A New, Upscale J.A. Air Center

Avionics and maintenance center becomes full-service FBO with move to Aurora


J.A. had already informed DuPage that it was moving on, leaving it with less than a year to work out plan B and make the move in order to open the facilities at Aurora by the designated start date of December 1, 2008.

J.A. worked with Rieser to identify possible alternatives that would allow the FBO to be capable of all the services included in plan A. The ultimate solution, a result of a collaborative effort, and according to Rieser, “A lot of give and take by both parties involved,” consisted of completely revamping an old BP hangar and three additional buildings, which already housed several tenants with short-term lease agreements.

The new arrangement did displace the tenants of the existing buildings, yet most were able to remain at the airport by moving into alternative facilities. “We had to adapt and improvise,” says Rieser. “By and large, I think it all worked out well.”

J.A. contracted a corporate client, Ryan Companies, a commercial real estate design and build firm, for the construction and renovation of the existing facilities. Ryan was able to complete the project in less than four and a half months, ensuring that J.A. would be operational by the projected opening. “Ryan was very proactive from the get-go, and they have a fantastic reputation for being on-time and on-budget,” relates Zeman. “It was a race, but it got done.”

Owner Klotz describes plan B as a “magnificent solution” and credits Zeman, Rieser, and J.A. sales manager Scott Fank with effectively cooperating with each other to refine a plan that reflects the FBO’s capabilities. “The attitude and willingness of the airport authority made the deal a slam dunk,” says Klotz.

Private activity airport bonds were authorized to fund the project, explains Rieser. “The city looked at their financials and felt comfortable; they have been very supportive of what we have been doing out here.

First-class, full-service
J.A. Air Center sales were down some 15-20 percent last year; however, the last couple months have shown significant growth. Since its opening, J.A. has already added some 100 new customers to its base. Zeman attributes this to their full-service capabilities. “Many people were doing business elsewhere because they had to; this airport was looking for an alternative, and we offer that,” he says.

Randy Fank, operations manager for J.A., relates that most FBOs are not typically a one-stop shop. “We have it all; we have a company that can be an entire support system for an aircraft,” says Fank.

“Having everything at one location just makes it easier for the customer to decide,” says Zeman. “We always provided these services, we just didn’t have the FBO part, so we had no customers based with us.

“Now that we offer first-class basing accommodations, we offer a real viable alternative for the business aviation community.”

J.A. is a Part 135 charter company and a Part 145 repair station, which includes avionics and maintenance. Additional profit centers include fuel sales, transient storage, flight instruction, aircraft sales, detailing, and a pilot shop. The new facilities consist of more than 90,000-square feet of hangar space, 60,000-square feet of corporate office rental space, and a 20,000-square foot arrival/departure canopy large enough to handle corporate jet aircraft. The expansion has necessitated the addition of 20 new employees, an increase of 25 percent.

The new 11,000-square foot FBO terminal offers premium amenities which include conference rooms, a business center, a VIP lounge, sleep rooms, private showers, a game room, and an exercise room. “We knew we needed to give a high level of finish to the FBO facility,” says Zeman. “The business customer expects it.”

Relates Klotz, “The larger facility will help people realize that we can handle avionics and maintenance at all levels.

“The perception of J.A. coming out of the smaller facility at DuPage, and moving into a larger modern facility gives us a lot more credibility.

“There are few FBOs that have the kind of full-service capabilities we have. We liken ourselves to an aviation campus that can start you out in a [Cessna] 150 and end you up in a G4.”

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