CORPORATE PROFILE

Bissell makes a clean sweep with Bombardier Challenger 350

From GRR, company execs travel to customer sales outlets across the US and overseas.


Capt Zach Edgar is Bissell's newest pilot. He joined the company with approximately 5000 flight hours and multiple type ratings.

Sanders heads a department with 3 pilots, including himself, a maintenance director, a scheduler and a part-time intern. The department averages about 350 flight hours a year and is certified to IS-BAO Stage 2.

Pilot Tony Woody is senior aircraft captain and also serves as the department's safety officer. His dad was a pilot of Piedmont and then USAir, and Woody knew in his early teens that he wanted to be a pilot, too.

He earned a degree in aviation management flight technology from Florida Institute of Technology, and then began flying Jetstream 31s and Saab 340s for Northwest AirLink, based in Memphis. In 1999 Woody was hired by USAir and began flying Fokker 100s out of Charlotte NC. That lasted until shortly after 9/11, when he was among 1200 pilots furloughed from USAir.

He didn't know much about corporate flight ops, but anxious to find work Woody earned a Citation 500 type rating. Woody landed a job with Wachovia Bank in Charlotte in 2004, initially flying a Citation Excel and later a Bombardier Challenger 300. That lasted until 2009, when the banking industry fell on hard times and the flight department was closed.

The Wachovia Challenger 300 wound up being sold to the Old Orchard Juice Company in Sparta MI, not far from Grand Rapids, and Woody – who had never lived anywhere north of Charlotte – moved to Grand Rapids to become chief pilot for Old Orchard. When he heard Bissell was seeking a pilot a couple of years ago, he applied, believing the vacuum cleaner company offered better security.

Today, in addition to his flight duties at Bissell, Woody is vice president of the board of the Michigan Aviation Association.

Pilot Zach Edgar is the newest pilot on the Bissell team. He grew up in Ithaca MI, northeast of Grand Rapids, and was interested in aviation from the time he was a small child. He earned all his ratings at a flight school at AMN (Alma MI), then attended Central Michigan University to earn a bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship. While in college, he did flight instruction on the side and flew sky divers from MOP (Mt Pleasant MI).

Shortly after finishing college, Edgar landed a job flying night freight in a Piper Navajo with Part 135 operator Air Net. He then became a charter pilot for Northern Air at GRR. For the next 6 years, he flew Citations and later a Lear 45, starting as a second in command and later working his way up to captain. In 2013 he joined the University of Michigan's Survival Flight Program as an air ambulance pilot, flying mostly Citations.

Mx Mgr Jason Ensink takes care of Bissell's Challenger 350 and supervises building maintenance. In addition, he also handles the company's own fuel truck.

"Zach had a lot of charter experience and also a lot of experience flying Bombardier products," Sanders notes. "He came to us with about 5000 hours including about 2000 in jets along with a couple of type ratings. He was a perfect fit."

Edgar joined Bissell shortly before the Challenger was delivered near the end of 2015. In addition to flying, he keeps track of the aircraft stock, making sure nothing is out of date. He updates all of the department's manuals including the AFM, POH and aircraft publications, and maintains a binder of all regulatory requirements including the safety assessment documents necessary to pass an international ramp check. He also tracks all the pilot medicals. "It's my job to make sure we're legal and safe," he says.

Corporate Flight/Executive Travel Coordinator Samantha Somers is responsible for all Bissell's scheduling activities. She maintains her office in Bissell's executive suite in downtown Grand Rapids, and uses ARINCDirect Flight Operations System software to support the department's scheduling requirements. The company
uses Universal for international flight handling.

Somers is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a 4-year degree in aviation flight science and administration. While in college, she worked as a customer service representative at Northern Air/Landmark at GRR (now Signature). And after college she worked as a CSR with Southwest Airlines in Denver for a time before returning to Grand Rapids. She joined Bissell in January 2016.

Maintenance Manager Jason Ensink is responsible for keeping the Challenger airworthy and also for maintaining the building. Ensink grew up in Grand Rapids, where his father is an avionics technician at GRR-based Mayday Avionics. He earned his A&P license at the School of Missionary Aviation Technology in 2009. He joined Bissell in 2010 as a part time aviation intern and was promoted to a full time position as an associate technician. Ensink was named maintenance manager in October of 2016.

Intern Adam Dykstra supports Ensink with fueling, maintaining the fuel truck and keeping the building looking sharp. He is a full-time student at Western Michigan University pursuing a degree in aviation flight science.

Sr VP and CFO Jim Nicholson has been with Bissell for the past 8 years and oversees the Bissell flight department. Previously Nicholson was with Tecumseh Products, the small engine manufacturer, where he also had responsibility for the flight department.

"To fully appreciate the value of the flight department, you have to inherently understand the value of time," Nicholson says. "We go to customers and manufacturing locations throughout the US and Canada. Some of those locations are pretty hard to reach on the airlines, particularly coming out of Grand Rapids where our service is somewhat limited. Our flight department provides unquestionable value to the company and its management."

Nicholson himself is also learning to fly. Last Christmas his wife, with some encouragement from Sanders, gave Nicholson the present of a private pilot ground school class. Soon after, Nicholson began taking instruction from Zach Edgar, and hopes to soon earn his private pilot certificate.

Aircraft maintenance

All maintenance up to and including 12-month inspections on the Challenger 350 are done in-house. The 24-month inspection is more involved and so is sent to Bombardier, either in Wichita or Tucson. If an engine overhaul were to be required, it would be sent to Dallas Airmotive or Honeywell. The company subscribes to all the maintenance programs for the aircraft and engines, including Bombardier's Smart Parts and Honeywell's Maintenance Service Plan. If avionics work is needed, the aircraft is sent across the field to Mayday Avionics or to Duncan Aviation in Battle Creek.

The Challenger goes back to Bombardier for the 600-hour/24-month inspection. "They'll put 2 shifts on it and the airplane will only be down for 4 days. It will provide another set of eyes on the airplane, which, in my view, represents just one more level of safety," declares Sanders.

"On this airplane most of the work involves removal and replacement. There is very little we can do to actually repair anything," Ensink adds. "I'm here to launch and fuel the aircraft any time it goes out. Then I'll work any issues when it gets back." Ensink is also responsible for maintaining the department's fuel truck, which is loaded with fuel purchased from Signature so the aircraft can be fueled on the ramp.

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