FBO Air Inc. Considers Move to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport

PITTSTON TWP. A Scottsdale, Ariz., company with plans to create a national network of air service support operations is considering a move to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, airport officials said Thursday.

The move by FBO Air Inc. could spur the untapped potential of the airports general aviation service and create hundreds of jobs, airport officials said.

The bi-county board of commissioners that oversees airport operations approved a lease for FBO Air Inc. in the existing airport terminal building.

Its my understanding that they plan to move their headquarters from Arizona to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport and proceed with their expansion, said Luzerne County Commissioner Steve Urban.

The move would create new jobs, said Urban, and make more space available for planes in the general aviation operation of the airport, which serves corporate and private aircraft owners.

They're supposed to show us what their plans are next week, said Lackawanna County Commissioner, Robert Cordaro, vice chairman of the board of commissioners which oversees the airport.

Cordaro has pushed for increased general aviation service to complement the commercial service offered by major airlines such as Delta, Northwest, Continental, United and US Airways.

If theyre able to execute on their plan, this will be more significant in the long run than any air service improvement weve had, Cordaro said. There is the potential for hundreds of jobs if the company can follow through, he said. I think theyve discovered that ours is one of the more interesting and exciting markets.

Earlier this month, FBO Air Inc. bought Tech Aviation Service Inc., the fixed based operator of air service support at the airport, for $2 million. Fixed base operators provide services such as fueling, parking of aircraft, repair and maintenance. Tech Aviation became a wholly owned subsidiary known as FBO Air Wilkes-Barre Inc.

Under the terms of the agreement Frank Paczewski, who was a co-owner of Tech Aviation with Ronald Ertley, will stay on with FBO Air Wilkes-Barre.

Paczewski said the office space lease was needed because we are expanding our company. He declined further comment.

The lease approved by the board runs from June 1 through Dec. 31 at a cost of $1,100 a month. Paczewski and an FBO Air official met with the board of commissioners and airport management in executive session prior to the boards monthly meeting Thursday.

Those attending would not disclose the details of the closed-door meeting.

FBO Air Inc. announced its intention to buy Tech Aviation last December.

Jeff Trenk, founder of FBO Air Inc. said the company would build two of its own aircraft hangars to add to the four hangars owned by the airport.

The company said it intended to develop its local operation so that it could attract corporate jet traffic from the suburban Manhattan area airports.

FBO Air Inc., which trades its stock over the counter and not on a recognized securities exchange, said in a November 2004 quarterly report, We are a development-stage enterprise with no revenue. Our goal is to establish a national network of fixed based operators through purchasing and consolidating FBOs in the secondary and tertiary markets within the United States.

The company further detailed its plan for growth, saying it would seek to acquire independent fixed base operators in smaller markets while the industry leaders focused on primary market locations.

The vast majority of these independent operators are single location operators, the quarterly report said.

These operators are relatively unsophisticated, frequently under-capitalized, and, in many instances, seek an exit strategy. It is these operators that are the prime targets of the companys consolidation strategy.

Around the same time of the Tech Aviation purchase, FBO Air Inc. bought Central Plains Aviation Inc. of Garden City, Kan. for $675,000. The wholly owned subsidiary is known as FBO Air-Garden City Inc.

In other business, the number of people boarding planes at the airport in March increased 1,783 or 10.2 percent from the same period a year ago.