Serving North Atlanta

Preferred Jet Center weathers the economic storm, positions itself for growth

Ash came to Preferred Jet shortly after the new owners took over, coming from another FBO on the field, Northside Aviation. Says Ash, “I was working for another private FBO under Bob Brown. He was a legend in the local area. There were several of us who worked under him. We had a relationship with the guys that purchased this and then they brought us on board to develop this place.”

Looking ahead
At one time the company had a sister operation, Preferred Maintenance, but got out of that business and prefers today to take a ‘partnering’ approach, according to Ash.
“The airport was going through a transition time in 2001,” he says. “In the past ten, 12 years this airport has come into its own. Being in Atlanta, there are so many options; a lot of full-service maintenance organizations. We allow them to come out and do work if a customer needs it, so nobody is without the service.”

The GM relates that when the new FBO lease was being negotiated, the issue of requiring a full array of services was discussed. Explains Ash, “We were able to make the argument that one, we’re never going to have a customer be without that service. But we’re not going to have a regular business with operating hours as a maintenance facility. Plus, there are piston facilities that have been out here for awhile. If we start doing something like that then we’re in direct competition. Then everybody’s got a lesser piece of the pie.

“So, we made the argument that it was better for the whole when it came to maintenance. We’ve got agreements with maintenance operations depending on what we need. That helped us meet our agreement with the county.”

From a marketing standpoint, Preferred Jet’s primary objective is to change the habits of corporates who fly to and from the Atlanta metro area. McCollom Airport is close enough, yet far enough to be out of the highly congested airspace, says Ash.

“We’re a metropolitan airport without the metropolitan hassles. And we’re a single-runway airport, located at a point where people can get in and out of here quickly. To be as efficient and operate at the level that it does and be consistently one of the top airports in the state, that’s what is distinctive about this airport,” which also has a contract tower.
Ash calls Atlanta a “melting pot city”, which attracts a variety of businesses and thus an array of customers across the business spectrum. “It’s a melting pot of different types of traffic,” he says. “It’s a mix. A lot of people headed downtown use other airports. But that is one argument we’ve been trying to change people’s perceptions about this airport. That is changing; we’ll never get the largest percentage of it.

“We have people that come in here for games and events, for tournaments. March Madness; football games. Cobb Energy Center is a performing arts center right at Loop 285; they hold a lot of events.”

A business park surrounds McCollom Airport, which also provides some of the customer base.

Regarding other higher profile relievers in the Atlanta area, Ash says it’s more an attitude that has to be overcome versus competing directly with airports. “Our competition is not so much any of the other FBOs as it is trying to change people’s perception about Peachtree-DeKalb or Fulton County [airports]. There are a lot of people who use those airports who don’t even know this airport exists. They go into those airports as creatures of habit. For us, it’s a matter of trying to educate people to look at the options. Getting in and out of our airspace is a lot quicker.”

Preferred Jet is also in early discussions with the airport for more space on the field, which would allow the FBO to expand its services, likely through partnerships, says Ash.

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