AvCenter at Wilmington

AvCenter at Wilmington Growing network focuses on core FBO services, just-in-time cargo at its Delaware location By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director September 2001 Mike Peery, left, and John Harden are in charge of...

For the most part, says Harden, the FBO AvCenter here is very much a traditional operation, with a core business base of based light aircraft. The flight training business was sold to Delaware Skyways, which remains in the AvCenter facility as a subtenant. "We felt it was important to maintain the tradition of the flight school here, but did not think it was a core business for us," explains Harden.
"There were a lot of different dimensions to this facility. The intent was to look at the various businesses and focus on where we saw our strengths, but not necessarily undermining all the things that were in motion. The flight school is an example of how we spun it off but kept it in motion.
"What the previous owners had been successful in doing was building a following not only on the tenant side but also on the transient side, which is where we wanted to focus our energies."
Of the five FBOs in the AvCenter chain, Wilmington is the only one at which the FBO doesn’t have into-plane business. (The other FBOs are at Biloxi-Gulfport, MS; and Pittsburgh; and Louisville.) New Castle County Airport has had commercial air service in the past — most recently by Spirit America — and it remains a target of both DCRA and AMPORTS, both report.
Meanwhile, what has grown into a significant core business at Wilmington has been serving as an ad hoc cargo handler for just-in-time inventory for nearby automotive assembly plants for Chrysler and Saturn, according to Harden.
"This airport has an interesting role to play because just-in-time figures very closely into the strategy that the automakers have here, as well as timed deliveries that are flown into here in DC-8s, DC-9s, down to Learjets. There’s no onsite storage. It’s basically a throughput process; we get it off the airplane with our small fleet of trucks and actually take it right to the assembly line and the parts go right onto the line. There’s no staging of these materials.
"The cargo is another piece that was part of the acquisition. It has its place in our business."

TARGET: More FBOS; Airport Contracts
Both Harden and operations manager Mike Peery are charged with the task of bringing new FBOs under the AMPORTS umbrella. Peery serves as GM for the Wilmington and Louisville FBOs, the latter being where he has worked for both previous owners, Butler Aviation and Signature Flight Support. He is responsible for integrating a newly acquired base into the AMPORTS way of doing business.
"What we’re trying to do is build and grow a system (of FBOs)," explains Peery. "The parts are all identical in presenting a business climate and a very basic attitude designed around the customer. While each location has its own local personality, there is a link between this AvCenter and the others. We’re trying to build a network of FBOs, strategically located in good markets."
Harden says the company is taking a serious look at "five or six" possible FBO acquisitions at present.
He also heads up the contract airport management business that includes facilities at Teterboro, NJ, and White Plains, NY. "We’re focusing our energies on where can we help create a solution for an airport owner," he says. "We have about four or five different airport management opportunities that aren’t in response to something being issued."

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