January 13, 2013
Focusing on the Fundamentals of Safety and Service
In simple terms, SC Aviation Inc., a charter and aircraft management operation based in Janesville, WI, is a company that works hard to get the job done right by focusing on the fundamentals of safety and service, says Gary Helmeid, director of operations. Regardless of the position, the key is to hire the right people with the right experience, personality and work ethic, and to train them to become one with the company’s culture and operating standards.
For pilots, that training goes above and beyond with live drills. They practice life raft use in a pool, extinguish aircraft fires, evacuate smoke-filled cabins, and treat in-flight medical emergencies, training that includes the defibrillators that is standard equipment on SC’s three Hawker 800XPs, a Hawker 700 and two Learjets, a 35 and 31. This fleet comfortably covers North America, with occasional trips to Central and South America, said Helmeid, but “Europe is a bit of a stretch for the Hawker,” said Helmeid, so SC is pursuing a “a super-midsize or large cabin aircraft.”
SC Aviation’s parent company – Colony Brands – was established in 1926 as the Swiss Colony, when University of Wisconsin graduate Ray Kubly returned to Monroe, 50 miles south of Madison, and acted on his college class project for a company that sold cheese by mail. The company is still family-owned and still headquartered in Monroe. In 2010 it became Colony Brands to better reflect its position as the parent company to a portfolio of diverse businesses.
To more quickly reach his business destinations, Kubly bought and flew a Cessna 140 after World War II. In 1949, he replaced it with a longer-legged Cessna 195 and hired Perry Power, a recently discharged B-25 pilot, to fly it. In time the 195 gave way to a Cessna 310, and then a 414. When it added a Citation II, the flight department moved 35 miles east to Janesville’s longer runways.
In 1996, the flight department began supplemental operations with a Chicago-based charter operation. “We staffed up to fly the Hawker 700, then the company flagship, 24/7,” said Helmeid. “It flew 900 hours one year.” In 1999, the flight department incorporated as SC Aviation and received its air carrier certificate in 2000. Its manager and chief pilot, Ernie Grainger, became its president of the new company that continues to provide flight services to its parent company.
A similar transition is occurring with SC’s five-mechanic maintenance department, which operates under its own Part 145 repair station certificate. For the past two years it has worked for a few outside jet owners. “Fix it now and fix it right” summarizes SC’s maintenance mindset, said Helmeid, because it serves both safety and dispatch reliability.
More than half of SC Aviation’s 31 employees are pilots. According to Helmeid, since 1946, it is ultimately the company’s pilots who have made the hard decisions that have compiled more than 60 years of accident free flying for the company. As a group, they are experienced decision-makers who operate conservatively, get the job done and can hold an amiable conversation with everyone from passengers to line personnel.
About NBAA’s Flying Safety Awards
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