'INTERESTING CROSSROADS' Out West, an FBO remains upbeat about the prospects for GA

By John F. Infanger , Editorial Director SALT LAKE CITY — While some people fear what paranoia might wreak upon the aviation industry, William Haberstock, CEO of Million Air SLC and related companies, still believes in general aviation’s...

The charter division is Business Aviation Management, and the Intermountain Air division serves as the Piper distributor and Cessna parts center. Piper aircraft are sold through Arizona Piper, based at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, with service centers throughout its territory of Idaho, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Nevada.

The company offers ground support and into-plane refueling services to commercial carriers JetBlue and Frontier, and cargo handling for Frontier, America West, and Continental. It has also ventured into GSE maintenance, which Haberstock says has potential for growth.

There are some 175 employees overall, 25 at the Provo fixed base operation that also features a five-air-craft flight training operation. The company added Provo in 1999, and recently completed a new executive terminal under a 30-year lease agreement. The company offers light aircraft maintenance at both FBOs.

The charter/aircraft management aspect of the business continues to grow, says Haberstock, without any one business sector being the predominant user.

"By being a full-service aviation company," explains Haberstock, "we’ve developed that business. When we bought it in 1995, there were no airplanes here. We’ve been approved by Wyvern and their audit; by Net Jets; both in our maintenance and our FBO. We’ve tried to run everything to be held out in their top tier.

" We don’t have any large parent organizations here. Our user base is all over the board; part of it’s Net Jets, part of it’s brokerage, part of it’s people based here or people visiting."

He credits having a wide array of executive aircraft available as a key reason for success with charter. The company has 14 turbine aircraft on its certificate, from Gulfstreams to Hawkers to a Pilatus PC-12. "People call us and we give them quick answers and then we perform ,so we get repeat business. "

"We never do seem to get to the 3-day work week"

It’s not like the fixed base operation was too far behind: It had a server with 70 computer workstations in place when Loder arrived in May, 2001 to become the company’s first full-time IT manager.

He recalls, "We have upgraded to four file servers and have basically replaced each of the 70 computers. What that did for us was to take us from the platform of an old Novell server and a smattering of operating systems, typically Windows 95 or 98, and graduated up to the Windows 2000 operating system on the servers, which is the replacement of the Windows NT server platform.

"With Windows 2000 in place, we now have a little more control with the security of users who can log in — authorized people who can connect to our network, our traveling pilots, and executives.3

"When I met these folks, their equipment was archaic, the network was slow and dangerously overloaded. It had very little security across the board, [from] virus protection to everybody having their passwords in bright letters on the wall."

Some of the cost estimates from Loder on the company’s computer system upgrade:

  • $600-700 per unit for some 50 new computers; others were rebuilt from parts and spares; average cost with monitor: $1,000;
  • 2 printers; $1,000 each;
  • 2 new file servers; $6,000 per unit;
  • "countless man hours."

"We do more work now, faster and better with technology improvements in our lives, and yet its probably difficult to recognize because the more you can do, the more you do do. We never do seem to get to the 3- day work week. We work more and push that envelope on how much more we can do.

"In my dealings with other people in the industry, I find it’s quite a luxury to have a full-time IT guy. For this place, the first thing the FBO realized in hiring me is that I’m no longer an outside vendor; I don’t have to be called in to get something done. I’m less expensive as a salaried employee.

"Bill [Haberstock] and I can talk and we develop the system on an ongoing basis. A big advantage of an internal IT guy is being able to discuss the big picture."

Loder says an in-house training capability and program are another advantage. One server is dedicated to training and testing of new programs. "I want to try it, to use it before it goes live," says Loder.

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