To go or not to go that is the question.
When awaiting take off at the end of the runway it is interesting to think about the considerations pilots take into account in determining whether it is safe to take off. In general, the considerations can be grouped into aircraft, environment, and crew. The first step, occurring even before the crew gets to the airplane, is for them to do a self assessment to ensure that they do not increase the risk of a particular flight. Crew consider how much rest they have had, if they are sick, the amount of stress that exists in their personal lives, and their experience given the mission. Any one of these factors can cause the crew to decline to fly. As a part of Heartland’s safety culture and policies, pilots are not subject to any negative consequences if for whatever reason they decline to fly based on a safety concern.
Once the crew determines they are safe to fly and are a good fit for the mission they begin to consider the condition of the aircraft. When pilots arrive at the airport they begin a pre-flight inspection that covers every critical part of the aircraft both inside and out. Any discrepancy must be handled according to a rigid set of procedures and policies outlined in Heartland’s operations manual. Of course any discrepancy that could adversely affect the safety of flight must be corrected prior to flight. There are some discrepancies that do not constitute a safety concern and therefore can be deferred so that the flight can continue. Such items may include a passenger convenience item like a burned out heating element for the coffee pot.
The third general consideration is the environment. This includes such things as the weather, runway environment, air traffic control, aircraft performance, or any other external concern. The weather must meet the minimum requirements for visibility, wind velocity and direction, and with few exceptions there must be an absence of freezing precipitation, and a plan in place for thunderstorm avoidance. The runway must have acceptable markings and lighting, be in good condition, and be long enough and wide enough to accommodate the aircraft given its expected performance. At airports with high traffic density an elaborate process is followed to obtain a clearance from air traffic control so that the flight can be integrated into the FAA’s air traffic flow control plan. Put simply, a very big computer must find a spot for the aircraft in the air traffic system given the projected departure time and the route of flight so as not to overwhelm the capabilities of air traffic controllers anywhere along the route.
The most technical consideration is aircraft performance. Before each takeoff pilots must take the aircraft weight, outside air temperature, wind speed and direction, and air density into account in order to determine exactly how much runway the aircraft will need. Pilots must calculate the runway required to either accelerate to take off speed, lose an engine, and then stop on the remaining runway or accelerate to takeoff speed, lose an engine, and continue the take off on one engine. In addition, pilots must also calculate the climb performance of the aircraft on one engine and ensure that it will be able to climb to a safe altitude and remain clear of all obstacles and terrain.
The factors that affect aircraft performance are important for passengers to know because it allows passengers to understand why pilots make the decisions they make. Sometimes it can be confusing when one day the passengers takeoff from the same airport in the same airplane and then on the next day the pilot says, "Sorry, we can’t take off today". What gives? Why is this so? Well, certain factors improve performance of the aircraft, ie. its ability to take off given a certain runway length and its ability to climb on one engine. Other factors decrease performance. Sometimes performance can be decreased to the point that it becomes an unacceptable risk to depart.
- An increase in the weight of the aircraft.
- An increase in ambient temperature.
- An increase in the elevation of the airport above sea level.
- No wind or a tail wind on take off.
- The slope or gradient of the runway surface.
- Runway contamination such as water, snow, ice, or slush.
It is interesting to note that some of these factors individually, but especially several together can cause the runway required to easily double or triple. In addition, climb performance single engine can be quickly reduced by these factors. External factors such as mountainous terrain don’t affect performance of the aircraft per se but they do raise the bar such that it becomes much harder to meet the performance requirements.
From the above a passenger can quickly gain an appreciation for the many factors that pilots consider prior to each and every take off. The goal of such considerations is to reduce the risks associated with flying to the absolute minimum. Heartland takes this goal very seriously and works hard to give our passengers the safest, most convenient air travel possible.
You are important to us.
During the course of a normal day we often forget to take the time to acknowledge those things or perhaps those people that are critically important to us. Often this happens in situations that have become routine. Take a baby diaper and a car wash for example. Perhaps a mother has changed the last four diapers in a row because the father is in the garage washing the family vehicles. I suspect that more often than not, when the father comes in from the garage he does not take the time to say, “Hey, thanks for changing those diapers so I could get the cars washed.” Similarly, it is quite unlikely that the mother says, “Hey, thanks for washing my car, I was beginning to wonder what color it is.” In such situations people never quite get around to explicitly saying, “Thank you, what you did was important to me.” Often, such mundane events become missed opportunities to strengthen the bond between two parties or people with common interests. Recognizing this, we at Heartland are working hard to take the opportunity to ensure that all of our customers know that they are very important to us. The fact of the matter is that we have a small group of excellent customers and we need each and every one of them if we are to continue to be successful. Additionally, because we work with a small group of customers, we get to know those customers well. They become part of our business family so to speak. Yeah we want to keep the lights on and the doors open but we really do get attached to our customers on a personal level too. We want to see our friends/customers succeed and do well. To that end we thought it was about time that we explicitly made it clear that you, the customer, are important to us.
Use air charter to let your customers know they are important to you.
There are several companies that we work with that use an existing business trip to drop in on customers and potential customers alike. They often attempt to set appointments along the route of flight so as to take full advantage of the cost of moving between points A and B. Such a trip might start as a required visit to an existing customer and morph into a visit to both an existing customer who has not been seen in a while and to a new potential customer. This maximizes the use of the aircraft and maximizes potential benefit. There is nothing more effective at cementing an existing business relationship or developing a new one than visiting face to face. To that end, on your next trip consider working with Stacy to put together a flight plan that allows for multiple stops to visit multiple customers.
The spring thaw is coming...faster than you think.
As I sit and look out the window on a cold, dreary, and frozen landscape, it is quite easy to allow pessimism to creep into my thoughts as to the approach of warmer weather. One begins to wonder, "Will it stay this cold forever?" As my mindless gaze shifts back to the computer and rational thinking kicks in the obvious answer is, "No it will not." Spring will come, snow to rain, ice to grass and so it will go. In fact, spring is coming faster than I think. I've got a whole list of inside projects that need to be finished in preparation for spring. If I'm going to be able to take advantage of the warm days of summer I've got to get cracking. In fact, I'm already behind schedule. In the blink of an eye, the warmer weather will be here.
I think the above is a good analogy for how some business owners and managers are thinking. In regard to our economy it has already been a cold winter but spring is coming. If it shows up tomorrow, are you ready? Now is the time to get out there, finish up the "inside projects", and get ready for spring followed closely by summer. There are those that will argue that this spring and summer, economically speaking, will be different, slower, colder, maybe less activity. They also cite uncertain tax policy and looming health care legislation as reasons to postpone thinking about spring and summer. While those things may be true it is also true that spring will come, summer will come and those who wish to sit by the pool need to get their work done before summer arrives. I encourage you to get out there and prepare for the coming economic summer so that you can join me by the pool.
Best regards in the new year!
The Heartland Advantage.
- Experienced two captain crews
- Wyvern approved
- ARG/US Gold
- Well maintained aircraft
- Flexible scheduling
- Clear up-front pricing
- We care about our customers
If the Pilgrims had Business Jets
Thanksgiving is typically a time to reflect upon the past. Perhaps it would cause one to think about the founding of our great county. Now let's suppose that upon landing in the new world the Pilgrims discovered that the Indians had built a network of airports across the country. In addition, the Indians possessed business jets to boot. How do you suppose this would have affected the development of the United States in the 50 years following this discovery? Imagine the speed with which settlements and corresponding businesses could have been built. Imagine the advantage this would have given the colonies in regard to trade with the rest of the world. Wow, what a competitive advantage. Products from the new colonies could be delivered around the world in hours while competitors could only ship by wooden sailing ships which were subject to the variability of the winds. One could argue that given these circumstances the business jet would have been a force multiplier that would have allowed this country to build sustainable growth and wealth at a tremendous rate.
Now, fast forward to the present. Isn't the basis of the above story still true? Do countries or perhaps companies enjoy competitive advantage if they can get things done faster than the competition? Would this not lead to an advantage in sustainable growth and wealth creation? I think the answer is yes. You don't have to be a pilgrim who discovers a hidden cache of business jets. You simply have to pick up the phone and call Heartland. Our cache of business jets stands ready to deliver you to Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma's, Christmas on the slopes, or 12 business meetings in 6 days.
Oh yes, one more thing. What will I be thankful for this year? I am thankful for the time I've had on this earth and the time I have left. May I spend every minute wisely.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!
White Paper - The Argument for Air Charter
We have posted a white paper to our web site which makes a case for the use of air charter services. It includes information from several recent authoritative references on the subject. We look forward to any comments or questions you may have in regard to this paper.
The Argument for Air Charter
What the things that you don't say, say about your company.
One of the most accurate quotes of all time has to be, "Actions speak louder than words". A recent experience has reminded me of how true this statement is. Our story starts out typical enough. We departed Eau Claire on a medical transport mission which called for a stop in St. Paul and then on to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was a beautiful afternoon and we managed to make it to Sioux Falls on time with no issues. We saw our med crew off and headed into the FBO to await their return. Since Eau Claire is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Sioux Falls we did not require any fuel. Typically, FBOs charge a nominal fee for aircraft that stop and don't take fuel to help cover the costs of their existence. It's not uncommon for this fee to be between $50 and $150 dollars. Upon reaching the front desk we were informed that our fee for stopping without taking fuel would be $250 today. Hmm...we were not terribly happy about that. $250 is a pretty high price but they need to keep their doors open so we dutifully paid. The next thing that happened is why I say actions speak louder than words. We asked for the keys to the crew car to head a mile down the street to Taco Johns since we had a long evening ahead of us. The girl working behind the counter informed us that the crew car was for use only by those crews who purchase fuel. But miss, we just paid you $250, a fee higher than most FBOs, and an amount that would provide an equal amount of profit if we took the minimum amount of fuel. We were floored by the unspoken message which we interpreted as, "Buy fuel or we don't want you here even if you are a paying customer." Such a message is devastating to the overall business interest of the FBO. I am certain that just about every crew who has come through there and been exposed to this "policy" left angry. Such a misguided policy is undoubtedly costing money and sowing the seeds of bad will. It is, however, a great lesson to apply to our own business. Be mindful of unspoken messages lest they undo the hard work of building trust relationships with your customers.
Top 7 Strategies to Increase Customer Satisfaction & Loyalty
There is nothing more important than customer satisfaction and loyalty. The following are a few strategies suggested in an article written by Bambang Haryanto that may be employed to ensure customers remain happy.
- Respond quickly - or at least within a reasonable time frame. It's critical to be available to your customers' schedules and not the other way around.
- Ask how your clients would like to be responded to. One way to increase customer satisfaction is to communicate with clients through their preferred method.
- Create a positive website experience.
- Personalize and customize. A personalized, customized solution demonstrates to customers that you care about their needs.
- Think from the customer's point of view.
- Educate your clients. Side by side with setting expectations, a common sense plan to working successfully in challenging markets is to educate clients and to better manage expectations.
- Conduct surveys and track results. Surveys can prove to be a valuable tool and source of information.
Link to Original Article By Bambang Haryanto
Knock 'em Dead with Your Accomplishments
There was a recent article at cnbc.com written by Paul Hellman titled "Knock 'em Dead with Your Accomplishments". The simple communications strategy advocated in the article provides a structure that can be used to help answer the question, "What have you accomplished?" Mr. Hellman suggests using the "SOAR" format. He advocates that, "S is the situation... "OAR" refers to ...obstacles, action, and results". Let's give it a try in regard to Heartland. If one were to ask, "what is one of Heartland's greatest accomplishments?" the reply might be:
Situation: Throughout the past twenty years, general aviation including air charter has undergone tremendous and sometimes tumultuous change. Terrorist attacks, economic meltdowns, and a turnover of our client base to name a few. Running a successful business in such a dynamic marketplace can present seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Obstacle: Operating in such a dynamic market segment can cause significant turnover in parts of our client base. In other words, who we fly and the missions we undertake today are completely different from those just ten short years ago. Ten years ago we flew zero aero medical flights. Internet based national charter brokers did not exist. Piston aircraft were widely used. Because air charter demand is very dynamic, charter supply or service must continually be realigned with demand.
Action: Heartland uses the experience of its employees and management, conservative decision making, market insight, and can do attitude to continuously evaluate its position in the market and make adjustments when necessary to ensure it remains aligned with demand. Of the above, experience and can do attitude are quite important. Knowing what's possible, what works, and what doesn't is best learned from battling it out in the trenches. In some regards, we have the scars to prove it. Combine that experience with a can do attitude and good execution and success is often the result.
Result: Heartland is one of the most respected air charter operators in the Midwest. Clients know that we have their interests and mission in mind at every turn. They have come to rely on the fact that we clearly communicate what we can do for them and at what price. In short, through hard work we continue to be aligned with client demand.
So there you have it, the "SOAR" format as applied to Heartland Aviation. Additionally, we don't want to miss an opportunity to say thanks to all of our clients past, present, and future who make our work possible. You are the best!
"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."
- Colin Powell
Best Air Charter Company
Heartland is proud to announce that we have been named "Best Air Charter Company" in Wisconsin for the second year in a row by Corporate Report Wisconsin. We work hard to provide our customers with the best service possible. It's nice to know that our hard work is recognized by those we provide value to. Thank you for the pat on the back!
Flexibility - Air Charter Style
There are 376 airports in the United States with scheduled airline service. The recent slowdown in the global economy has caused many airlines to reduce the number of flights between those airports making it difficult to efficiently book travel. There are 4190 airports in the United States that are capable of accepting the aircraft in our charter fleet. Such flexibility greatly increases the ability to efficiently book travel. In most cases, use of the outlying airports including those close to major metro areas can greatly enhance a traveler's ability to "get in and get out". It is not uncommon for our customers to be able to visit two or three major metro areas in the course of one day by using the smaller outlying airports. Stacy, our flight operations manager, is an expert at selecting a suitable airport closer to a customer's destination if she is provided with a destination address. Typically we do not question a customer when they request a specific airport therefore it may be worthwhile to provide Stacy with the ultimate destination address and ask that she locate the most suitable airport. In many cases, providing an address can save the customer time and money by allowing the use of a smaller airport, with few if any air traffic delays, closer to a customer's destination.
"We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations."
- Charles R. Swindoll
You have probably heard it said that the Chinese symbol for crisis is constructed from the individual symbols of danger and opportunity. Indeed this is the case. During the last 18 plus months, various "dangers" associated with our economy have become apparent. As the current "crises" recedes, it becomes time to look for and take advantage of the "opportunities" the new tide brings. For those who may have been focused on recent dangers, we challenge you to look for opportunity. It is not always easy to see and may require change to take advantage of, but rest assured, the opportunity is there. Once found, the Heartland recipe for turning opportunity into success is equal parts hard work and persistence. Of course, you probably already know this recipe.
So...what to do now. Well, go out there, find an opportunity, and when you get to the hard work part call Heartland, we're ready to help!
Heartland Gets Facebook Page
Heartland's Facebook page gives us a place to share a view of some of the people and places we get to visit as a result of our work. It also allows us to interact with our customers and friends in a little less buttoned down manner. Become a "fan" of Heartland's facebook page and come along with us on our Journey.
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
- Aldous Huxley
I would like to share a few facts regarding Heartland's charter service which tend to be ignored, taken for granted, or otherwise overlooked.
All Heartland Aircraft are Certified in the Transport Category
What does this mean to the customer. It means that a charter operator using a transport category airplane is required to operate that aircraft such that during takeoff, should an engine fail at the worst possible time, the aircraft is still able to climb and clear all obstacles. Put simply, if an engine fails, you live. This is in direct contrast to operators who use non-transport category aircraft such as some King Airs and the new Very Light Jets. The rules do not require that these aircraft be able to lose an engine and clear all obstacles. Put simply, if an engine fails, you may not live. This is an extremely important fact that often gets overlooked when customers are choosing an operator. The takeaway is that if you use an operator such as Heartland who uses only transport category airplanes you are covered in the event of an engine failure.
Flying with Two Captains is Important
The regulations allow for pilots to be trained as either a Pilot In Command (Captain) or a Second In Command (Co-Pilot). Most charter operators use Captain and Co-Pilot trained crews to fly their aircraft. Heartland only trains one kind of pilot, PIC's or Captains. Leased aircraft arrangements are even worse. Under a part 91 lease, management can grab a pilot off the street with no training and stick him or her in the Co-Pilot seat. This is definitely not how Heartland operates. Each time you fly with Heartland, you are flying with a crew where both pilots have gone through Pilot In Command (Captain) training and are type rated to fly the airplane. We firmly believe that training is a very important component in maintaining safety of operations. With Heartland you always have a two captain crew.
Charter is not a Lease Arrangement
Heartland is an air charter company operating under strict rules of both the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration. We provide commercial air service under part 135 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. These rules were established to protect the flying public when purchasing service. The rules are quite strict and can actually apply to some forms of airline service. When a leasing company proposes to sell a customer flight time in their aircraft for a "much cheaper rate than charter" what they really should be saying is "at a much cheaper rate because they do not meet the strict requirements imposed on charter by the FAA". Leasing companies operate under different rules that are much much less strict. There is virtually no oversight by the FAA in a lease environment. This means that safety of operations can be severely affected. The takeaway should be that Heartland provides commercial air service under the oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration and thus adheres to a much higher set of standards than does a leasing operator.
Heartland Continuously Audits Safety
Even though Heartland operates under the oversight of the FAA, we take safety of flight so seriously that we submit ourselves to third party audits by TWO safety auditing firms in addition to regular FAA audits. Heartland is audited on a regular basis by both Wyvern and ARG/US. Heartland is "Wyvern Approved" and holds an ARG/US "Gold Plus" rating. The standards that the auditors use when evaluating Heartland are significantly more strict than the already strict standards set by the FAA. To use a tag-line one often sees on late night TV, "But Wait...There's More!" Heartland has had in place for several years a formal Safety Management System that is akin to a continuous improvement philosophy or standard. Our SMS works in a manner to mitigate all identifiable risks to greatest extent possible. Such SMS's are only now coming into wider use by the charter community yet we have been doing it literally for years. Heartland is serious about safety!
Having the Proper Insurance can Salvage a Really Bad Day
God forbid that one is ever involved in an aircraft accident. If you or your employees ever are, does the operator have adequate insurance? Is your company a named insured on the policy? These are critical questions that should be answered before anyone from your company sets foot on an airplane. Heartland carries a fifty million dollar liability policy. Many other operator's limits are significantly less. In addition, Heartland will gladly add your company as a named insured on the policy upon request.
Light Airplanes are not Medium Airplanes are not Heavy Airplanes
Heartland works very hard to keep its costs and therefore rates lower than any of the competition. Occasionally, customers will ask for a quote in our medium jet and then become concerned that some other operator beat our quote significantly. What is often overlooked is that the other operator quoted the trip in a much smaller, non-comparable airplane. Heartland is never shy about our rates. If you want to shop a rate we encourage you to do so because we are confident that on an apples to apples comparison, we will come out ahead. We have even gone so far as to help some of our clients shop. If you ever get a quote and someone else beats our rate we want to hear about it. 99% of the time, if our quote is higher then it wasn't an apples to apples comparison. The other 1% of the time we'll make sure our quote is lower once you let us know.
Heartland has been in Business a Long Time
Heartland has been at this game since 1961. That is a long time. Air charter is a competitive and demanding business to be in. To have been around since 1961 we have to be doing many things right. How long has the competition been around? Probably only since the last recession or newer.
Is Cheaper Really Better?
When making a purchase everyone wants the best possible product at the best possible price. I know that's what we want. We simply ask that when purchasing air charter please consider the above points so that you know what you are buying regardless of whether you are buying from us or from a competitor. The bottom line is that when you charter with Heartland you get a heck of a lot for your money.
Congress vs Corporate Aviation
Legislation recently introduced by Senator Barney Frank contained provisions requiring organizations that received TARP funds to divest all owned or leased aircraft. Is this grandstanding or are legislators simply out of touch with the advantages corporate aviation provides? Now, more than ever, it is critically important to squeeze every bit of efficiency out of company resources. There can be little tolerance for waste or extravagance. So, is owning or chartering a corporate aircraft such an extravagance? Definitely not. The objective of using air charter is to leverage important resources such as executive talent in order to accomplish more with less more quickly. The end result of smartly applying air charter is competitive advantage. Using air charter can allow companies to book revenue more quickly, cut costs faster, and generally outmaneuver competitors. Opposed to what some senators think, the use of corporate aircraft is a requirement not an extravagance for those companies who wish to succeed.
Safety Management Systems
In 2002 Heartland put into place its first formal Safety Management System. An SMS is a formal program designed to increase safety and reduce, eliminate, or mitigate operational risk across all of the company's activities. Although not required in 2002, Heartland management viewed the implementation of such a program as providing a sustainable competitive advantage as well as being "the right thing to do" in providing our customers with the highest level of safety. In a typical SMS, risk is identified and assessed, risk reduction or mitigation actions are planned and implemented, and fixes evaluated for effectiveness. Each step in the process is documented and reviewed to ensure action. Such systems have become so successful in reducing operational risk that the International Civil Aviation Organization has required all international operators to have a compliant version in place this year. Heartland is proud of the fact that we have had an SMS in place literally years ahead of the competition.
Charter Rates Head Lower
Challenging economic times along with reductions in fuel costs have created a modest decline in overall charter rates. The largest portion of the decline comes from the reduction or elimination of "fuel surcharges". Unfortunately, even with oil hovering around $40 a barrel, jet fuel prices for many operators remain slightly elevated. Both refiners and retailers have used the decline in the price of oil to maintain or improve their margins. The net result is that charter operators do not see the full benefit of a reduction in the price of oil. Still, charter rates have fallen with the price of oil. When shopping charter quotes, be sure to ask for a hard quote that includes all fees up front. This basically means that what you are quoted is what you pay. Be wary of operators that offer a low quote but who won't guarantee the price. Often, the additional fees that such operators assess after the flight inflates the price to one that is much higher than anticipated. Heartland is proud to provide hard quotes so that our customers know the price up front.
Corporate Report Wisconsin has named Heartland Aviation as Wisconsin's best air charter company. From our all captain, professional, courteous crews to our superbly maintained aircraft we strive to be the air charter operator that you know and trust. The always helpful Stacy stands ready to turn your quote request into a productive trip.
Wyvern Safety Audit
The return of snow signals the time of the year Heartland undergoes its yearly 3rd party safety audit by Wyvern. Wyvern is the premiere 3rd party safety auditor in the aviation industry. Organizations that meet the Wyvern standard are truly a step above the rest. Few operators are up to the task so Heartland takes great pride in being Wyvern certified. In addition to the Wyvern audit, Heartland undergoes audits by ARG/US and Hynes and Associates. Heartland holds an ARG/US Gold safety rating.
To learn more about what it means to hold a Wyvern rating visit The Wyvern Standard
Chat With Stacy
Heartland has integrated instant direct chat into our web site so that customers who have questions for Stacy can get answers in a hurry via the web. In addition, each of Stacy's e-mails contains a chat link in her signature block. This means that one can click on the chat link to begin a chat right from Stacy's e-mail message. How cool is that!Click here to give the chat link a try.