New Priorities

Aug. 8, 2002

New Priorities

Veteran manager shares how his FBO refocused its line operations

By Chuck Halderman, VP, Operations, Denver jetCenter

August 2002

Centennial Airport was a rather quiet GA airport until Denver Stapleton closed in 1994, and then things really took off. As the business increased, DJC experienced a series of towing/ hangaring accidents. Although top management had over 70-plus years of FBO operations experience, the safety business model had to be changed.

Denver jetCenter is one busy FBO. DJC averages 3,200 fuelings per month, 1,000-plus aircraft tows per month, and services over 750,000 square feet of hangars. This creates a lot of opportunity for accidents.
First, we needed to become proactive in accident prevention. In the past we waited for an accident before a policy was created, and then only addressed the issues associated with the specific accident.

About the Author Chuck Halderman serves as the vice president of opera-tions for the Denver jetCenter at Centennial Airport south of Denver. An FBO veteran, he spent 17 years with Combs-Gates, becoming director of line operations. His resume includes Jet Aviation Denver; the FBO Resource Group; and Million Air PSP.

DATE: 3/31/00
TO: Crew Chiefs, Training Dept., & Assistant Crew Chiefs
FROM: Larry Ulrich / Chuck Halderman
Re: Safety clearances and use of wing/tail walkers in "community" (multiple aircraft) hangars

Denver jetCenter has adopted strict policies regard-ing the use of wing walkers and minimum clearances when moving aircraft in and out of our "community" hangars (i.e. Hangars 30W, 30E, 2, 7 and 14, etc.). The following rules apply for moving aircraft into or out of these hangars:
Clearance of AT LEAST 3-feet must be maintained at all times when moving an aircraft in or out of all "community" (multiple aircraft) hangars.
All EJA aircraft hangar movements require two wing walkers at all times.
All other aircraft in "community" (multiple aircraft) hangars require at least one wing or tail walker who has continuous radio contact and/or line of sight communications with the tug driver at all times when moving aircraft in or out of a hangar.

No employee will move aircraft in or out of our hangar unless these guidelines are followed. Failure to comply with these proce-dures will be grounds for termination. Remember you can use crew members, DJC management, shop personnel, Mayo [Aviation] personnel, or whoever you feel is competent to act as a wing or tail walker. Always use conservative good judgement when moving aircraft. When in doubt Stop and get help BEFORE an accident occurs.

Second, safety had to take priority over perceived service conflicts. The ultimate service to customers is a safe operation. The most important thing to understand is that if we continue to have accidents, we become uninsurable and are out of business.
We formed an Accident Preven-tion Committee, consisting of Larry Ulrich (then our president), myself (VP of operations), a morning senior crew chief, an afternoon senior crew chief, our training coordinator, and the director of safety.
The first order of business was to establish a primary goal: an accident-free environment with a minimal impact on our level of service. Making an accident-free environment the number one priority - and customer service the second priority - meant we would sometimes have to say "no" to customer requests, if it compromised safety.

A qualification process
We narrowed the focus of the committee to towing/hangar accidents. We established policies where only our most experienced tow people were towing jet and turboprop aircraft. We designed a five-step towing qualification system that matched experienced personnel with the towing and hangaring of larger, more expensive aircraft.
Five levels of towing qualifications were created. To give them that Rocky Mountain flair, skiing monikers were used to designate the level of qualification, and lapel pins were created to recognize each line service technician's (LST) level of experience.
New Hire. A new hire Line Service Technician would start with observation and wing-walking to gain experience. During this time the new hire would accomplish a minimum of 100 supervised tows, after which the the LST would qualify for a "check ride" by the training coordinator, and a second check ride with the director of safety before being signed off to progress to beginner status and a $0.25/hour pay raise.
• Beginner (Green). As a beginner, a line service technician may tow piston aircraft ramp to ramp. The beginner LST must complete another 140 tows, accident-free, broken down into specific aircraft types and towing circumstances. Two check rides are given prior to promotion to intermediate status and another $0.25/hour pay raise.

• Intermediate (Blue). An Inter-mediate LST may tow piston aircraft ramp to ramp, and single-engine piston aircraft in/out of port-a-ports and covered shelters. The Intermediate LST must successfully complete a designated number of supervised jet and turboprop towing operations inside hangars and on the ramp to move to advanced status and another $0.25/hour pay raise.

• Advanced (Black Diamond). An Advanced LST is allowed to tow small and medium jet and turboprop aircraft on the ramp and with wing walkers inside hangars. An Advanced LST must complete a designated number of aircraft tows in a one-year period and have no accidents to move to expert status and another $0.25/hour pay raise.

•• Expert (Double Black Dia-mond). An Expert LST is allowed to move all types of jet aircraft and is required when moving all large jet aircraft in and out of community hangars and for difficult towing conditions (congested ramp, ice and snow conditions, etc.).

Incentives, policies
The committee next decided to establish incentives, policies, and procedures that would ensure employee participation in accomplishment of an accident-free airport environment. Some specific procedures were developed:
• Three-foot clearance from all obstacles when putting an aircraft in/out of a community hangar. (To eliminate all doubt as to what three feet is, a yardstick is mounted on all tugs.) We have had to tell some customers we would no longer move their aircraft in and out of their hangar.
• Use of one or more wing walkers for a multiple use hangar.
• All aircraft stored inside hangars will have a minimum of two sets of chocks prior to unhooking the tow bar from the tug. Jet and turboprop aircraft parked on the ramp will always have a set of chocks on the nose and a set of chocks on the main. Piston aircraft parked on the ramp will either be tied down or all three tires will be chocked. For all ramp chocking operations, at least one set of chocks must be a rubber set.
- Ramp vehicles and fuel trucks will never be driven toward the aircraft and will be parked facing away from the aircraft with the left front tire chocked.


Policies, Reminders • Violation by an employee of any of the safe towing rulings, i.e. three-foot rule, use of wing walkers, or aircraft wheel chocks is automatic termination. • Helpful reminders and training aids: • Each tug has a placard indicating the size of the aircraft that it can safely tow. • Each towbar is marked to indicate the maximum size air-craft it is rated to tow. • Yardsticks mounted on each tug to quickly measure three-foot clearance. • In the Line Operations Center is a towing and fueling reference library for use by the line technicians as a quick refer-ence guide for any towing or fuel questions. Based Pistons: $3-10 per tow At Denver jetCenter, there is a specific tow policy for based pis-ton aircraft, partly based on the location of a restaurant and partly due to being spread out on different properties. All piston aircraft are charged $3-10 per tow or to be moved in/out of a hangar/shel-ter, depending upon distance of the tow. The policy is driven by pure economics. A guy goes out flying, pulls up in front of the terminal and says, fill it up and put it away. That may mean a 3/4-mile tow and maybe 15 gallons of fuel sold - a lose/lose deal. We lose a line tech for 20 minutes and assume a huge burden of risk. Interestingly, the number of piston drivers wanting tow services has dropped significantly. - C.H.

In order for the program to be successful, we need the support and the participation of every employee. We created specific financial incentives to promote safe towing and support a no-accident environment. We felt every employee must be involved in order for this to be successful on a 24-hour basis.
The company contributes a set amount of dollars every month and every quarter to the employee bonus program. This is distributed among employees each quarter when an accident-free month and an accident-free quarter is achieved.
This is significant money, averaging $700 per employee per quarter. In addition, the company contributes to the crew chiefs a set amount of dollars every quarter, and to each supervisor for every accident-free quarter.
The company pays additional dollars each quarter to the two individuals who performed the highest number of tows for each quarter and the second highest amount each quarter. We have focused the company bonus program almost exclusively on incentives paid for an accident-free environment. We feel this establishes a focus from the ground up as well as a peer-group environment - we watch out for each other while watching out for our financial well-being.
Employees with an expert tow status are paid a set dollar amount each time they act as trainer for a junior grade tow person on a tow operation. The company contributes a set dollar amount to the bonus for every safe tow operation completed on a monthly basis.