COLUMBUS, OH — Founded in 1935 by Foster Lane, Lane Aviation is a full-service FBO with two locations here: Port Columbus International Airport (CMH) and Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK).
According to marketing and charter director Mark Myers, the FBO has 12 profit centers supporting everything from fueling, deicing, and maintenance to aircraft charter and sales. “We are a very diverse aviation company that over the years has been able to build an infrastructure that’s sustainable in each one of those centers,” remarks Myers.
The company employs some 120 people, only six of which are at Rickenbacker. The home operation is at Port Columbus where the FBO supports airline operations through a variety of services that include fueling, deicing, ground handling, and ground support equipment repair.
In addition to GSE repair, Lane also provides GSE rental and leasing options. To further serve airline customers, Lane’s aircraft service division provides 24-hour, on-call maintenance support at Port Columbus.
Operations manager Steve Evans has been with the company for 32 years. He comments, “It seems like when one segment is down, another is up. So we don’t have all our eggs in one basket, so to speak.
“The beauty of it is, we can cross-utilize our staff … we don’t have seasonal employees here; everyone is full-time.”
The keys to success
Says Evans, “I have a lot of good people here; that’s one key to Lane’s success.”
Myers agrees, stating, “One of the distinction-makers of Lane is the people. If you look at the tenure of our employees … they really stick here.” The average tenure of Lane’s employee base is 14 years.
“I think the industry average for a ramp guy is less than two years,” adds Evans.
The FBO sees some 40 aircraft operations per day during the week; 80-85 percent of the business comes from jet aircraft. The vast majority of the fuel pumped here is for airlines — at some 90 percent.
With regard to airline ground support, “At one time we were doing some 210 flights per day; now it’s about 150,” relates Evans. “We also do GSE repair, and we lease equipment to the airlines that need it. Probably the biggest thing we do for them is deice. We do that for probably a quarter of the airlines here, but are qualified to do all but two of them.
“On a normal winter day we will deice probably a quarter of the airline operations. If it’s a blizzard, we’re doing 80 percent of it because we have more trucks and five times the inventory [the airlines] do.
“For smaller airlines such as Frontier and AirTran … we are their primary deicer, GSE repair source, and ground equipment leasing source. The smaller guys are the ones we prop up. If I can’t help them run their operation, I can’t sell them any fuel.”
The FBO has ground service equipment and fueling equipment capable of handling aircraft as large as a B-777. Adds Evans, “I believe we have 126 pieces of GSE. If we can’t help support the airline business here, we are not going to be fueling them. It’s kind of self-serving in some ways.”
Lane Aviation is an FAA Certified Repair Station as well as a Cessna Authorized Service Center for piston aircraft, Conquests, and Caravans. Lane is also an aircraft parts resource and authorized distributor for Teledyne Continental Motors, Aerospace Welding, and Rapco Fleet Support, to name a few.
Lane Aviation specializes in the sales, brokerage, purchase, and appraisal of aircraft, and is a Part 135 charter provider. Comments Myers, “At the end of 08/09 we took a dip … but we were adjusting before that, and at the beginning of 2010 we were singing again.”
When it comes to marketing, “It’s word of mouth for us; there are no secrets in aviation,” says Evans. “The only thing we really can’t do is fight on price. Our fixed costs are higher; we have more and better equipment; we pay our people well. We find that for the customers we don’t have here … it’s generally a cost issue.”
Part of a network
In July, Paragon Aviation Group (PAG) announced the addition of Lane Aviation to its network of FBOs. PAG represents a group of independent FBOs with similar operating principles.
Comments Myers, “We are still very independent. The thing that we share with other Paragon members is the willingness and the desire to learn from each other.
“When you’re talking about best practices at an independent FBO, it’s very different than a chain. It’s more fluid and we are able to respond to our customers in a way that meets their needs immediately.
“The second benefit is to our based customers, who receive discounts at other Paragon facilities.
“It’s a way for independent FBOs to network and learn from each other — and play off each other’s strengths.”