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...

He explains that Signature's area managers meet semi-annually with senior managers to talk about issues and the challenges that they face and what each one has done to take care of a particular problem or situation and share best practices. "Signature is a company that prides itself on the fact that we standardize our operations and we try to do everything at all of our locations the same as much as it is practical," says Jorash. "Recognizing that every airport and every facility has its own individual challenges, but the customer should see a standardized product - the signage, the same amenities, crew cars, vans, newspapers, and Gold Cap service that they would see at any other location."

With four locations to track, Jorash credits his team with keeping things running smoothly. "Nothing keeps me awake at night. I work very hard to have the proper people and managers in place to make sure that each of the bases is not waiting for me to make a decision or to be there to make a decision. We have a lot of excellent employees and a lot of talent and a lot of people that like to have fun."

Malec asserts that safety and security are the biggest challenges. "We're proud to say that each of our locations has a full-time Safety & Training Officer. We conduct safety meetings on a regular basis, we have a safety incentive plan that for each month that goes by without an incident, each of our employees receives a monetary bonus." He continues, "Headquarters gives us an awful lot of information that we can use to compare notes from base to base to try and learn from each other's experiences. Also, we are members of the NATA Safety 1st program and all our line technicians are certified. We make it an annual requirement for them to become recertified."

For Jorash and Malec, the busy times for them are Monday through Friday as a majority of their customers are corporate operators.

"Each location has its own busy period," says Jorash. "The majority of corporate business is done during the week and sometimes on a Sunday night where aircraft will be prepositioned for an early meeting on Monday. Usually by Friday afternoon, it's quiet."

When asked about what a typical day for Malec is, he laughs, "Everyday is a typical day in its own way. General aviation is completely unlike the commercial side, GA is unscheduled, so you don't know what times or what flight numbers are coming or going, or when your base customers and transients are leaving and arriving."

He continues, "We utilize flight tracking software that shows aircraft coming to the airport so we can be ready. We have it right in our Line Office. It helps you think as far as if you see an influx of several aircraft coming in around lunchtime, you may need to ask employees to go to their lunches a little earlier or later so that they are available for several aircraft arriving at the same time. Ninety-nine percent of our business is corporate revenue producing aircraft and most of our business is done Monday through Friday."

Best Practices
Certainly, for these two general managers, best practices on operating an FBO have been developed over the years. They offer the following insights as to how they have become successful operations.

"I'm proud to say that I've lived and have encouraged my employees to treat that Cessna 172 as a Gulfstream or a Global Express operator," says Malec, "because some of them do own those as well or they will graduate into them. It's very refreshing for someone to come into my office and say, 'I just want to say thanks because you treated me like a corporate operator even though I'm here just to look at the fall foliage'."

Jorash submits that safety and proper maintenance of equipment is essential. "If you don't have that, you're not going to have good service. Chances are, you're going to have bigger problems than you need. It's real important to stay on top of the equipment that you are relying on to get the service done is in good operating condition and it's not being abused. I personally check that as well. It's part of my job, and I take that part seriously."

What Makes a Good FBO?

Ground Support recently asked two people whose job it is to answer this question on a daily basis. Allen Bretz, Director of General Aviation Sales for ConocoPhillips, a company which boasts nearly 650 Phillips 66-branded FBOs in the U.S., and Caterina Walsh, Director of Customer Relations for Cutter Aviation, which has 7 locations.

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