June 2020 - 205th Edition


Welcome to the June 2020 edition of the Platinum Airways Newsletter. In this newsletter we celebrate Platinum Airways' tenth anniversary: our website went live on 15 June 2010. Below the usual statistics, our management team looks back at the years that were and the years to come.

We invite members to contribute or suggest contributions to the Newsletter. Contributions will be fully credited.

Flight Statistics through 31 May 2020

Regular DOTW Military Cargo Total
1371  89 103 98 1661

 

Appointments, Promotions & Awards

First flights with Platinum

Braxton Cook, Alec Brown, Kevin Crisp, Francois Pellerin, Anthony Geinopolos, Joseph Guida

CONGRATULATIONS and Welcome Aboard!

Ribbons and Other Awards

  • Preston Winston, 100 Military Missions

The following pilots were promoted to the rank of ...

Junior Flight Officer Justin Green, Braxton Cook, Doug Smith, Francois Pellerin, Anthony Geinopolos, Kevin Crisp
Flight Officer Peter Smith, Nick Grainger, Nico Schroder, Peter Vennik
Commercial First Officer Russell Ciccotti, Tom Goetzinger
Commercial Captain Russell Ciccotti 
ATP First Officer Stephen Gribble
ATP Captain Dare Ade
ATP Senior Captain VI Roy Handley 
ATP Senior Captain VIII Ron Blehm

Induction to the Platinum WALL OF FAME

None this month

Membership

17 Members joined during May. Our total membership is now 215

(Membership cleanup to delete inactive members)

 

May DOTW series

ISafaribanner

Welcome all to our new DOTW series, African Safari. Over the next four weeks we'll be visiting the gateways to Africa's most exciting game reserves. These parks are mainly in the Southern hemisphere which means that they are about to enter into winter. May and June are ideal months to visit them, as temperatures are becoming bearable (no longer above 40C or 100F), humidity is getting lower (lower malaria risk) and leaves are falling leading to better visibility. We hope that you will enjoy the series.

LOWI - 32 FLIGHTS

FASZ - 15 FLIGHTS

FBMN - 19 FLIGHTS

HTKJ - 23 FLIGHTS

Screenshots of the Week 

LOWW to KDEN - by Peter Kreißl

Departing Warsaw - by Nate Moon     

Turning East from LAX - by Chuck Tannehill

DOTW Skukuza Airport - Kruger Nat Park by Peter Krei§l

FACT to FBMN - by Rod Denison

 

From our President

stijndepreter

When Al and I got together in the Autumn of 2009, we didn't have much else but the general concept: we wanted to create a different type of virtual airline. We had both just left another one that was too rigid in its procedures (and failed a few years later). So we set out to create a commercial and general aviation VA that would depart from each pilot's needs and wishes, and that would not focus on itself. We later named this concept Open Skies: our pilots fly the mission of choice with the aircraft of choice at their time of choice. That meant that we would be trusting our pilots. We were and are only a VIRTUAL airline, so if a pilot desperately wants to get to ATP Sr Captain XV by faking flights, he'd only be fooling himself, not us.

An old work colleague of mine, Dusan Maric, was kind enough to develop the Joomla website that is still the base of what we have now. Although Al did a crash course in repainting and successfully tackled the POSKY fleet, we were able to rely on some of the best repainters at the time for more complex aircraft, like Sean Kneppers and Marco Fischbach. Finally, on 15 June 2010 Dusan put our site live.

Being pilot centered also meant that we would act on pilot proposals, as long as they could be implemented and the initiator would be prepared to jump in if necessary. Some efforts didn't work out, like the repeated request to add an online VATSIM section. Others worked remarkably well and remain successful, like Roy Handley's proposal to launch a military and later a cargo division (which he ran for many years with Vic Ayres). And before we knew it, we were a well-recognised VA with a stable active membership that has been around the 200 mark for the past five years or so without any heavy marketing. I always viewed stability as a consequence, and not as a target. As long as we have an offering that attracts a reasonable number of pilots, this airline will carry on and innovate the VA world.

Much of that stability is due to our management. Al and I would never have been able to bring Platinum to its current flight level without their contribution. In fact such strong management that I am very confident in our VA's future when I'll be stepping down as President on 15 June, our tenth anniversary. Over the last years, I have lost interest in simming (just have a look when I filed my last PIREP, I should have been fired many years ago). At the same time, I have assumed other responsibilities that are taking up more free time. I manage communications at Belgium's largest field hockey club, Royal Victory, and recently took on club umpire coaching as well. I'm also on the Board of the Protestant university faculty in Brussels, where I'm about to take higher office.

I'll still drop in every now and then, but will no longer participate in daily management. The current crew led by Al is fully capable of continuing this VA's growth and innovation. It's been a pleasure to have been in its left seat for ten years, but I'm now taking a seat in first class. 

Thank you to you all, because our pilots are what makes Platinum tick and rock.

 

From our Editor & Personnel Manager

BobGriffin

Happy 10th Birthday Platinum. I have the pleasure of being a member for 7 years and putting the Newsletter together for almost 5 years now. It has been a bumpy road, as I am not a computer techie. Upper management was more than tolerant and my colleagues have been most helpful in gently guiding me along. I fell into the position of Editor when Vic Ayres asked me if I would help him compile stats and approve PIREPs. He tutored me as best he could via Skype (I'm in Florida, he in Scotland). The early days it was fairly easy as he did all the grunt work. Vic then fell ill and I was asked to take over the publication. No way; my skills are turning the computer on and turning it off. I accepted the task though with the understanding I would need lots of assistance. In the early days all stats were compiled by hand – i.e., pencil and lined paper and lots of time. Heck, I was able to do that. Once I learned DON'T EDIT IN JOOMLA (thanks Barry and Chuck) and from Al Nel (with one L, another blushing moment) DON"T CHANGE THE FONT -  I was starting to get more comfortable with the task at hand. As Platinum evolved into the team we have now, the ideas began flowing. One of the enhancements dealt with the monthly stats. Each month I would compile by hand the various categories of flight. Al Nel brought on board a computer guru who set up a compiler program that would provide our monthly counts. DOTW is still compiled by hand but easy enough to zip through the 1000+ flights extracting the DOTW by ICAO. Platinum airways continues to be a healthy and vibrant VA. I can say that based on the number of new members we get each month, and the enthusiasm of our pilots. Ideas are still flowing through our managers and the website you see 10 years from now I can almost guarantee will not look anything like our present. In closing, thank you to Stijn, Al, Barry, Chuck, Andrew, Vic (my 1st mentor), Roy Handley (our ex Military Chief) and especially YOU, the members.  And Stijn, you have a window seat in First Class - enjoy the ride.  However, we removed the sleeper - stay alert. We will always need your guidance and expertise. Thank you for taking me on board.

 

 From our Chief of Staff

Barry George

Ten years. That's longer than a lot of businesses last in this day and age!

It's almost unthinkable that a virtual airline could be around for an entire decade. However, Platinum Airways has done just that. It shows that the management did something right when this VA was started.

I wasn't here when this VA was founded. More than likely I was sitting in the Emergency Communications Center in Charlottesville, Virginia at the exact moment Platinum Airways went online. It would be another three years before I joined.

When I first became a member I really had no idea what a VA was all about. I was one of those who was "only fooling themselves" by racking up the flight hours as quickly as I could. I didn't think about limits, because we had no rules. I learned that was the wrong approach after having a PIREP dropped. So I flew much less and got my hours down to what may be considered a manageable level. Shortly thereafter I painted my first airplane for Platinum. I had recently purchased the Aerosoft Airbus Extended package (A320 and A321). At the time Al Nel was in charge of our repaints, so I had to submit pictures of the repaint to him for approval. I wasn't very good at painting the airplanes, but I was determined to learn how to best accomplish that. It took a couple of tries, but eventually my repaint was accepted.

I learned that I enjoyed the creative process of aircraft repaints, and set out to repaint other airplanes that we did not have in our fleet. Unfortunately, at that time our management team was not accepting any additional airplanes into our fleet. So I painted them for myself.

We went along this way for a couple of years. My personal fleet grew to include various Airbus models and a few Boeing airplanes that were not in the Platinum inventory but were flying Platinum colors. Things went on this way until after our 5th anniversary.

My journey with the management team came in 2016, when Al did a redesign of our logo. I took that redesign and repainted the tails of every airplane in our fleet. Following that effort I was asked to be the Platinum Airways Fleet Manager. I was given the authority to increase the size of our fleet and to manage our livery. I added many airplanes to our fleet after that. We had a handful of modern jet airliners, which quickly grew to include many vintage airplanes as well. I designed a livery for military aircraft, which was eventually approved by our entire management staff.

Another aspect of management that our management team didn't realize I had some experience with was website maintenance. While my skills are not highly developed, I took some time to learn certain things. I wasn't familiar at all with Joomla, so I learned how to manipulate many features of the Content Management System. A few months after being brought on board as the Platinum Airways Fleet Manager I was promoted to Chief of Staff.

At that time I started looking to the future of Platinum Airways. We had just celebrated our 5th anniversary the year prior. I approached the management team with a proposal for a 10th anniversary livery. Yes, we were still four years away from that milestone, but it takes time to create a new livery. One thing that was important to me was to bring back the original Platinum Airways livery, only with a couple of changes. It would be a compromise between the original and the current liveries, modernized and tweaked. A couple of new elements that would indicate that it's a commemorative paint and it was ready to present to the management staff. They made a couple of recommendations (which I included) and then approved the design.

Initially I had intended to paint only a few of our airplanes in the new commemorative livery. But then I made another decision. I decided to do not one, but two new liveries. One that would be the 10th anniversary livery, and the other would be a new rendition of our livery based on the commemorative livery. I included a few 3D elements and made the pitch for adding it to our fleet. The response was overwhelmingly positive (especially from Al, who really loved the original livery), and so I had my work cut out for me.

The few airplanes that I had originally selected for repaint became, at that time, the basis for a repaint of our entire fleet. Every airplane in our inventory would receive the new livery with the 3D elements - passenger and cargo airplanes. All of our passenger airplanes (except the smaller airplanes such as the King Air) would also receive the commemorative livery. It took until the end of 2018 to repaint everything. The new liveries were released for download on Christmas day, 2018. And that's where we stand now with our fleet.

Around Christmas 2019, Al made an announcement to the management staff that he wanted something done with our hubs. He told us that they apparently were not serving any purpose and that we should either update them or get rid of them. I suggested that we develop them much like other VAs might. I suggested a clickable flight schedule that would open a dispatch sheet, which would provide all necessary information for planning a flight. It would even be linked to flight plans for major simulators. I was given the nod on the redesign and began work. The first hub completed was Al's home town of Perth, Australia. I used that hub to develop a system of how to quickly and efficiently build the dispatch sheets. I also placed limits on my time so that I would be able to spend a few hours a day with my wife and to take at least one day off each week. As of this writing I have completed three hubs (Perth, Brussels, and Johannesburg) and I'm currently working on the fourth (Baltimore). It takes about 30 days to build the dispatch sheets, so this is going to be a long-term project.

Now onto something slightly less pleasant but infitely more important. We put a lot of time in developing this site in order to make things easier for you, our pilots, to find information on the site. It also makes things easier for us to tell you where to find things on the site. Our request to you is that you take some time to look at the information we have available before you file your first PIREP with us. We have a section devoted to pilot's resources that provide instructions for specific things we look for. There are instructions on the PIREP form that will explain how to properly fill out the form. Please take a few minutes to look at the information before asking in the forums or using the Contact Us link. And while we're talking about the forums and the Contact Us link, if you have a question we would really prefer that you ask in the forums. That way another pilot who may have the same question can benefit from a response. Also, it allows members other than management to answer your question.

Finally, I'd like to wish Stijn all the very best for his future. As a founding member of Platinum Airways his judgement, expertise, and presence will definitely be keenly missed. I hope he returns occasionally to check on us. Good luck!

 

From our CEO

alwynn

So the time has come. It is our tenth anniversary. Wow. Stijn has said it all above. There is not much more I can add. So without repeating his story I will try to fill in a few blank spots.

When Stijn told me he feels "it's time to step back" I was very sad. We have shared a special friendship for many years, and now it seems to come to an end. But I understand - life is now taking him on a different course. Stijn is a dedicated family man, and an awarded professional in his line of expertese. The void that Stijn's departure leaves is impossible to fill. Thank you my dear friend for your dedication to Platinum Airways. Without your insight, knowledge, managerial and marketing skills, Platinum Airways would not have succeeded. 

It feels like yesterday when we decided to "go on our own." I had been part of the VA fraternity for close on to 30 years then. My experience was that the average life span of a VA would approximately be one or two years. Strong personalities in VA management would frequently clash over trivial matters, that would lead to the demise of many.

So when Stijn and I decided to do our own thing, we had learned quite a few very valuable lessons. We soon realised that we couldn't handle this on our own. We needed help. We headhunted our managers within the Platinum fraternity way back then, and it turned out that we picked them well.

Learning to paint aircraft was exciting. It was important for us to be unique. We would not consider stealing another VA's aircraft, livery or even PIREP system. We had to create our own from scratch. I would download the raw models and paint kits from Posky, paint them and then painstakingly tweak the models night after night into the early hours of the morning. This included adding 3D panels, sound files etc.

When we went live on 15 June 2010 we had a basic fleet painted in our livery, albeit with many defects. Years later I would hand over the fleet to Barry George to manage. The rest is history. Barry transformed the entire fleet, and what you see today is what Barry created. We woke up one day to realise Barry was more than an accomplished aircraft painter. Barry silently proved his value, and before we knew it he had transformed our website into something exciting to look at and far more functional to work with, and it made us very proud to promote him to Chief of Staff soon after.

Chuck Tannehill knows how to fix a broken system. Stijn mentioned that we tried many things. Those that worked, we kept. Those that did not, we handed over to Chuck to handle. Chuck, in his very gentle way, managed to diplomatically close down a division that proved not to be viable to Platinum, like the VATSIM division. When Roy Handley retired we had a major problem. What would we do with the military division? Our go-to man was Chuck. Besides being our Secretary of the Military Chuck also built an entire Artificial Intelligence (AI) fleet for us.

The most friendly face you will find at Platinum HQ is that of Bob Griffin. Nothing matters more to him, than the wellbeing of our Pilots. It was a no-brainer to promote Bob to our Personnel Manager. Bob always has a kind word, and he steers our Pilots to keep to the (few) rules we have. Bob has taken ownership of our newsletters, compiling statistics and bringing it all together.

We went through quite a lot in the past ten years. Our website was hacked a few times. This lead us to eventually migrate to a secure site. We battled through software upgrades in Joomla that required above average expertise. This also forced us to design an entirely new site. As we have no paying membership and therefore no income (apart from voluntary contributions), we had to rely on volunteers to make their expertise available free of charge.

One of them was Richard Karl Mayhua. Because of the constant Joomla upgrades, our PIREP system became unstable, and we needed a new one urgently. Richard approached us and offered his services. I briefed him on our needs and a month later he delivered the PIREP system we are using today. 

Apart from myself, all of Platinum day management were stationed in Europe and the US until recently. A big void existed on "the otherside of the world - Australasia. To keep our site operating 24/7 we needed more managers in a different time zone - Australia. Craig Madden and Andrew Haas agreed to join the management team, to assist me "on this side" of the world.

It would take another two pages to mention all the people that banded together to make Platinum Airways survive for ten years. Our Pilots are our most valuable asset. Without them, we will not exist. Thank you gents with siding with us. We hope to continue to provide this service to you free of charge for many years to come.

 

From our Secretary of the Military

Wow, ten years with a hobby that would introduce us all to friends all around the world. I think the most enlightening thing I received out of all this time with Platinum Airways (about 8 years for me) is the introduction of so much culture from so many of you in our community. Not only in aviation but also in a much more personal nature. If you really think about it we are not just a virtual airline but truly an international virtual airline.

I would like to reflect back on all the accomplishments we have had over the years. Platinum Airways started as a very conservative virtual airline. While other VA's were concentrating on multiple VA-based programs to track their VP's, Al and Stijn focused on an "Open Skies" concept - ditch the burdensome programs and trust the VP's to manage their own flight time. A truly unique concept in a sea of digitally run virtual airlines. Our most popular feature and accomplishment, the Destination of the Week, was developed and managed by Stijn, As I stated on the DOTW page Stijn dedicated 10 years of creating exciting flight challenges and themes. As Stijn retires from Platinum Airways management I am honored and proud to carry on his legacy feature recreating those destinations. We wish you the very, very best in life no matter where you go!

I also reflect on the transitions Platinum Airways has experienced. The introduction of the military division was a huge transition. Roy's contributions and creativity in developing missions has left us a sizeable library of military challenges that attracted more VP's and swelling the ranks of Platinum Airways. Another transition was the introduction of social media to Platinum Airways. With a little work we adapted to a social platform that gave us world-wide free advertising not only for VP's but also attracting people the the hobby of flight simulation. A little slow at first but now our Facebook group page practically taking care of itself as more and more VP's join.

Upon joining Platinum Airways I had only hoped I could measure up. My thinking was that these virtual airlines that I had read so much about were a collection of real world pilots and that there was no way I could ever fit in or meet the standards required for real world pilots. Surprisingly, for me, Platinum Airways actually accepted me into their community. Ok, I thought, I'll be the quiet one and not announce my ignorance or inexperience. It turns out my ignorance was not understanding that this was a simple hobby for so many non-pilots like myself.

I want to thank Al, Stijn, and Vic so, so much for their acceptance and, even more, trusting me with the offer of joining Platinum Airways management team. Still I thought I should keep a quiet profile. Al, Stijn, and Vic were not having it. They literally dragged me into the "mosh pit" of management and ensured my hands stayed dirty. The only sadness I've experienced is the retirement of Vic. He was a genuine soul who always gave a helping hand when he saw me struggling. Vic I hope you know the positive impact you had on all of us!

Throughout the years we had a few management members come and go. While we miss all they had to offer we also understood the hobby that is a virtual airline is not a light tasking. It takes continuous maintenance and dedication that can be difficult for those with jobs, families, pets, as well as other hobbies. We wish them all very well as their life's journeys take them down paths far different from our own. Just as important as our management members are our members. Without our members we would be nowhere. Competing with online VA's is not easy. The dedication and ideas offered by our VP's has directly contributed to our success. The proof is on our Eternal Wall. We currently have 72 members with an unconditional lifetime membership.

Then came Barry. In Barry we found a truly dedicated flight simulation hobbyist, an aircraft painter, a fleet manager, a website mechanic, a tutorial expert, an AW program so popular with our VP's - the list goes on and on. Barry was the fresh air we needed after unsuccessful attempts with other potential VA managers. He is our jack-of-all-trades.

Bob, thanks so much for your work as the Editor in Chief and Personnel Manager. Like me you started out a little slow at first however you adapted to the team concept very quickly and now perform 99% of the effort that goes into publishing every month. Thanks to you I have been reduced to a "copy & paste" secretary - lol. Honestly that's about all I do for the newsletter anymore.

Andrew, as our newest management team member we welcome you. Um....don't get too comfortable - lol, much more awaits you as you settle into the daily routine of managing a virtual airline. No doubt you'll find it as rewarding as the rest of us.

Here's to another 10 years!

Chuck

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