ADDISON, TX — The Million Air fixed base operation here has been involved in a lot of industry history in the past 26 years; in fact, when it opened it set a new standard for corporate aviation service facilities while introducing the franchise concept in 1985. The FBO grew out of the Mary Kay cosmetics company’s corporate flight department, and Mary Kay Ash’s son Richard Rogers remains the owner. Relates Million Air president Jack Hopkins, who has been with the company since the beginning, “We’ve been very lucky that we’ve had the same owner throughout who has had a total commitment to the business. So, I guess we’re still operating old school.” When it comes to operations, however, the company is more new school, says Hopkins, with increasing success in aircraft management, augmenting its ongoing history with line/hangar services. And the growth in charter/management is impacting how the FBO goes to market.
When Million Air opened its doors, the FBO industry was a different animal, agrees Hopkins. The idea of investing millions into a fixed base operation dedicated to corporate aviation customers was a fairly new one. And, at a time when the industry sector was in decline, it was questioned by some as a bad investment, or by those who objected to the name.
Recalls Hopkins, “When Richard built this place, people thought he was crazy. This was one of the first really nice FBOs built. At that time, a typical FBO was a hangar with a side facility.
“They also thought he was crazy to be at Addison Airport,” which lies some 20 miles north of downtown Dallas; Love Field is positioned between the two.
“It was a struggle through the ‘80s and ‘90s; things really started picking up mid-90s; the fractionals started to have an impact,” adds Hopkins.
“As time has gone on, this type facility has become more the norm, and today you have people that are spending $10, 20, 30 million to build an FBO.”
The Million Air campus at Addison features seven corporate hangars, encompassing some 95,000 square feet of aircraft storage space. A recent addition at the facility has been U.S. Customs, which is having the added benefit of introducing the FBO location to some who normally use Love Field, according to Hopkins.
“They live here in our facility, which has been a nice thing,” he says. “We even get a lot of aircraft based out of Love Field who clear through here nights and weekends; we’re 24/7 whereas Love Field is pretty much normal hours, Monday through Friday.
“The city of Addison stepped up and agreed to pay the salary to have an agent here full time. We offered to give them the space.”
Increasing Emphasis on Charter/Management
Hopkins explains that the FBO has placed a heavy emphasis over the past five or so years on growing the aircraft management business, and subsequently charter. That has also led to expansion of the in-house maintenance department, which services aircraft under the Million Air umbrella.
The company currently has some 20 aircraft under its charter/management division — everything up to a G-450, says Hopkins. All planes are based at Addison except for Hawkers based at Love Field and at Spirit of St. Louis Airport outside St. Louis.
He explains, “We’ve been able to build a nice fleet of aircraft; at the same time, I think we’ve really improved our reputation, and it’s really coming around to bring us a lot of business.
“We had a local guy just the other day, a guy who has owned airplanes forever, who dropped off a Citation here and said, ‘I hear you’re the place to put my airplane on certificate. Let’s do it.’ It was that easy.
“It’s a small world, and your reputation is the most important thing. It’s one thing reaching the pilots and crews, but the aircraft owners and charter customers are a whole other group. And it’s kind of tough to get into that group. We’ve been working hard there; done a lot of functions here to bring people out.”
... brings to light how far the corporate aviation services business has come in the past quarter century. An eventual product of the corporate flight department of the Mary Kay cosmetics empire...
Survey also ranks Million Air Dallas as the number 4, Million Air Houston as the number 6, and Million Air Salt Lake City as the number 19 FBO out of the 35 U.S. FBOs