When this publication was launched in November 1986 as FBO magazine, we ran an article announcing the sale of the Pal-Waukee Airport north of O’Hare International by the Priester family to the surrounding cities of Wheeling and Prospect Heights, IL. Today called Chicago Executive Airport, it still has as a tenant Priester Aviation, which is now a global charter operator.
I recently visited with Charlie Priester, 73, who subsequently sold his fixed base operation to Signature Flight Support, with whom he is now a subtenant. Of the changes over the past 25 years Priester comments, “The equipment has changed, but the industry is the same — it’s still people doing business with people. One thing you can never replace is a minute in time.”
He adds that his family’s philosophy through the years — “It’s all about the customer” — has not changed, a fact he points out that many airports are learning firsthand in today’s airline environment. “If you keep your eye on the ball as it relates to the customer, it will drive your future plans.”
Not long after, I met Don Campion of Banyan Air Service at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE). He was a maintenance guy operating out of a leased lean-to, and was driven, as was I as the new editor of a magazine, canvassing airports around the U.S. and trying to understand who the players were, and what the business of airports was about.
I had gotten my start in the business as the communications manager for the National Air Transportation Association, which is where the publishers of this magazine had found me.
Don Campion wasn’t a player yet; he was a wanna be. Like so many other impassioned people in aviation, it wasn’t about flying the airplane, it was about making airplanes happen. Like avionics guys; like repair station guys; like airport directors.
Today, Banyan Air Service is a first-class operation with the amenities that the fractional revolution wrought.
People like Charlie Priester and Don Campion are good starting points for a story about the industry for the past 25 years, if for no other reason than they represent the spirit of entrepreneurialism so rampant in the history of this industry, and both reflect how much has changed over that timespan.
We started this magazine, then FBO, in 1986 and the goal was to help aviation businesses (tenants) become better at what they do, particularly by learning from the successes of others as told in this magazine. The idea got traction. An early reader wrote us at the time that we may have come along at the right time and that it potentially could save his business. We grabbed onto that concept. Remember, the late ‘80s and early ‘90s were not pretty for the business of fixed base operators. The recession of 1991/92 was not a welcome visitor.
Then the world began to change — at least, for the world of tenant operations and the airports on which they resided.
In 1991 we acquired our competitor Airport Services (nee: Airport Services Management) magazine and began to learn about the commercial aviation/airport management side of the business. Along the way we came to recognize that the world of airports in the U.S. was changing, and that recognition ultimately led to the merging of the two magazines, FBO and Airport Services, into AIRPORT BUSINESS.
USTs; tenant leases
In the mid-1980s, the Sunday night TV show ‘60 Minutes’ aired a program on leaking underground storage tanks (USTs). The story focused on a gas station and its leaking tanks that were contaminating a community’s underground aquifer, and thus its water supply. Back in the day ‘60 Minutes’ had the ability to cause the nation to “talk” on Monday morning, and that was no more true than the story about leaking USTs. In a heartbeat, the Environmental Protection Agency was proposing radical regulations (at the time) for attacking the problem.
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