As the Chief Pilot of a small part 91 operation, I think many of my colleagues would agree that the position carries with it some unique challenges. While managers at larger organizations have the luxury of farming out problems to subordinates or specialists, folks in my position have to make it work with what we have. Flying for a Nevada based entertainment company presents some very interesting challenges in equally interesting parts of the world.
Both as an aviator, and as the head of our company's corporate flight department, my objectives are plain: 1. Get our clients where they need to be safely and 2. Do so with the greatest possible quality of service. To these ends, working with Aeronautical Data Systems made a lot of sense for my operation.
Our company has a number of interests in the eastern hemisphere, and we typically operate over the pacific about 1 -3 times a year. During these trips, it is not uncommon for us to be at points along our route of flight where we are at least hundreds of miles from the nearest island, let alone the nearest airfield. One gaping hole in our SRM was what to do if we got into trouble atone of these locations.
We operate a Cessna Sovereign, which is definitely range limited relative to some of the newer Gulfstream or Global models. As a result, a lot of the time we have to plan decompression altitudes at 15,000 or even higher to meet our fuel minimums. A decompression over the mid pacific, for us, would mean flying for several hours relying on oxygen or, alternatively, ditching in the ocean because of fuel depletion. Even worse, an uncontrolled fire could end the flight within a couple of minutes, regardless of our fuel range. In either case, we did not have a viable solution to these problems.
Ironically, at the completion of an Asia, which brought us through Guam, Majuro and Hawaii, I found an AIN article where ADS were discussing their services. After filling out a form on their website, one of their representatives contacted me promptly and got right to work.
In our initial meeting, they gave me a brief summary of the multitude of assets they could provide to us. Specialized oxygen safety training programs with their partners at UND Aerospace, Flight Safety International and the Southern Aeromedical Institute. Oxygen flight plan verification, innovative procedures and checklists for oceanic forced landings and high altitude airports were among the more interesting items as well as their signature response platform, ERGO 360.
Like any manager, I had a degree of hesitation with trying something new. Additionally, disruption to my budget and our workflow were two definite concerns. The ADS team was very accommodating and gave me some fair-priced, non-binding options that met my initial concerns while giving me the chance to see if it made sense for my operation and get some feedback from my team.
Sampling the goods
In early June 2017, we crossed the Pacific as we have done many times before only this time there were two big differences:
First, we dispatched with the ERGO 360 EFB downloadable app. It displays live streaming data on every ship along our route of flight for our first leg of the trip to Australia between L.A. and Honolulu. Overlaid on this were range rings showing how this correlated with both fuel and oxygen reserves at our planned decompression altitude.
If we had a decompression, I could now ration my oxygen in the same way I usually ration my fuel. Moreover, I could ration them in unison with one another allowing me to maneuver and extend fuel my range in a decompressed state if I needed to.
Second, part of the ADS service package includes a waterproof VHF radio and a specialized checklists for engaging and verifying ships, coordinating rescue efforts, maneuvering in concert with the ships, and landing in a manner that will allow them to rescue you. It was a direct answer to my concerns about a mid-oceanic fire.
Additionally, we used the ADS Oxygen ETP . I did not realize it prior, but professional flight planning providers do not actually plan decompression altitudes around oxygen reserves. They only factor in fuel to their calculations. ADS staff worked with me on each leg of my trip, and verified that my oxygen reserves met the restrictions of my flight plan.
First, I had a great experience working with the ADS team. They constructed a solution that addressed my specific concerns, in a manner that worked for me, at a price that worked within my budget. In terms of service, the team made it clear that their purpose was supporting my mission. They worked hard to make it work for me and they earned my business the right way.
The software itself still needs some minor refinement. Its simplicity and intuitive nature remain a definite “work in progress.” Overall, I had a positive experience. I will be using their services again going forward. If you are a professional pilot/aviation manager at any level, I recommend seeing if ADS can work for you.