Handling 11,000 Aircraft: At EAA's AirVenture, line service was already a challenge; enter a second FBO

FUELING/LINE OPS/SAFETY By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director HANDLING 11,000 AIRCRAFT At EAA's AirVenture, line service was already a challenge; enter a second FBO OSHKOSH, WI - Okay, the two FBOs that serve Wittman Field here...


FUELING/LINE OPS/SAFETY

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

HANDLING 11,000 AIRCRAFT

At EAA's AirVenture, line service was already a challenge; enter a second FBO

OSHKOSH, WI - Okay, the two FBOs that serve Wittman Field here don't actually handle all 11,000 incoming aircraft arriving at Oshkosh and neighboring airports for the annual EAA AirVenture. It just feels like 11,000. Orion Flight Services, Inc., the new refueler on the block, and Basler Flight Service, the perennial known more for its DC-3 turbo-mods, took on the job that was once Basler's exclusively. Order tickets for both firms were given to arriving pilots; fuel was upon request solely. In the mass of movement that is AirVenture; safety must be a state of mind.

Nearly 800,000 people, a variety of aircraft that only a historical encyclopedia could match, and what's billed as the world's busiest airport for a week - in Oshkosh, WI.

And two FBOs.

For more than 30 years, Basler has been the fixed base operation at Wittman Field, host of EAA. A minimal commercial airport that has seen airline service come and go, losing it to Appleton some 20 miles to the north, Wittman has one predominant customer: the Experimental Aircraft Association, along with its museum and the air show.

Orion Flight Services, located on the wing of the main commercial terminal under a five-year, renewable lease, is the newcomer. It also operates an FBO at Sturgeon Bay Airport, a general aviation facility.

Jeff Wanke Above, Jeff Wanke, president of Orion Flight Services, is the new kid
on the EAA block; below, Mary Garcia, GM, and Brian McBryde, line manager,
direct Basler Flight service, established in 1957.
Mary Garcia, GM, and Brian McBryde

PRICE, VOLUMES
The biggest effect, according to officials related to the event, that having two FBOs for AirVenture in 2003 was a significant decrease in price for the thousands of customers. The jet-A price from both FBOs: $1.89/gallon. For avgas, Basler charged $1.99, Orion $2.19.

Wittman Field airport director Duncan Henderson reports that the volume of fuel pumped related to AirVenture in 2002 was 220,000 gallons (for July, month of the show). The numbers have tracked up in recent years, he says, and he was optimistic about 2003's final numbers, of which the airport gets a 7 cents/ gallon fuel flowage fee.

"I would assume the 2003 numbers would be higher because the prices have been so low," says Henderson.

Comments Orion president Jeff Wanke, "We know we're going up against a competitor who's been here 30-plus years. We'd be happy with one-third of the business [from the air show].

"The biggest complaint we heard from pilots is that the prices here were too high. So our task coming here was to be more competitive on fuel pricing."

Wanke says that at the Sturgeon Bay location, the FBO surveys 12 neighboring airports on price whenever a new load of fuel arrives. "We always wanted to be at average [price] or below," says Wanke. "Toby [Kamark, CEO] and I are pilots. I fly charter and training and expect to get good fuel pricing at other airports."

Regarding the disparity in avgas fuel prices between the two FBOs Wanke says, "If I don't make money, I'm not here. The price we're charging is a great price."

Counters Basler general manager Mary Garcia, "We have never raised our prices for a convention... Those are great rates; it's like having Christmas in July."

About having a new competitor she says, "It has affected us somewhat."

In all, says Garcia, the EAA show accounts for one-third of the company's annual revenues. Basler is well-known for its DC-3 turbo conversion business, here at Wittman Field.

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