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  • Scottsdale Operators Face Plane Crash Emergency

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June 2018

Scottsdale Operators Face Plane Crash Emergency

By Robert Carey

Shortly after 9 p.m. on Monday, April 9, a small plane that had just taken off from Scottsdale Airport in Arizona crashed onto TPC Scottsdale’s Champions golf course, bursting into flames and killing all six people on board.

The physical impact of the crash was felt strongly by people who were in the area at that time. In fact, two front-line employees of TPC Scottsdale who live nearby were walking home from dinner when they saw the plane disappear onto the course, and then heard and saw the huge explosion. They immediately contacted TPC Scottsdale GM Brad Williams and assistant GM Doug Hodge.

“I was sitting in my living room, but my phone was across the room,” Hodge says. “My daughter heard it beep a few times, looked at it, and then said to me, ‘You have eight voice mails and about 25 texts.’”

When Williams and Hodge arrived on site about 45 minutes later, they saw the aftermath: In the desert area between the fairways of holes number 2 and 18, there was a strip of gouged and scorched earth roughly 100 feet long by 50 feet wide that ended at a large mesquite tree. The charred remains of the plane were pushed up against the burned-out tree.  

With emergency-response crews handling the crash scene, Williams and Hodge went to work combing through their reservation system to gather email addresses for customers booked for play the next day.

“Our reservations people do a great job of getting contact information from customers, so it didn’t take long for us to get a message out,” Hodge says.
Those players who did not check their email before Tuesday morning, though, arrived at the course to find police blocking the entrance. And with TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium course nearly full, only a handful of Champions course players could be accommodated there. Nonetheless, “every customer was very understanding about the situation,” Hodge notes.

Surprisingly, the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were able to complete nearly all of their on-site investigation by late Tuesday, allowing the course to reopen on Wednesday. Aside from a few fairway spots where emergency vehicles parked, there wasn’t any damage to the course that would affect routine play.

“From an operational perspective, we were fortunate that no areas of turf were destroyed,” Hodge says. As a result, the facility did not have to make a business-interruption or other claim to its insurance company.

There was, however, a good amount of work to do to clean and repair the affected desert area. The insurance company for the plane’s owner arrived a few days later to formulate a remediation plan.

“It involved taking soil samples from the center of the impact area and moving outward from there, to find out how far down the soil is contaminated,” Hodge explains. “The contaminated dirt got removed and replaced, but because the desert is so hard-packed, it did not absorb the fuel too deeply. We put in new native material plus decomposed granite which covered that area, and replaced the mesquite tree with another mature tree.”

Hodge says that the challenging situation at TPC Scottsdale reinforced the need to adhere to core leadership tenets. First, “all club managers must deal with the fact that crisis situations don’t just happen in the daylight hours when someone is on site. You have to account for that by having contingency plans for action and communication before anything ever happens.” And second, “the level of caring and teamwork I saw from our entire staff was inspiring. Obviously this was a tragic accident, but the team rallied together in the following days, which helped us do what was necessary to get back to normal.”

 

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