Building a Legacy: Family-run FBO continues growth with new facility

By Jodi Prill, Associate Editor

WHITE PLAINS, NY - In 1958 Ted Healy, Sr. turned his love of flight into a business, Panorama Air Tours, by refurbishing a wrecked Luscombe single-engine airplane and offering sightseeing tours of New York City for $9.75. Today, Panorama Flight Service (PFS) is a full-service FBO based at Westchester County Airport here, with annual revenues of $9 million. The 44 years of growth for the company has been engineered by three generations of the Healy family.

My first NBAA Convention was in Dallas, about 1984, I believe. Piper had the brand new Cheyenne 400LS for sale. It would do 400 statute miles per hour, and we Piper sales folk were excited about it. We figured Piper would be the big news at NBAA. It didn’t happen.

Brothers Gene and Ed Condreras and Ken Healy (who took his stepfather’s surname) proudly tell the story of the humble beginnings of Panorama Flight Service. Their grandfather, Ted Healy, Sr. was a CBS cameraman with a passion for flight. He was able to fulfill that passion by offering sightseeing tours from Westchester County Airport around New York City.

Brothers, from left, Ken Healy,
Gene Condreras, and Ed Condreras.

Ted Healy, Jr. worked with his father and eventually took over the business in 1964, adding a twin-engine airplane. In 1966, Panorama began offering on-demand charter service and hauling freight and cancelled checks, operating out of a 4x4-ft. cubicle in the airport terminal.

In 1981, the Healy family business moved into a new facility where they were able to expand and offer full FBO services, including flight training, aircraft sales, fuel, storage, and maintenance. The FBO quickly outgrew the new facility and the family began making plans to expand once again. "All along we intended on building a new facility," Gene says.

In 1986 PFS went to the county with its proposal for a new facility. However, according to the brothers, the county wasn’t ready to accept the expansion. "So we continued to operate out of those cramped quarters and developed a real name for ourselves," Gene says.

GROWTH OPPORTUNITY

In 1997, Westchester County issued an RFP for two FBOs to be built at the airport. Gene explains the county had designated land at the airport to be used to support general aviation. PFS jumped at the opportunity. The county contributed $5.5 million to the project, and PFS picked up the rest of the $11 million in construction costs through an industrial development agency loan.

In 1992 Ted Jr. handed over the company reigns to his three sons, although he remains the sole owner. Gene is president, Ed is VP and treasurer, and Ken is director of charter sales.

In April of this year, PFS moved to its new home on 21 acres of land just west of HPN’s main terminal. New facilities include a 20,000-sq. ft. hangar, 34 T-hangars, and 11,000 square feet of office space which houses the flight school, Cessna aircraft sales, and the charter business. In honor of their father and grandfather, the brothers chose the designation for their new facility to be Hangar T. "For the two Teds," Gene says.

PFS also signed a 30-year lease with Westchester County. Under the agreement, PFS pays a percentage of annual sales as rent.

After 20 years with the same fuel provider, PFS made the decision to enter into a three-year agreement with Texaco, as of November 1. Annual fuel sales at PFS total one million gallons of jet-A and 100,000 gallons of Avgas.

The FBO currently has 60 employees, including Gene’s 20-year-old daughter, Christina.

NEW FINANCIALS

Prior to undertaking the construction of the new hangar, PFS was operating debt-free. Now it has a $5 million loan to contend with, as well as other unexpected expenses.

"We got hit hard with insurance," says Ed. "We knew what gas and electric were going to cost when we moved into the new building; we were able to budget for that. But we missed the mark with insurance ... our insurance renews in October, so it was right after 9/11."

Ed says the company is required to carry $3 million in liability for the flight school alone. However, Gene adds that hangar incidents have been greatly reduced since the move to the new building. The additional space offers the ability to operate more safely.

The effects of 9/11 on the construction of the new facilities are also evident. Gene explains that $150,000 originally budgeted for hangar floor coating and a new sign has been redirected to pay for eight security cameras and perimeter fencing, since installed.

CHARTER AND SECURITY

In 2001, PFS saw combined sales of some $9 million. Ed says much of that, 33 percent, can be attributed to the company’s charter business – a branch that was actually in danger of being cut. "When I took over, the business was set to lose $300,000," Gene says. Ted Jr. wanted to eliminate the charter business, but Gene was against doing away with the company’s roots. Gene was able to make internal cost reductions as well as make connections through trade associations and add a Lear 55 to the company’s charter certificate. He contributes the continued growth of the company to these measures.

Possible TSA requirements for GA security could negatively affect charter sales, and Ken says TSA has been to the facility to "get an idea of what they’re dealing with at FBOs."

"I can see requiring background checks for new clients," Ken says, "but for our regular customers – I know their families and kids, that’s why they pay the extra money to charter a plane, to avoid the hassle at the airports."

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