Prepped and Ready
Frank Bronson is a pilot by trade, so he makes a checklist for everything.
His to-do sheet for international travel reads something like this:
Pack voltage converter.
Make sure the office filed a Gulfstream Flight Following plan.
“We like the fact that Flight Following lets Gulfstream know where we are going to be, and if we need on-site product support somewhere during the trip, we have a local point of contact,” says Bronson, lead captain for United States-based Fidelity National Financial. “From an operator’s standpoint, that’s a huge deal.”
Gulfstream Flight Following is essentially a documented heads-up between operators and Gulfstream’s Field Service organization. Before a mission, operators complete an online form that details their itinerary and lists contact information. All operator information, including trip itineraries, is kept confidential.
Gulfstream responds with phone numbers and email addresses for the Field Service Operations managers and their backups in the areas the operators will be traveling. Field Service Operations managers note the mission parameters and prepare a contingency plan, securing parts that might be necessary and prepping passport visa applications for technicians or Field Service representatives to expedite response time should they be called on to get to the aircraft at a remote airport.
Ken Maxwell, manager, Gulfstream International Field Service, calls Flight Following a “huge efficiency tool.”
Fidelity’s Bronson concurs, particularly for overseas missions. Flight Following is available on every trip, although the program is most popular with operators flying multiple legs between international locales.
“In the U.S.—and I’m sure it’s the same for European operators in Europe and local operators elsewhere—it’s easy to find a solution when we need assistance,” Bronson says. “You know how to get things resolved or you can get another airplane or you can put your people on an airline. But when you operate outside your comfort zone, that’s another matter.”
Steve King, senior director of maintenance for Cox Enterprises, says he uses Flight Following mainly for trips between the company base in the United States and Asia Pacific destinations, such as Fiji or Australia.
“It’s about peace of mind, more than anything,” says King. “When you use Flight Following, you are sure the field service person in the areas where you are flying knows who you are and that you are coming.”
Maxwell, based in Europe, gets up to half a dozen Flight Following notifications daily. Each one makes his job easier. Depending on the extent of the contact information provided by the operator, the Flight Following form grants Maxwell access to phone numbers for the flight crew, the maintenance leads at the operator’s home base, the fixed base operator at the operator’s destinations, and even the hotels where the pilots are scheduled to stay.
“If an operator files a Flight Following for a trip from California to Greece and we get a PlaneConnect message about a part or system failure while he’s in-flight, we can be waiting when the aircraft arrives,” Maxwell says. “The crew can go to the hotel and get some sleep and we can work on the aircraft.”
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