moisture combines with a stronger lifting mechanism to produce clouds that develop more vertically than horizontally. While still of limited vertical development, nimbostratus are thicker versions of stratus clouds. They form as energy-rich, moisture-laden air is forced aloft, normally by non-convective mechanisms such as a warm or

Cloud street of altocumulus. Such patterns reveal waves in the mid level flow that can produce turbulence. Areas and altitudes where clouds organize into distinct patterns should be avoided to ensure a smoother ride.

stationary front, shoreline or gradually rising terrain coupled with moderate low level advection flow. Nimbostratus can be several thousand feet thick and often produce a widespread, long lasting and steady precipitation so long as the source of moist air is uninterrupted. In the colder parts of the year, nimbostratus are typically where pilots encounter light to moderate rime ice. Because these clouds often have low bases and form with rising terrain or warm air moving above cooler air, descending to find warmer air may not be the best course of action. Cumuli are the other vertically developing cloud which, depending on the depth of instability in the troposphere, can build from a few thousand feet thick to more than 30,000 ft. Though cumulus clouds may get an assist by other lifting mechanisms, it is primarily convection that produces them. The height to which they grow is determined by several factors including the temperature difference between the rising air and the surrounding atmosphere and the amount of water available. Unsaturated air normally cools at a rate faster than the surrounding environment, meaning it quickly reaches equilibrium with its surroundings and stops rising. Saturated air cools more slowly due to the release of heat from condensation. This air may never cool to the ambient temperature, and so keep rising. Temperature inversions aloft quickly warm the atmosphere and are what will normally cause a building cumulus to stop growing. Absent lower inversions, it is the inversion at the top of the troposphere that often results in the anvil tops of the largest thunderstorms, as the air ceases to rise and is caught in the strong winds at that height.

Cumuli become dangerous

Photo courtesy NOAA

Photo by Josvandamme

Altocumulus lenticularis (lenticular clouds) over the mountains near Skaftafell National Park in Iceland. Lenticulars form along the crest of a wave in the atmospheric flow, often produced over and downwind of obstacles.

As cumuli grow, they become more and more dangerous. Even small to medium sized cumuli (cumulus humilis and cumuli mediocris) can produce moderate to strong turbulence, especially if it is in the process of growing larger. Cumuli with an endless supply of moisture and a large amount of extra heat will produce strong to extreme turbulence as they grow, as the vertical currents within them can exceed 100 ft/sec. Cumuli that reach the middle of the troposphere or higher are called cumulus congestus, or towering cumulus, while those that grow even larger and transform into storm cells are cumulonimbus. Pilots may notice isolated cumuli growing out of a lower cumulus deck, only to quickly decay. These are euphemistically called turkey necks, and indicate that the lower atmosphere is beginning to be able to punch through the low level temperature inversion (cap) that is suppressing stronger free-convection. If surface heating continues, towering cumuli are likely to appear soon after. Nearly all larger cumuli extend above the freezing layer, suggesting that pilots who do penetrate them are likely to experience some degree of icing. The larger, supercooled droplets in these clouds can quickly coat aircraft with several centimeters of glaze ice. Hail and lightning are other dangers inherent to these supersized clouds. Of course, we have all been taught to stay clear of thunderstorms, and that goes for towering cumuli too. A good rule of thumb is to avoid storms by at least 10 nm for every 10,000 ft of its altitude, and generally don’t overfly cumuli that appear to be growing, as you can quickly find yourself inside them.

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Photo courtesy NASA ISS

Anvil of a large cumulonimbus over central Africa. Anvils are indicative of a cumulonimbus reaching the strong temperature inversion at the top of the troposphere. Over central Africa, this suggests that this storm extends to at least FL500.

Learning from contrails A final type of cloud to mention is the contrail. Contrails are formed by hot and humid aircraft engine exhaust quickly cooling in the atmosphere. As modern aerodynamics advances aircraft capabilities, contrails are produced more frequently in the stratosphere. The presence of contrails indicates that the air at that level is already close to saturation. Thin or quickly dissipating contrails occur in dry, cold air, while thick and long-lasting contrails normally mean warmer and more humid air aloft. Contrails that quickly spread out can reveal strong cross-winds or wind shear relative to the flight path, while those that maintain their coherence mean that winds are either fairly light, or the aircraft was experiencing more of a head or tail wind. When lots of aircraft produce contrails, it has the effect of creating a cirrocumulus deck.

Cloud reporting With the exception of thunderstorms, which are specifically called

Boeing 747 produces contrails during cruise. Contrails form as hot and humid engine exhaust is rapidly cooled as it is injected into the cold air of the stratosphere or upper troposphere. The rate at which they grow, spread, decay, or move can provide a lot of indications about upper air winds.

Altocumulus cloud deck. Midlevel clouds with limited convection often indicate the proximity of a larger pressure system or approaching front.

out in briefings and automated reports, clouds are reported to pilots primarily in terms of the base of the cloud layer(s) and amount of the sky they cover. Originally observed by human weather observers, cloud cover and height observations are now largely made by an instrument called a ceilometer. Ceilometers work by sending around 700-800 pulses of laser light skyward every second, and over the course of 30 minutes recording the time it takes each pulse to return to the instrument. With extra weight given to the most recent 10 minutes of observations, the computer in the instrument processes the observations and translates them into estimates of the height of clouds it observed and the amount of sky those clouds covered. This is reported in height above ground level, and oktas (eighths) of sky cover. For ease in interpretation, octas are transformed into 3-letter codes - SKC = Sky clear (0 oktas); FEW = Few (1 to 2 oktas); SCT = Scattered (3 to 4 oktas); BKN = Broken (5 to 7 oktas); OVC = Overcast (8 oktas); NSC = nil significant cloud; CAVOK = ceiling and visibility okay. Thus, a report of BKN033 would mean that there is a broken cloud deck at 3300 ft (1000 m). Even though it looks straight up, because it works over a 30 minute observation period and reports the results each minute, these ceilometer observations are considered representative of conditions within 3-5 statute miles from the instrument. However, if there is a thick, low-level overcast, ceilometers may not adequately capture and report on higher cloud decks. Conversely, satellite imagery often reveals larger scale cloud patterns, and may even allow a pilot to estimate the cloud type. But while satellites can estimate cloud top heights from their temperature, this information is crude at best. The best

source of information on the different cloud decks is from pireps.

Look and learn from clouds Knowing not only where clouds are and how high they are, but also what type of clouds they are is all important information to pilots. Cirrus and other high clouds reveal winds aloft as well as the approach of a distant weather system. Mid-level clouds suggest stronger atmospheric dynamics at play and weather systems that are closer at hand. These clouds are normally above the freezing level, but likely to still contain liquid droplets, meaning that light to moderate icing may be encountered. Stratus and stratocumulus clouds indicate changing weather conditions in the near future, such as an approaching front. With sufficient heat and moisture at the surface, late morning cumuli can frequently become mid-afternoon towering cumuli and even cumulonimbus. While we now have radar and satellite data in our cockpits, computer-driven weather forecasts, and the latest atmospheric observations at our fingertips, simply looking out the window and reading the clouds can still provide a pilot with a great deal of understanding about the weather they may face.

Karsten Shein is a climatologist with NOAA in Ashe­ville NC. He formerly served as an assistant professor at Shippens­­burg Uni­versity. Shein holds a commercial license with instrument rating.

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EBACE 2018 Visitors from around the world met with more than 400 exhibitors at GVA from May 29–31.

Photos by Brent Bundy

Universal Avionics was recently purchased by Elbit Systems. At the show were (L–R) Rgnl Sales Mgr-Europe/Mid East/Africa Christian Zumkeller, CEO Paul DeHerrera, Dir Mktg & Comms Michelle James, VP Sales Mktg & Supt Daniel Reida, Dir of Sales Robert Clare, and Field Svc Eng Patrick Nenninger.

Sold-out static display had 54 aircraft vying for the attention of showgoers. Several new models made their debuts alongside existing and upgraded offerings from every major manufacturer.

By Brent Bundy

Phoenix Police Officer-Pilot AS350, AW119, Cessna 210/182/172


he European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) once again brought the aviation world together at the Palexpo convention center in Geneva, Switzerland for their annual gathering May 29–31. This was the 18th year for the event which showcases all aspects of business aviation including product launches, aircraft announcements, educational courses and industry updates. Although the market is still in recovery mode, all signs point to the strongest year in more than a decade. Visitors from 100 countries met with 418 exhibitors on the show Top-rated Meridian offers aircraft charter, mgmt, and MRO services from both USA coasts via their FBOs at Teterboro and Hayward airports. Explaining their offerings were (L–R) Av Sales Exec Robert Platten, Av Sales Exec MaKayla Gorski, VP Av Sales Michael Moore, and Dir Mktg Kirk Stephen.

floor and viewed the 54 aircraft at the sold-out static display. The cautious optimism of recent years seems to be slowly fading as new aircraft were unveiled, including the Bombardier Global 5500/6500 and the upgraded HondaJet Elite, and Gulfstream’s new G600 made its European debut. Rolls-Royce showed their new Pearl engine, and 18 companies participated in the inaugural FirstTime Exhibitors Pavilion. A milestone highlight was commitment by numerous industry leaders to the Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuel (SAJF) initiative, announced at the annual media luncheon. This year’s show was dedicated to industry icon Serge Dassault, who passed away May 28. EBACE will return to Geneva May 21–23, 2019. Clay Lacy Aviation was represented by Exec Travel Planner Aaron Lofald and VP Charter & Managed AC Svcs Veriar Collins-Jenkins.

With BBA’s Signature Av were (L–R) London Luton Standards & Cust Svc Mgr Sue Wilson, VP Mktg Patrick Sniffen, and Station Mgr Southampton & Bournemouth Chloe Hornbuckle.

Deliveries of the Pilatus PC-24 twinjet are in full swing while sales of the PC-12 remain strong. At the event were (L–R) CEO Pilatus Australia Pty Sebastian Lip, VP Gen Av Ignaz Gretener, and Pilatus Business Aircraft CEO Thomas Bosshard. Piper sales of turboprops continue to be robust, which pleases (L) VP Sales/ Mktg/Cust Supt Ron Gunnarson and Pres & CEO Simon Caldecott.

Meeting customers for Sheltair were Gen Mgr SAV Gary Gutkowski and Dir Sales & Mktg Karen Kroeppel.

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In addition to the multiple platforms using Garmin’s G3000/G5000, the Kopter (formerly Marenco Swisshelicopter) SH09 was announced as the launch customer for the new G3000H system. From L–R are Mgr Av Prod Supt EMEA Tim Lewton and Mgr EMEA Av Sales & Mktg Trevor Pegrum.

Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PW812D will power the recently announced Falcon 6X. Here with the venerable PT6 is VP Sales & Mktg Irene Makris. From Honeywell and their connectivity division were Events & Tradefairs Mgr/Mktg & Comms Viorela Nestor and Sales Mgr Jimmy Larsen.

Directing showgoers to the many offerings of World Fuel Services were (L–R) Intl Sales Mgr Emma Brennan, Prog Mgr McKenzie Burns, and Intl Sales Mgr for World Fuel/Colt Fanny Farnault.

With locations across the USA, Duncan Aviation’s complete services options are also appealing to inbound European customers. At the booth were AC Sales & Acquisitions Tim Barber (L) and VP Sales Mike Minchow.

Manning the Rolls-Royce booth after unveiling the new Pearl 15 engine were (L–R) Cust Events Mgr Erin Smith, Deputy Sr VP Svcs/VP Global leader in aviation training, Svcs Andrew Robinson, Regional Cust Mgr Ctl Europe Joerg Wolter, Head Mktg & Comms CAE, was represented by (L) Mktg Dan Codd. & Comm Spclst Claudia Lamarche At the Castle & and Mkting & Cooke Aviation Comms Kara stand, part Gardner. of the Avfuel

Bombardier surprised everyone with the unveiling of the new Global 6500 and its Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 engine. The new model, along with its stablemate 5500, will join the 6000/5000 in 2019.

Textron’s new super-midsize Cessna Longitude was days away from completing test flights. Certification is forthcoming and deliveries are planned for later in 2018.

Embraer brought their entire lineup to the static display including this Legacy 500. The company announced availability of Ka-band high-speed connectivity. Embraer is the 1st OEM to offer the service.

At the Shell booth was the sales and marketing team from The Shell Company of Turkey.

network, were VP Tony Marlow and Biz Dvlp & Mktg Mgr Candace Schroeder.

Viasat Dir Global Biz Dvlp James Person.

Honda Aircraft revealed the HondaJet Elite with improved performance, upgraded interior and flightdeck enhancements with the Garmin G3000. Deliveries will begin later this year.

Bombardier announced the renaming of their Global 7000 to Global 7500, in keeping with the newly revealed range of 7700 nm and to align the naming strategy to the also just announced Global 6500/5500.

Gulfstream G650ER boasts a 7500-nm range at M .85. It recently set another record flying from White Plains NY to Shanghai in 13 hrs 40 mins.

Bombardier’s Challenger 350 has continued the sales success of its predecessor, the 300, as the company’s most popular jet.

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Business aircraft sales are always closely tied to the economy

Bombardier, Cessna Citation, Dassault Falcon, Embraer, and Gulfstream business jets on display at TEB (Teterboro NJ) during an NBAA forum.

By Al Higdon

Former Beech and Learjet Communications Executive Cofounder of the Sullivan Higdon & Sink Ad Agency


n addendum to my reflections regarding 3 ½ decades in business aviation is the constant thread linking aircraft sales almost directly with current and forecast health of the economy. This was true when I was active, and certainly remains so today. I really felt for those who had entered general aviation in the 20 years between the mid-80s and the economic implosion of 2008. With but a very few blips, they had known only good times and a strong economy for up to 2 decades running, and probably thought that’s how it would always be. Those with more gray hair knew that ain’t the way things are. Regrettably, the collapse of 2008 and subsequent record-length recession in the industry marks basically where we remain today. Hig Gould, who for a time was president of Gates Learjet in the late 1960s before his untimely death at 38 in a car crash, once said, only half-jokingly, “Just give me a sales number tied to the Dow industrial average.” That had largely been the course of the industry from Day 1. Corporate airplanes are bought out of profits and the expectation that those profits will continue, at least into the forecastable future. Absent either of these factors, “We’ll wait and see” creeps into the buyer’s psyche. And that’s understandable. As industry pundits know, how the economy is acting and how an individual business is faring at the time are the dual most influential drivers or inhibitors to aircraft sales.

(L–R) Al Higdon, Alex Kvassay and Murray Smith. Higdon started with Beech, moved to Learjet, and was cofounder of the successful Sullivan Higdon & Sink ad agency, which represented Cessna and other aviation firms. Kvassay, top aircraft salesman for Beech, was responsible for mainstay Learjet sales worldwide and wrote “Alex remembers” for Pro Pilot. Murray Smith, founder, editor & publisher of Pro Pilot, was fascinated by the people, pilots and pundits of Wichita.

All of this made it very difficult for a relatively small airframe company such as Learjet to gain traction in the 70s and 80s. More established airframe manufacturers, including Beechcraft and Cessna, seemed better able to withstand periods of slowdown. A severe economic downturn in 1970 reduced Learjet company employment from about 2000 to around 400 in a matter of months, bringing things to a virtual standstill for a couple of years.

The economy and other circumstances have always influenced business aircraft orders and manufacturing rates. Because of these factors, the Learjet production line in Wichita KS, shown here, ranged from highly busy to barely moving during Al Higdon’s involvement with the company.

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Gulfstream G650ER

Cessna Citation X

Global Express 5500

Cessna Latitude

Dassault Falcon 6X

Beech King Air 350i

Dassault Falcon 8X

Embraer Phenom 300

Pilatus PC-12

Global Express 6500

HondaJet HA-420

Pilatus PC-24

Here are some of the most popular business aircraft of 2018. Some are still made in Wichita, including the Citation Latitude, Longitude and Beech King Air. Savannah is home to the Gulfstream family, including the Gulfstream 650ER, 600 and 500. HondaJets are manufactured in Greensboro NC. But other leading business jets and turboprops are designed and produced in Brazil, Canada, France, and Switzerland.

Though less severe, these conditions were repeated a decade later, with a spate of prosperity in between. While I was involved with Learjet, there were times when the US economy was suffering, yet often significant sectors of the international economy were still humming along. Twice in these times, 1 or 2 orders brought in by Alex Kvassay, vice president of international sales, and a long-time, highly-acclaimed contributor to this magazine, actually allowed the company to make its (and my personal) payroll. Thank you again, Alex. My entire 10-year client-agency relationship with Cessna, before retiring in 1996, was marked with relative domestic prosperity. That decade saw Cessna emerge as the clear leader in business jet sales. And I know those dynamics, and Cessna’s success, partnering with SHS, continued for another 10 years. During any downside period, potential buyer hesitations can cause airplane sales people to re-think their career choice. I haven’t followed this closely in recent years, but for several decades you could accurately project a fall-off in orders leading up to each presidential election. Then, no matter which party emerged victorious, orders picked up soon thereafter. Go figure.

The years of prosperity, of course, are an entirely different and a significantly more pleasant story, to be sure. When Learjet and/or Beech/Cessna orders would come in faster than normal, keeping production rates up was a real challenge. As all in production know, you just don’t turn that switch on and see immediate results. I’ve heard sales people comment that the best lead time, from order to delivery, is about 6 months. Less than 6 months backlog makes the financial guys nervous. Any longer than that and you may be in jeopardy of losing an order to a competitor who can deliver closer to the order date. But feast or near-famine seemed to constantly be the quandary – particularly at Learjet. Feast was better.

Al Higdon spent 12 years as a public relations executive with Beech and Learjet before co-founding an advertising/pr firm that represented more than a dozen clients in aviation, including Learjet and Cessna, over a 25 year period before his retirement at 60 in 1996.

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LightSail 2 Testing the use of photons from the Sun for spacecraft propulsion. By Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist and LightSail Program Manager The Planetary Society


recently came back from the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) in Albuquerque NM, where The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 (LS2) spacecraft was delivered. This moves the multi-year project one step closer to a launch later this year on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. LightSail 2 will attempt to be the first small (one might say tiny) spacecraft to demonstrate solar sailing. It’s a method of “sailing” on sunlight by using the push of light to propel the spacecraft. The LightSail Program is also distinguished by being completely funded with private donations to the non-profit Planetary Society. I’d like to share with you the story of the LightSail Program, and LS2 in particular. In its launch configuration, LS2 is about the size of a loaf of bread, but deploys a Mylar sail about the size of a boxing ring. Small but mighty, it faces many of the challenges of its larger brethren, particularly in trying to make it work reliably in a space environment.

Solar sailing Photons of light carry momentum, so they push on things. In our everyday life, we never notice this because the push is so small that even effects such as subtle air currents will overwhelm photon momentum. But if you put a spacecraft in the vacuum of space,

the effect becomes significant, particularly if you deploy a shiny sail and keep your spacecraft mass as low as possible. This is the concept of solar sailing. Solar sailing is an idea that has been around for decades. Even some spacecraft without sails have incorporated light pressure on the spacecraft into their navigation. A most notable example is the Mercury-studying MESSENGER spacecraft. However, there has only been one successful true solar sailing mission flown: the Japanese IKAROS spacecraft in 2010. The Planetary Society tried with Cosmos 1 in 2005, but it was lost in a launch failure. A couple spacecraft in low Earth orbit have demonstrated sail deployments, which is not easy, including LightSail 1, the test mission precursor to LightSail 2.

Why solar sail? Flying spacecraft successfully is incredibly difficult. Even more complexity is added when you want to deploy and control anything, including sails. So, why use solar sails? They have a couple very attractive aspects. First, they require no fuel, thus conceptually lowering the mass of a spacecraft – always a huge consideration in space travel. Second, although the acceleration is small, it is constant. Unlike

spacecraft with chemical rockets that burn for minutes or seconds but coast the rest of the time, solar sails will keep a spacecraft accelerating.

The LightSail Program The Planetary Society’s LightSail Program utilizes and explores the capability of a relatively new area of spacecraft development: very small satellites, particularly standardized spacecraft called CubeSats, enabled by the miniaturization of electronics. A 1U CubeSat is a cube only 10x10x10 centimeters. The volume can be stacked, eg, a 3U CubeSat is 3 1U CubeSats in volume. Though they began primarily as spacecraft designed by universities, CubeSats are now getting serious attention from NASA and other agencies. So far, CubeSats have been limited to Earth orbit, particularly since they lack a planetary propulsion capability. One can only fit so much propellant in such a small volume. Solar sails require no fuel and are most efficient with a low mass spacecraft. A 3U spacecraft weighs typically only 5 kilograms or so. But can a solar sail successfully be crammed into, deployed and controlled from a CubeSat? That is what The Planetary Society’s LightSail program seeks to find out and, in the process, hopefully enable a whole new category of spacecraft.

Image by Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society

Artist’s rendering of LightSail 2 in space.

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LightSail 2 orbit-changing strategy (not to scale). By tacking back and forth into the Sun’s rays like a sailboat, LightSail gradually raises the apogee, or high point, of its orbit. The orbit becomes increasingly elliptical on the side of the Earth opposite LightSail’s solar thrusting.

Image by Jason Davis / The Planetary Society

Solar photons

The LightSail Program consists of 2 missions, both based on a 5-kg 3U CubeSat that deploys 32 m2 sails (about 5.5x5.5 meters in a square configuration). Even though LS2 has a smaller sail than IKAROS, its actual acceleration is about 10 times higher because LS2 has a much lower mass.

LightSail 1 LightSail 1 took advantage of a launch opportunity and was flown as a test mission. Its orbit had a low point (perigee) of 470 kilometers in altitude. Despite being in space, there is still enough atmosphere at altitudes below 600 km that once you deploy big sails on a small spacecraft, the atmospheric drag not only precludes testing solar sailing, but brings the spacecraft to a fiery atmospheric burn up within about a week after deployment. It was still deemed worth doing so we could test out the aspects of the spacecraft not related to solar sailing as well as test out sail deployment. LightSail 1 was launched in May of 2015 as a secondary payload on an Atlas 5 rocket. It was a wild and crazy mission that ended in success as it demonstrated the operation of the spacecraft and deployment of the solar sail. It also taught us many things about the spacecraft and its issues, such as with the software and the touchy power system. Communications outages and a tumbling spacecraft were overcome by the team, leading to a successful sail deployment. Using one of the onboard cameras, we captured a beautiful image of the deployed sail in space. However, there was much to improve.

LightSail 2 At the time of LightSail 1 mission, LightSail 2 was already built as a near twin to LightSail 1. Although LS2 looks like LightSail 1, its hardware is more capable and its software is smarter. Lessons learned from LightSail 1 led to numerous upgrades, changes and additional testing. Consequently, LS2 will be launched into a 720 km circular orbit, high enough that solar pressure will dominate over the drag force from the atmosphere. LS2 also needs additional hardware and software so it can actually do controlled solar sailing. To demonstrate this concept, LS2 will orient the spacecraft so light pressure from sunlight measurably changes the spacecraft’s orbit. It will be the first time this has been done with a small spacecraft. And it will also pave the way for future CubeSat missions in deep space, including NASA’s planned NEA Scout mission to an asteroid. LS2’s software was significantly upgraded compared to LightSail 1. One example of our many software changes is the addition of timers as backups in case something goes wrong unexpectedly. Software timers monitor important processes such as data transmissions to the ground. In that case, if it doesn’t detect any transmission for 1 minute (the spacecraft is designed to transmit a beacon signal every 7 seconds), it kills the radio transmission process and then restarts it. The software will repeat this one more time before eventually resorting to rebooting the computer. In space, as with your home computer, sometimes problems can be fixed, or at least worked, through a system reboot.

LightSail 2 also needed a greatly expanded Attitude Determination and Control Subsystem (ADCS). This system, which determines both location and orientation, required controls to change these two aspects. And LS2 has a key new piece of hardware for the ADCS – a momentum wheel that can be spun up and slowed down to cause rapid orientation changes of the spacecraft. Using the ADCS, we will demonstrate controlled solar sailing by spending half of every 90 minute orbit with the sail perpendicular to the sunlight, gathering momentum from light hitting the sails. Then, the spacecraft will rotate 90º to “feather” the sail as it heads back in the Sun direction. Another 90º rotation follows and the process repeats, thus modifying the orbit.

Testing One key to successful spacecraft operations is testing, and lots of it. As expected, extensive testing of components, systems and software uncovered various issues. Those were then fixed and more testing was done. In addition to testing at the component level, we did full spacecraft system tests including Day in the Life tests: simulations of the key mission milestones from first acquisition of signal through solar panel deployment through sail deployment. We successfully deployed the sail at California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) while commanding the spacecraft using the spacecraft radio and the Cal Poly ground station, just as will be done in orbit. We also have to play in the world of bureaucratic regulatory fun. This includes working with the FCC and PROFESSIONAL PILOT  /  July 2018  79

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Photo by AFRL / The Planetary Society

Photo by Bruce Betts

Engineers install LightSail 2 in its P-POD deployer. From the forefront to the back are Alicia Johnstone and David Pignatelli from Cal Poly, and Stephanie Wong from Ecliptic Enterprises.

international organizations on radio frequency coordination and licensing, and with NOAA on imaging approval.

Launch slips We had to deal with other issues in addition to hardware and software changes. Most notably, LS2 spent all of 2017 with uncertain launch dates that continued to slip. However, the uncertainty provided an opportunity to perform more improvements, tests, tweaks based upon the tests, and more tests. In Sep and Oct 2017, engineers reconfigured LS2 into its flight-ready state. The procedure, known as closeout, set the spacecraft’s software to start the mission on the next boot, and physically secured all deployable structures, including the antenna and solar panels. Since we are on the 2nd or 3rd flight of the new SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, the successful first launch of one of these huge rockets on Feb 6, 2018 was a big milestone. Things started moving forward once again and the next steps were planned for LS2.

Delivering a spacecraft LS2 will fly to space inside the Georgia Tech spacecraft Prox-1 that was selected for flight by the University Nanosat Program of the US Air Force. Prox-1 with LS2 inside will be part of the USAF Space Test Program-2 (STP2) payload. After the successful launch of the first Falcon Heavy, discussions began in earnest about delivery of LS2 to AFRL for integration into Prox-1. As the first step towards that delivery, we integrated LS2 into a Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD),

LightSail Program Mgr Bruce Betts poses with the integrated LS2 and Prox-1 spacecraft in a clean room at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque NM.

a really technical, reliable jack-in-thebox used to push CubeSats into space. In March of this year, I traveled to Cal Poly to witness the integration into the P-POD. Everything was slow, cautious and quite laborious. The engineers weighed, measured and re-measured the spacecraft. They measured and tweaked adjustment bolts to ensure perfect placement of LightSail 2 within, then applied the P-POD side panels. They applied glue (twice) to each of the many screws and adjustment bolts used to assemble the P-POD. It was one more reminder that successful space flight is complicated, even with the “simple” things. Then we were off to Albuquerque. How does one get a small spacecraft to a different state? Carry-on luggage on commercial airlines. It just requires a sturdy case, lots of padding, a little heads-up for TSA, and appropriate documentation. Next it was back into a clean room, this time with a bunch of engineers and 2 spacecraft. The P-POD with LS2 inside was carefully and methodically bolted, screwed, glued, and electrically connected to the core of the larger – but still small – Prox-1 spacecraft. In the coming weeks, engineers will put all the other pieces of Prox-1 together around the P-POD.

Launch and the future Next up for LightSail 2 will be combined testing with the P-POD and Prox-1 at AFRL. This includes environmental testing such as vacuum, thermal and vibration tests – all of which we’ve already performed on LS2 as a separate spacecraft. Eventually all

STP-2 spacecraft will be integrated into a SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket. As of this writing, launch will be no earlier than October 30, and very well could slip later. Once launch occurs, the rocket will deploy Prox1 into space. One week later, Prox-1 will command the P-POD to deploy LightSail 2. After a few days of check out, the solar panels will deploy, and about a day later, we will deploy the sail and begin solar sailing. We anticipate operating in this mode for at least a month, and during that time hope to achieve mission success by demonstrating a change to the orbit due to solar sailing. As for the future of solar sailing, we have and will continue to coordinate and share information with NASA’s Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout mission, a solar sail CubeSat roughly twice the size and sail area of LightSail. NEA Scout will explore a near Earth asteroid using solar sailing for its interplanetary propulsion. NEA Scout is currently scheduled for launch in 2020. To keep up with the next few months of LS2 and for more details about the LightSail program, see our website Bruce Betts, PhD, is a planetary scientist with degrees from Stanford and Caltech. He is Chief Scientist at The Planetary Society and has done research focused on infrared studies of planetary surfaces. He also managed planetary instrument development programs at NASA Headquarters.

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