Maverick Helicopters: Putting Safety First
From the depths of the Grand Canyon to the remote tropical Islands of Hawaii, Maverick Helicopters is leading the way -- not only with their VIP level of service, but also by setting a high benchmark in safety standards.
Service with accolades
Maverick Helicopters, founded in 1995, has nearly 25 years of experience in the helicopter tour industry. A selection of Airbus H130s through to EC130s make up their fleet, currently tallying at a count of 47. The team pride themselves in providing their customers with a great experience. Their pilots narrate the entire journey, they land in the Grand Canyon, where a bottle of champagne is popped, served, and the guests are entertained - a personal touch, making for a memorable outing.
Their commitment to excellence in both service and safety has earned them an impressive portfolio of travel accolades, including “Best of Las Vegas,” and various Diamond Awards of Excellence from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They have also worked with some of the biggest networks in television - FOX, NBC, ABC, and the Discovery Channel, to name a few.
A typical day can involve up to 35 flights - and that’s outside peak season, which sees them completing upwards of 80 trips in one day. With large numbers of flights going in and out of HQ, it’s critical knowing where the aircraft are (for both operational safety and the logistical management of the fleet).
Do you copy?
When pilots first started flying through the Canyon, there were no communication systems out there whatsoever. “You might as well have been on the moon!” exclaims John Mandernach, Regional Partner of Maverick Helicopters.
Since then, their communication systems have moved with the times; initially radio transmitters, where the received message bore only a scant resemblance to the original, and white noise could trigger an emergency response.
Next were satellite phones for more accurate and quicker transmission. Although providing increased reliability, not having one in each aircraft wasn’t ideal. The only available system at the time was Outerlink, designed for Commercial Aviation, rather than General Aviation. An Outerlink unit was installed in each aircraft, equipping the Maverick team with voice communication capabilities and aircraft tracking.
When accessibility is an option
These units only went as far as above-the-ground coverage, relying on ground-based cell towers. When Maverick Helicopters expanded its services and operations to Hawaii in 2014, their flight routes included inter-island transfers. Their pilots often found themselves flying over 90 miles of open ocean. To ensure they stayed connected over bodies of water, they were obliged to upgrade to a satellite network. This came with additional costs, on top of new installation costs!
A better solution emerges
Cue Spidertracks, where a partnership with the leading satellite network, Iridium®, ensures aircraft will stay connected anywhere on the planet - regardless of local cellular reception and infrastructure. Spidertracks’ Virtual FDR™ logs a 4D vector every 15-seconds and records this flight data on the Spider. The data is transmitted in a bundled package with the next 1-minute position report.
This is one of the key differences John has seen in Maverick’s operations. “The tracking [of the aircraft] is every 15 seconds; compared to Outerlink, where there was a big delay. We like the ability to see the flights in real-time and watch them turn.”
They occasionally receive noise complaints too, so with Spidertracks’ accurate flight history, they can go back to those complaints, and confirm the actual routes of their aircraft. “In Vegas and Hawaii, we get noise complaints,” John notes. “Now, we can show people that ‘no, we didn’t fly over you.’ Before the 15 second updates, it would look like we did fly over them because it would jump from two minutes to two minutes; thus, you wouldn’t see the turn, you know?”
Continuous development - listening to our customers
Suggestions from John himself have helped improve the functionality of the Spidertracks platform, benefiting not only Maverick, but customers around the world. The ‘favorites’ feature allows users to save specific map and zoom views -- perfect for when you have multiple locations.
Commitment to safety
Not only is Maverick Helicopters committed to exceptional customer service and creating memorable experiences - but they also have a zero-tolerance for not following policies or procedures.
Speaking to John, he says safety is part of the culture at Maverick. “It’s number one, of course. Everything we do with maintenance and flight operations is for the safety and comfort of the passengers.”
With Spidertracks, the team can see precisely where their pilots are flying. “We have designated routes,” says John. “We can always make sure they’re on the right route, and if something is in question, we can go back and see exactly what they were doing. It's a good tool to help ensure the safety of our pilots, and that we keep up our safety standards.”
It wasn’t much more than a decade ago when aircraft tracking was only accessible to the top tier of the industry. Innovation was limited to heavy boxes and integration into aircraft systems. The cost and complexity of these precluded mainstream adoption.
Spidertracks came to market with fresh thinking and a delightfully simple product philosophy that broke down these barriers and revolutionised the sector. Today, aircraft tracking has industry-wide adoption - the benefits of increased safety and operational efficiencies have seen Spidertracks become the de facto standard.