ONTARIO, CA — Two F-18 Hornets grazed over Guardian Jet Center. Its 5.69-acre campus was dotted with Citations, Brasilias, Falcons, and Lears, all there for the NASCAR Busch Race at the California Speedway in Fontana. The NASCAR weekend generated an influx in aircraft traffic, fuel consumption, and a boost to the local economy. The fortunes of NASCAR, it would seem, have grown quite dependent on the services of aviation.
NASCAR brought in 42 additional aircraft to Guardian Jet Center over the four-day period of the Busch Series event. This is a substantial increase: Guardian Jet Center averages 10 to 15 business aircraft passing through on an average weekend.
A logistical challenge for any fixed base operation, the FBO’s ground crew serviced the aircraft and coordinated accommodations for NASCAR teams on their tight schedules.
“The ground crew is working hard,” comments Stacy Sheard, captain of the Bell 430 helicopter chartered to transport the NASCAR drivers to and from the California Speedway. “They are moving aircraft around here like I have never seen.”
NASCAR pilots like Elwood Gibson were able to wait for the departure call from their NASCAR driver and hoped it wasn’t early due to a crash. The pilots watched the Busch Race on a 72-inch flat screen television and enjoyed a complementary hometown meal provided by Eagle Glen Golf Course’s recognized chef, Brunson Achiu — a “signature” service offered year-round by Guardian Jet Center.
Comments Gibson, driver Matt Kenseth’s pilot for six years, ”We don’t normally get that this type of customer service from an FBO.”
The NASCAR event puts the FBO staff in the midst of one of its busiest weekends, with more than 500 people passing through the Ontario-based operation. “Pilots have several FBOs to choose from,” explains Shawn Beaver, vice president of Guardian Jet Center. “We appreciate that they choose Guardian Jet Center, and that drives us to provide better service.”
He points out that the NASCAR circuit is a close group of friends that share experiences, trade secrets, and consult each other before they try a new fixed base operation.
“We like to meet other pilots and build relationships with the FBOs we use frequently,” says Sheard. Besides refueling and other line services, Guardian Jet Center has available aircraft service and maintenance, and can serve as a liaison for charter.
The NASCAR weekend provides great networking for pilots. Sheard, who charters for Van Nuys-based Elite Aviation, works closely with fixed base operations and charter companies for several of the NASCAR races. For Sheard, an accessible FBO with competitive pricing is key when planning her charter flights.
Guardian Jet Center estimates it pumped nearly 50,000 gallons of fuel as a result of the NASCAR weekend. GJC’s annual fuel volumes are some 1.8 million gallons; the airport’s fuel flowage fee is four cents/gallon.
Although the NASCAR race is a significant weekend for Guardian Jet Center, it is just one of the contributing factors of growth for the fixed base operation. Guardian Jet Center’s combined revenue for 2004 was approximately $14 million, say officials, and its growth track is in line with growth in the region.
The expansion of the Inland Empire — the area east of Los Angeles — in warehousing distribution, commercial, and regional development have all led to Guardian Jet’s increasing transient fuel numbers, as well as exposure to the FBO’s aircraft management program — which it sees as an area for growth — and its executive terminal.
Room for Growth
Real Estate Developer and CEO of Empire Companies, James Previti, established Guardian Jet. Since its launch 20 years ago, Guardian Jet Center has experienced growth in clients and aircraft traffic. Its approach has been to become a cost-effective and efficient one-stop facility for business executives, including NASCAR teams and crews, say officials.
In May 2005, Guardian Jet Center enhanced its facilities with a new 5,500-square foot executive terminal. It includes easy walk-up access, a private conference room, fax and copier machines, free wireless Internet access throughout the lobby, and a pilot’s lounge complete with fitness room, shower, and rest area with a flat-screen television.
“I appreciate the extra pilot amenities such as a shower, television, and workout area that are provided by an FBO,” says Sheard. “We are on the road for long periods of time and we never know when we will have time to exercise and relax as you would at home.”