Branching Out

Branching Out Aircraft sales company moves into the FBO business and looks to turn around an Indianapolis reliever By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director October 2000 MT. COMFORT, IN — Pat Robinson, 36, has worked successfully in...


BELIEVING IN FULL SERVICE
Robinson says he is fully committed to developing a full-service general aviation facility — not just a property manager and fuel reseller.
"An FBO means providing all of the required services to the general aviation community, and I think those services are maintenance, rental and flight training, fuel, charter, storage, and management. An FBO, to serve its customers, has to provide maintenance. If you want to develop future clientele, you have to provide flight training and rental. Everybody wants the fuel business -— that’s easy.
"I’m still new at this; but I believe we’re here to provide a service, and I don’t believe in the fractionalization of it.
"I believe that long-term, a reasonably sized FBO on a nice airport like this, we should be able to provide good flight training and good, well-maintaned airplanes. I need to find the employees to make it happen, but I know I can make it happen. I think the flight school is so complementary -— the flight school buys maintenance from you, it buys fuel from you, it has extra pilots around that the sales department can use. It’s not real profitable, but I think a flight school’s really important."
He agrees that fuel sales, too, are vital to the long-term viability of the FBO. In its first year, Indy Aero has pumped a low of 10,000 gallons a month to a high of 21,000 gallons. "Our fuel sales are slowly going up," says Robinson. "We have invested in refuelers and personnel — more than can be justified by the numbers, plus a new Lektro tug."
An unexpected profit center has arisen with incoming 135 freight operators — Convairs, Beech 18s, and Learjets.
"They don’t want to deal with Indianapolis International’s traffic and congestion. It’s helped us sell another 3,000 to 4,000 gallons a month, and for the fuel business that can be the difference to profitability," says Robinson.
To develop the freight business, which primarily links just-in-time inventory to automobile manufacturers, Robinson hired Jim Sparks, a non-aviation sales management veteran. Sparks has solicited business from some 400 operators within a 700-mile radius of Indianapolis and is exploring the potential of available facilities at International Airport.
He has overseen the purchase of two forklifts, a van, and a freight truck to accommodate the aircraft, and expects to add to the company’s ground fleet by year’s end.

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