FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE
Stellar flies a Citation Excel for customer contact, strategic planning and construction management
Company works with Nestle, Kraft, Sara Lee in creation of refrigerated
warehouses, food processing plants and commercial facilities.
Captain Zach Lautzenheiser joined Stellar in 2015 as an FO. He has a BS degree in av mgmt and flt ops from Jacksonville University.
Up front, the crew uses Wi-Fi to supplement onboard systems, access information, and get real-time weather radar.
The cockpit also has a Stratus portable ADS-B In receiver that works in conjunction with ForeFlight to free up bandwidth for the folks in the back.
Evolution to iPads, ForeFlight, and a paperless cockpit
Like many flight departments today, Stellar operates a paperless cockpit. However, the transition was not a simple process. In 2013, after years of printing approach plates and using a clunky, slow tablet for enroute charts, the pilots began to research paperless options.
Petraglia referenced AC-120-76B (now 76C) to find out what was required, but he found this guidance extremely cumbersome. Although FAA approval was not required for Part 91 operators, Stellar wanted to comply with the AC and run a safe operation.
On the Internet Petraglia found that Apple had already successfully completed and documented rapid decompression tests of the iPad battery. So he acquired 2 tablets and flew an entire year evaluating each while still keeping a full set of paper charts onboard. Petraglia documented his findings, which were very successful, but he was still reluctant to offboard the paper.
During that time he learned other operators were also struggling with the transition and he was introduced to ForeFlight. "ForeFlight has an amazing aviation app where subscribers can access an EFB kit. That kit contains the documentation necessary to gain approval or, in our case, show compliance," states Petraglia. He also obtained assistance from the NBAA and iPadpilotnews.com.
After substantial testing, Stellar went completely paperless in 2014. Today their EFB documentation kit remains stored on the iPad to show AC compliance just in case they are ever ramp checked.
Petraglia's philosophy is "the more redundancy, the better." So each pilot carries an iPad mini and a full-size iPad backup with ForeFlight and Jeppesen subscriptions. That's 4 independent digital devices. And they use FltPlan.com and ForeFlight for all flight planning and weather.
They also have SOPs in place for EFB usage covering everything from battery charge requirements to unit failure. In case it becomes necessary to charge an iPad in flight, they have an AC outlet in the cockpit and charging cables at arm's length as well as 2 portable charging units in case the outlet should fail.
While technology has tremendously improved their operations and situational awareness, the most significant change in using iPads versus paper is the increased due diligence that must be done before each flight. In addition to all standard preflight planning, before takeoff the team preflights each iPad for operation, making sure that batteries are charged and all apps are up to date. "When these devices are your sole source of information you have to make sure everything is 100%," says Petraglia.
In 2006 Stellar launched a foundation to give back to their local communities with support for education, hunger relief, and a local high school engineering program. In addition, Stellar encourages its employees to donate time to local charities, and the flight department makes in-kind donations with the aircraft to support various causes. To date, the foundation has donated over $2 million to charities.
Although Stellar has grown to employ hundreds of people, the company still retains the family oriented culture of its founding. Company aircraft have allowed them to reach new heights and expand on their core values of building lasting relationships and partnerships with Fortune 100 and industry-leading companies.
Cindy Youngblood holds an ATP license and is type rated in the BE400, CE500 and CE560XL. She has extensive experience in both Part 91 corporate and Part 135 charter ops.