Fixed Base Operators offer a look inside the day-to-day business of customer service on the general aviation side of the airport ramp, reports Michelle Garetson.
What is an FBO? Depends on who you ask, but the acronym can stand for Fixed Base Operator and Fixed Base Operations. Definitions for FBO range from the FAA's version: FBO (Fixed Base Operator): An airport-based business which parks, services, fuels, and may repair aircraft; often rents aircraft and provides flight training. The term was coined to differentiate FBO; from business or individuals without an established place of business on the airport; to an aviation insurance company's definition: Fixed Base Operations: FBO operations are diverse in scope and range from providing corporate aircraft services such as fueling, maintenance and hangaring to Part 135 charter operations and aircraft management services to providing flight instruction and a host of other services to the aviation community; to simply, FBO - Fixed-Base Operator: The aircraft equivalent of a full-service gas station.
The number of FBOs also vary depending on who you ask, but the estimated number in the U.S. falls somewhere between 2,500 to 4,000. However defined, one thing rings true - FBOs in any shape or form have to be prepared for all types of customers.
View From The Ground
Larry Jorash is Area General Manager for Signature Flight Support locations at Bradley International (BDL) in Windsor Locks, CT;, Laurence G. Hanscom Field Airport in Bedford, MA; Logan International Airport (BOS), in Boston, MA; and Westchester County Airport (HPN) in White Plains, NY. He is an area general manager, but is directly the general manager for BDL and BOS and then has oversight responsibilities for BED and HPN. He spends most of his time at BOS.
Ed Malec has been General Manager for the last five years for TACAir, a division of Truman Arnold Companies, at BDL, but started there in 1977 with the Air Kaman FBO as a GSE mechanic and did that for 10 years. "We handled both commercial and GA - Aviation refuelers, deicers, heating/AC vehicles, GPUs, etc." says Malec. "I even implemented a rebuilding shop for all of our nozzles and ground reels and internal tank valves-that a lot of FBOs ship off to have vendors repair/refurbish - was doing it in-house."
Malec recalls each change of regime over the years at BDL. "Air Kaman was the FBO, that was bought out by Combs Gates. Then, a brokerage firm, Integrated Resources, bought us for a quick buy/sell, and then sold to AMR Combs, who then sold to Signature Flight Support. Signature sold to TACAir and it's been TACAir since December 1999."
Running The Gamut
"We serve the Bombardier Global Express, LearJet, Challenger aircraft, Raytheon Hawker, Cessna Citation series, Sikorsky Helicopters, and a lot of GA piston aircraft from the Cessna 152 on up," says Jorash. "We see some interesting aircraft. In a lot of cases, we'll also handle sports flights, or private charters or private owner aircraft that are flying in Boeing Business Jets - the 737-800 or 900 series aircraft. Occasionally, we may get 747s or L-1011s for private use, so we can see the entire gamut of aircraft on the GA side."
Malec echoes Jorash in that his operations also sees a variety of aircraft. "We do handle 727s and smaller, but on a regular basis 727s are a little more sporadic. We handle a lot of the sports charters and we have the occasional 727 corporate-configured aircraft, but the mainstream of our business are the Bombardier Global Express and Gulfstream Vs and smaller. We do occasionally handle the BBJ on a transient basis, and Challengers and Lears, and Citations." He continues, "We own all of our own equipment and we're geared up for all of the different brands, makes, and models. I'm proud to say that we have handled and do still handle Air Force One and presidential campaign trails. We usually have a lot of candidates come through our facilities and have for many years."