ZIONSVILLE, IN — Later this year, Montgomery Aviation, located here at Indianapolis Executive Airport (formerly Terry Airport), will begin construction of a new terminal. Once a privately owned airfield, the now county-owned airfield and new facility will be reflective of the corporate clientele the husband and wife team of Dan and Andrea Montgomery hope to attract to their FBO. Growth has been significant in the past few years, and the couple expects it will continue as the new terminal and planned infrastructure improvements draw more business to the airport.
Indianapolis Executive Airport is located some 22 miles north of downtown Indianapolis, serving the counties of Boone, Hamilton, and Marion. In 2003, Hamilton county purchased the privately owned airfield for $4.6 million. It was renamed Indianapolis Executive Airport. At the time, says Dan Montgomery, president of Montgomery Aviation, the airport’s fixed base operation, Boone county, in which the airport is located, didn’t have an interest in owning an airport. “Hamilton county saw big potential here,” he says. “They didn’t want to lose an airport.” If Hamilton county ever chooses to sell the airport, Boone county will have the first option on purchasing it.
From FBO Beginnings
Dan’s aviation career includes a stint with local carrier ATA as an aircraft maintenance technician. When he left the airline he was its chief inspector. In 1989 he opened a maintenance shop at Terry Airport. Wife Andrea has been a flight attendant with ATA for some 25 years and holds aviation science and paralegal degrees.
In 2000, Dan and Andrea were presented the opportunity to take over operation of the fixed base operation. “That’s always been my goal,” says Dan, “to have a full-fledged FBO.”
The Montgomerys decided they were up to the challenge of the FBO, quickly realizing they would have to live at the airport because of all the time the business would require, as well as for security and customer service purposes.
“We renovated the back end of the terminal and would cook meals for the pilots,” says Dan. “Our dining room table was where people sat and did flight exams.”
Dan says that shortly after taking over the FBO, business quickly improved. The first year of operation, some 60,000 gallons of jet-A and 100LL were sold. Today the company sells some 600,000 gallons annually. “That’s a vast improvement,” says Dan.
It’s estimated that in 2003 Indianapolis Executive had a $33 million impact on the community, whereas the impact in 2001 was just some $11 million, according to Dan.
The couple was operating out of what airport users named “The Shack.” Both knew they couldn’t have a viable operation unless they expanded and upgraded the facilities. A new terminal with a connecting hangar was built in 2002 with a lobby, offices, and conference room. It was not without challenges, though, says Dan.
Zoning issues stopped the project midway through because neighbors of the airport appealed the expansion. “I had to get a special exception to build this building,” says Dan. The 535-acre airport has since been rezoned for airport use instead of agricultural, allowing the Montgomerys to build hangars without having a public hearing. “It took a lot of time and money, attorneys, and educating people, but this airport needed to be rezoned.”
The Montgomery’s current lease is for 40 years with a ten-year option. Andrea penned the contract with the county and, unlike most airport/FBO agreements, at the end of the lease the buildings will not simply revert back to the airport operator. “The county has to buy the buildings at appraised value,” says Dan.
When Hamilton county purchased the airport, Dan signed on as the airport manager. The agreement is for five years, with another five-year renewal available. The county leased the Montgomerys land at the airport to build a house. “We’re here all the time,” says Andrea, VP of Montgomery Aviation. “Dan’s on duty 24 hours a day; we don’t allow the airport to close.”