Published in Midwest Flyer – Aug/Sept 2016
A Citation departs the Mississippi River town of Red Wing, Minnesota, flying a heading in any one of the cardinal points of the compass, not necessarily carrying passengers, but having completed a maintenance check and is now enroute to some distant city ready to begin its duty cycle. The Part 135 private jet operator, Red Wing Aeroplane operates a fleet of 11 Citations that fly within all areas of the western hemisphere including the Continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico, and Central and South America.
The company uses a floating fleet concept, which simply means that the aircraft are either enroute flying passengers, or lying in wait to seize upon customer requirements for last-minute flight opportunities. The flexibility in having a floating fleet allows Red Wing Aeroplane to be available to fly its aircraft where and when a requirement exists in addition to its scheduled operation. This flexibility has allowed the company to grow steadily from the beginning of its charter operations in 2005 to the 15th largest jet charter operator in the U.S. Expert flight schedulers who are well versed in pilot scheduling rules, aircraft capability, maintenance requirements, and customers’ desires are the key to its rapid growth.
“There are not many operators who have invested in the systems and infrastructure required to have a floating fleet of aircraft and pilots living in one of 22 domiciles,” says Wes Converse, President of Red Wing Aeroplane.
Red Wing Aeroplane provides all maintenance services to its fleet at its’ headquarters at Red Wing Regional Airport (KRGK). The company has deep roots in the aircraft maintenance business having operated an FAA Part 145 maintenance repair facility for 25 years. Founded by Bob Converse, a retired master mechanic at Delta Airlines, the company’s maintenance facility is an expert maintenance depot for both general aviation and Citation 500 series aircraft.
“The commonality of an all-Citation fleet allows us to not only stock the parts and tooling required to service the fleet, but also our mechanics are well versed in all mechanical operations of the aircraft,” notes Bob Converse.
In addition, a “common fleet provides for ease of pilot standardization, procedures, and flight crew resource management which allows us to operate much like the airlines do,” according to Wes Converse. “We have an unblemished safety record due in large part to our flight operations department insistence on meaningful training, strict adherence to policy and procedures, and frequent checks to ensure compliance.”
The jet charter industry maintains its safety record by utilizing two primary certifying organizations, Aviation Research Group (ARG/US) or Wyvern. ARG/US and Wyvern compile several databases, including Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and aircraft transactions, to determine the safety records of the operator, their pilots and their aircraft. In addition, these companies will perform onsite audits on safety procedures, aircraft log books and additional documentation. Red Wing Aeroplane has been certified by both of these organizations for several years.
Red Wing Aeroplane is fully committed to ensuring its pilots are trained to the highest level required by the FAA, but also goes above and beyond those requirements in several areas.
Their extensive training program for flying in mountainous terrain, and providing service to challenging airports throughout the popular ski areas of the Rocky Mountains, allows them to provide customers with the confidence that they can arrive and depart in all weather conditions safely and reliably.
Utilizing the latest training tools and technologies, including full-motion flight simulators, Red Wing Aeroplane is building pilot skills and confidence in order to operate in challenging conditions that require not only expert flying, but also crew interaction in all phases of flight. Investing in the future, the company soon will have its own full-motion simulator located at the headquarters facility to complete all flight and maintenance training. The simulator will be tailored to the exact configuration of the Citation aircraft and contain numerous training capabilities that will continue to enhance pilot training.
While many jet charter operators rely on jet cards and prepaid hourly buy-in fees, Red Wing Aeroplane relies on the standard book and pay model. It is much simpler for the customers and there are no upfront fees. The customer books the flight and pays in advance for the service. In order to ensure the customers’ needs are met, the company employs a concierge staff that takes care of such items as limos, food and beverage service, rental cars, and airport of choice for the trip. They also maintain a backup aircraft and crew that can react quickly to unforeseen circumstances, such as aircraft mechanical problems or weather issues so that, transparent to the customer, the flight goes as planned.
The future is bright for Red Wing Aeroplane. The company is currently planning to add “lift” to their fleet, which will include larger aircraft that will allow them to provide coast-to-coast service.
“We see the need for private jet charter service to continue to increase as commercial air carriers continue to book their flights completely full through their sophisticated revenue management systems. This means more people traveling in a less-than-ideal flight experience,” adds Wes Converse. “Our niche is to provide a new first class experience in all areas of personal and business transportation – and we deliver every day!”
Red Wing Aeroplane Receives Authorized Mooney Service Center Certification
Recently, Red Wing Aeroplane received notification that after months of collaboration, they have received certification as an Authorized Mooney Service Center.
“This recent addition to the capabilities of our FAA Part 145 Repair Station allows us to service the more than 1,000 Mooney aircraft within a 300-mile radius of our facility,” says Director of Maintenance, Todd Newton.
“As part of the Mooney Service Center network, we have access to a full supply of Mooney parts and accessories, special tooling, and Mooney trained technicians to ensure we have the capability to complete all necessary inspections and repairs quickly, and professionally.
“Bottom line is, Red Wing Aeroplane and The Mooney Aircraft Company are committed to achieving one goal – to provide each Mooney owner exceptional service that exceeds expectations.”
For more information on Red Wing Aeroplane, visit www.redwingaero.com.