To help support its business on the nation’s train rails, this company looks to the skies. Union Pacific crews often charter business aircraft when a time-sensitive situation arises.
“There are many rural communities throughout the 23 western states that UP serves,” said the company’s Public Affairs Director, Zoe Richmond. “Railroads are the most cost-effective and safest way to move large quantities of almost anything, but on the rare occasion of a derailment or other incident, we must get our experts on the ground quickly, often with business airplanes.”
Richmond compared a map of Union Pacific tracks with a map of airline-served airports in the same area and said: “You can see why flying commercial doesn’t always cut it for us. In those cases, a business airplane isn’t a ‘nice to have,’ it’s a ‘have to have.’”
Union Pacific maintains a “go team” of experts on hazardous materials, tracks, maintenance and information. “Literally, you must have your backpack and cell phone ready at all times,” said Richmond. “We might have to get our equipment out of the way of commuters or get to where a spill could impact our neighbors.”
She cited an incident in Dunsmuir, Calif., in 2009 where rumors about a small derailment contaminating the water supply were already rampant. The rumors weren’t true, but by arriving quickly Richmond was able to quell panic with correct information and later give tours to local media and elected officials so they could see for themselves UP cleanup efforts.
“People sometimes have a skewed perspective on business flying,” Richmond said. “They might think you get wined and dined – our team doesn’t do either. We’re using the airplane as a working, flying office to review technical materials and put together a plan.