“We have team members who have worked with us for over 20 and even over 30 years and I often hear them say that they enjoy working at AIRSCHOTT. That’s the company’s greatest success and it’s been a team effort.”
This is a continuation of our last week’s interview with Robert Schott, the President of Airschott, INC, a Coop member in Washington DC, USA. In today’s interview, Mr. Schott sheds light on the problems facing the industry, the importance of having a disaster plan and once again tells us another highly engaging story involving the movement of a solar-powered, high-altitude UAV.
Q. What has been the greatest success of your team so far? How did you handle it?
A. In my opinion, our greatest success has been in providing a healthy, productive, cooperative environment for our staff. We have team members who have worked with us for over 20 and even over 30 years. I often hear them say that they enjoy working at AIRSCHOTT. That’s the company’s greatest success and it’s been a team effort.
Q. Can you tell us a curious shipment your team has handled?
A. The ZEPHYR is a solar-powered, high-altitude UAV that was developed and built in Great Britain and brought to the USA multiple times for testing. AIRSCHOTT / SEASCHOTT had the honour (and challenge) to enter it into the US, transport it to test sites in remote desert areas and then re-export it back to England, attending to all the customs and transport formalities in each direction.
The aircraft, in its various iterations, had wingspans of 40’ – 70’ and travelled in a bespoke case (wings disassembled) that was shoved down the nose of 747F aircraft or fit onto a 40’ ISO flat rack. It would arrive by air freight and we shipped it back by ocean. We did this about a half dozen times from around 2005 – 2013, meeting a freighter at ORD or LAX and shipping back out of Houston after desert trials.
I don’t recall which year’s shipment it was but one year we had the aircraft on a flat rack and the ground handling equipment stuffed into a 20’ box, booked on an HLAG vessel from HOU. Shortly before scheduled sailing, Houston was locked down due to an incoming hurricane. The sailing was postponed, and we found a warehouse that would store the aircraft inside and the ground gear on the leeward side of the building, protected from the high winds and tidal surge.
The storm passed, all was safe, and we loaded the UAV and gear on the first available departure. All good, right? The container and aircraft arrived in England and I received a frantic phone call and e-mails about the recipient’s staff entering the container holding the ground handling equipment and being chased out by a huge, hairy spider.
Now, I spent much of my youth in my native Florida where huge, hairy spiders are a common fact of life – as a child, I watched my grandmother chase one out of her kitchen with a broom. So, when asked why we hadn’t provided insect control procedures prior to departure, I responded that the big hairy spider was our insect control procedure as its job was to capture and eat insects!
My sense of humour unfortunately was not appreciated in England.
|Q. That was funny! Changing the topic a little bit: What are the main challenges facing freight forwarders regarding the pandemic at the moment and how is AIRSCHOTT dealing with these challenges?
A. Obviously, keeping staff and clients safe was, for some, the biggest challenge. However, about 18 years ago, AIRSCHOTT developed a “work-from-home” model both for convenience and as a part of our “disaster plan”. COVID-19 brought the disaster that we had prepared for since 9/11 and the transition was pretty easy for us. Now, the challenge is freight capacity and dealing with carrier shortages and this challenge extends to all transport modes.Q. What is the outlook for your country’s shipping market? Which sectors in the freight forwarding industry are growing, and which not?
A. We see the market growing and capacity improvements in all modes as the pandemic is being brought under control. Outdated and deteriorated infrastructure is a serious problem domestically and we’re hopeful that the government will soon address this issue aggressively.
“We had the honour (and challenge) to enter a solar-powered, high-altitude UAV into the US, transport it to test sites in remote desert areas and then re-export it back to England, attending to all the Customs and transport formalities in each direction.
Q. In your opinion, what does the freight forwarding industry lack? How would you think it should improve?
A. Industry-wide professionalism and integrity need to improve
Q. From your own experience, which are the keys to success in the freight forwarding industry?
A. Communication and attention to detail are key. Innovation leads to success in this and most industries. The most important thing is to listen to the clients’ needs and find the best ways to fulfill those needs.