FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE

Hormel Foods cooks up tasty treats at Austin MN headquarters

World famous food producer builds sales with Gulfstream G280 and G150.

By Brent Bundy
Phoenix Police Officer-Pilot
AS350, AW119, Cessna 182/172/210


With the company's Gulfstream G280 in the Austin MN hangar are (L–R) Capt Eric Caspers, Chief Pilot Rick Stoulil, SPAM product mascot Sir Can-A-Lot, Chief of Aircraft Maintenance Dave Triebwasser and Sr Captain Dave Morehouse.

Over 125 years ago in a quaint Midwestern town, a small meatpacking operation opened its doors and would eventually blossom into one of the largest food product companies in the world. Throughout that time, the Hormel Foods Corporation has not only remained true to their core values but to the town where it all began, Austin MN.

As expansion outpaced accessibility to the home office, a more feasible mode of transportation became a necessity. Thus began a 56-year history of an increasingly advanced and far-reaching flight department, which the executives who utilize it give credit for the growth the company has experienced.

History

In 1891, George A Hormel opened his meatpacking plant in Austin MN after settling there following his days as a traveling salesman. He saw early success and was soon joined by 3 of his brothers and other family members. Just after the turn of the century, George's small business was incorporated, his original facility had increased in size and scope, and distribution centers were opening across the Midwest.

And by the time World War I had hit, George was exporting overseas and selling products under additional names. This also began his long history of supporting the military. As the Roaring 20s came to a close, George's son Jay became the company president, America's 1st canned ham was introduced, and operations had spread from coast to coast.

Chief Pilot Rick Stoulil joined the Hormel Foods Flight Department 17 years ago and took over as chief pilot 2 years later. He still flies both of the company's Gulfstreams.

The 1930s were monumental for George's company. The continuing dedication to the people that made his success possible was proven when Jay began both the Annual Wage Plan, guaranteeing annual wages and weekly pay, along with the Joint Savings Plan, a profit-sharing program that still exists.

This was followed by a 3-fold debut of their most iconic products: Dinty Moore beef stew in 1935, Hormel Chili in 1936, and SPAM in 1937.

By the breakout of World War II, The Hormel Foundation had been started to handle the family trusts as well as support The Hormel Institute, a medical research branch of the University of Minnesota which is still active today. The war effort also saw huge government contracts which lead to 65% of their product being purchased by the US government as well as SPAM becoming a staple for soldiers who later continued their consumption on the home front. George Hormel passed away in 1946, shortly after the end of the war.

Following in the footsteps of their founder, a succession of company leaders continued his desire for expansion, both geographically and in product offerings. This was particularly true in the late 1950s with increased international growth. By the early 60s, it became clear that to continue this pace they needed to move their people more efficiently, especially if the main base of operations was going to stay in Austin. With no plans to relocate, the obvious solution was airplanes.

Hormel Foods initiates a flight department

Sr Capt Dave Morehouse (L) has been with Hormel Foods for 15 years and Capt Eric Caspers (R) signed on less than a year ago. They brought with them many years of experience flying corporate jobs and commuter airlines.

Local aviation legend Glenn Hovland became the 1st chief pilot of the new Hormel Foods flight department in 1961. They began with an Aero Commander 680F light-twin turboprop. With a 3800-ft runway, AUM (Austin MN) was certainly a factor in selecting the AC680F. In 1968 a Beech King Air BE90 was added. And as the runway length grew progressively over the years (4800 ft in 1984 and 5800 ft in 2005), so did the company's choice of aircraft.

The King Air BE90 was traded for a BE200 then joined by their 1st jet, a IAI Westwind 1124A in 1989. This was followed by an IAI Astra 1125 in 1992, a Cessna Citation II in 1993, another Astra SP in 1996, and a Galaxy G200 in 2001.

During these acquisitions, Hormel Foods always maintained at least 2 planes. The current fleet consists of a Gulfstream G150, purchased in 2007, and a G280, which replaced the G200 in 2014. While still based at AUM, the flight department moved from their original building in 2001 to their current facility, which has a 130x120 ft hangar, office space, and passenger reception areas.

Personnel

While the flight department has gone through several aircraft over the years, they're only on their 3rd chief pilot. Rick Stoulil was born and raised in nearby Iowa but spent time on the West Coast, where he learned to fly. He eventually worked for a commuter airline before making his way to Las Vegas for charter and corporate jobs, gaining experience in an Astra. Stoulil returned to Sioux City IA and flew Astras for Gateway Computers before they relocated. He joined the Hormel Foods team in 2000. Originally hired as a captain, he took over for retiring chief pilot Roger Christensen 2 years later.

Having been with Hormel Foods for 17 years now, Stoulil is justifiably proud of the flight department he inherited and what he has developed. They have been IS-BAO certified since 2011 with Stage III certification since 2015 and have an impeccable safety record, credited to both their Safety Management System and stringent hiring practices.

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