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...

As Basler line service manager Brian McBryde explains, "There is nothing typical about EAA.

"When people come to EAA, it's for a reason; they're excited, happy to be here."

Thus, customer service is paramount, and when it comes to fueling that means a significant change in line operations for the FBOs.

Both have traditional fuel farms and two refuelers, one for jet-A, one for 100LL.

At Basler, AirVenture means having a total of 16 refuelers, with Phillips 66 providing the fleet. Line employees balloon from the normal six to some 33, most former employees or people that work in aviation who have a history with Basler. Though volunteers, they are considered part-timers during the event.

For Orion's first AirVenture, the FBO had a total of some 40 people working line operations, again volunteers with other aviation experience and relationships with the FBO. Fuel supplier Texaco provided nine new refuelers as well as onsite quality control. Says Orion's Wanke, "I would have liked to have had double."

EAA AirVentures In 2002, some 220,000 gallons of fuel were pumped at Wittman Field in July, when EAA AirVenture is held.

With new personnel comes a renewed emphasis on training, say officials from both FBOs. At Orion, it's a weekend of training for each individual who will be working the show. At Basler, fire safety and training for any drivers new to the airport is emphasized.

In a sea of people and airplanes there is little need for FBOs chasing customers. As a result, the FBOs and EAA put in place a procedure by which incoming pilots are given service order tickets for each FBO from EAA volunteers, who greet and park the aircraft.

Each pilot decides which FBO it wants and puts the completed order form on the prop. Says Basler's McBryde, "EAA has taken a position of neutrality" regarding FBO services.

According to Orion's Wanke, EAA sought an environment in which aircraft owners were not intimidated by competing FBOs and in which safety and professionalism reigned.

Comments Wanke, "We tried to get procedures in place, to pre-engineer them." Part of that effort included a list of on-the-job dos and don'ts for employees.

"One of the hardest things to get my people to do is to look at the big picture," says Wanke, "to realize you can't help everybody to the depth you'd normally want, because there's ten people waiting for service."

EAA Fast Facts

The 51st annual Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, celebrated the centennial of flight July 29-August 4.

  • Total estimated attendance: 770,000
  • Total estimated aircraft flown to the event (at OSH and surrounding airports): 11,000
  • Total showplanes in 11 judging categories: 2,960 (record; previous record 2,743 in 1998). Includes 825 homebuilts, 1,224 vintage, 405 warbirds, 357 ultralight/light planes, 129 seaplanes and 20 rotorcraft.
  • Registered media: 1,075 from five continents
  • Commercial exhibitors: 807
  • International visitors registered: 2,249 from 68 nations (Top three: Canada 516, South Africa 366, Australia 266)
  • Campers attending: An estimated 33,000
  • Volunteers: More than 4,500
  • EAA AirVenture 2004: July 27-August 2; visit www.eaa.org or www.airventure.org.

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