Handling the FBOs

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. October 2003 What is an FBO? Depends on who you ask, but the acronym can stand...

At Your Service
Signature provides GA services for corporate and private aircraft that come in with the exception of aircraft maintenance at most facilities, but it is offered at some such as its BED facility. "We fuel, deice, and we have hangar storage facilities," Jorash explains. "Customers want a very nice facility that can handle a Photo courtesy of TACAir - BDLcorporate client and represent them well by handling all their needs with good customer service. We will not only fuel their aircraft, but will bring their catering to the aircraft - coffee, ice, newspaper. We have a Gold Cap service using a Q-Cart, which is a quick cleaning cart with vacuum cleaner; we'll wipe down windows and tables, take the trash out, etc. We get a lot of calls for our Gold Cap service."

Malec says that TACAir offers ChevronTexaco fuel, aircraft towing, catering, weather reporting, van rides, rental cars, and hangar storage of aircraft. "We have two groups of customers, what we refer to as our Based customers and Transient customers. Another company does deicing for us, but we process the invoicing so that it is transparent for our customers. We outsource aircraft cleaning and maintenance. We have two or three vendors that we call that are security cleared to operate amongst my facilities unescorted. So, when we get requests for either of those, we assist and support our customers by calling in the proper parties."

Malec relishes receiving feedback from customers regarding their experience at his facility. "I really do appreciate a customer who represents him or herself with something that could be perceived as a negative. I value that customer more than the one you never see again. It gives you a chance to fix something and to become a better organization and hopefully, salvage that relationship with that customer."

FBO Equipment
"We handle everything from a 152 to a 747," says Jorash. "We have 25 pieces of GSE not including towbars. We have Lektro units and propane-powered equipment. We have a Safety Vac vacuum cart. We have two versions of Lektro tow arounds. For fuelers, we have a 3,000-gallon Rampmaster, 1,000-gallon Isuzu for AvGas, and a 10,000-gallon Rampmaster for large fuelings."

He continues, "We don't use universal towbars. In many applications, we have specific guidelines on which ones we will use. For the most part, we tend to go with the manufacturer's recommended towbars."

Jorash lists other necessary FBO equipment, which includes tugs, towbars and towbar heads, Q-cart for cleaning of aircraft, and a deice truck - capable of pumping Type I and Type IV fluids. Also, a van to bring passengers to the terminal and back, golf carts, crew cars for the crews to take when they fly in and want to go off campus to get lunch etc. Also, floor scrubbers, sweepers for hangar floors, a spill response vehicle, AvGas truck, jet truck, lav carts and water carts. "We have a just-in-time type arrangement for GSE parts except for high use parts," he says. "For preventive maintenance items we have contracts with local and national parts suppliers. If we don't own the equipment, we have a place where we can rent it. We do significant safety checks on the equipment to make sure it's okay to use before we use it on the aircraft."

Malec is responsible for all equipment purchases at his facility. "My old Rolodex is tattered and my 26 years of experience helps me." He explains that equipment purchases include anything from tugs, towbars, portable lav carts, fueling equipment, hoses and nozzles, anti-icing and fuel additives; as well as smaller supplies such as marshalling wands, vests, chocks,and safety cones. "We probably have 8-10 different vendors," he says. "It's such a small world, there are a few that have their own niches."

Malec offers that TACAir has an in-house person who does minor GSE repairs - the tuneups and PM work and batteries, hoses, belts, couplers, etc. "We farm out the larger maintenance, the engine changes and things like that," he says. "There's a company on the airport that does it for us. We just drive or tow the equipment to them."

Equipment purchases at Signature are handled a little differently. "Our VP of GSE, Andy Reeves, makes the decisions, but we are responsible for requesting equipment," Jorash explains. "We do our own GSE maintenance at White Plains and BED and we outsource to our sister company, Aircraft Services International at BDL and BOS, but it's all under Andy Reeves' group. We have a program within the company - a preventive maintenance program - that's pretty extensive. When a piece of equipment has gone beyond its useful life, then we look to replace it. We typically try to utilize the equipment the best we can without nursing it, because the service factor requires that you have operational equipment and no breakdowns. We do plan, so if we have to do an emergency engine or transmission, we do that during the year. But, if it's capital, we plan our capital to replace equipment on a schedule."

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