SAINT SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – At sunset, flying low over the labyrinth of salt marshes, lush maritime forests and sandy beaches that lace together Georgia's Golden Isles, you realize there can be truth in advertising, that a place can live up to its name.
It becomes clear – as your aircraft points toward the runway at McKinnon Airport (SSI) and a world-class golf course rolls into view – that the idyllic seaside resort of St. Simons may just be gold after all.
"The approach is gorgeous, flying over the waves and sand between two islands," explains Larry Wade, owner of Golden Isles Aviation, the sole fixed base operator on the field. "On the right are the island's historic lighthouse and the fishing pier, on the left, a beautiful, seaside golf course in the tradition of Scotland's St. Andrews. Below is the golf resort's Forbes Five-Star lodge with its brick patio where a bagpiper plays every day as the sun sets."
The bucolic resort scene is a stage set for high expectations, particularly for the Fortune 500 crowd of second and third homeowners, as well as the executives on corporate retreats, that often fly into Golden Isles Aviation.
So how does an FBO meet those lofty expectations? Especially an FBO located next to one of the highest-rated golf courses in the world?
Well, if you're Golden Isles Aviation, you hire a golf caddie.
"Caddies are so good at anticipating the needs of their customers," explains Wade. "You're at the third hole. The caddy is going to 'pre-think' it and have everything all ready for you. That caddie has the right club, knows the path your shot should take, which iron to use on the fairway, where the lay rolls and the best approach to the green."
And while Golden Isles Aviation has indeed hired caddies to work the line, Wade says the FBO uses the caddy approach more as an example for great customer service.
"The idea is that we've 'pre-thought' our customer's visit," Wade says. "We want to have all their services and the things they need for their visit ready and waiting for them. So like a caddie at the golf course, we've pre-thought it all out in advance."
With a seasonally shifting population, St. Simons is known as a micropolitan area. At certain times, some 21,000 people live there.
"We are a transient resort destination," Wade explains. "Our aircraft base is a small one. As a destination location, we feel like we really want to provide a comfortable home away from home. So we have well-kept, well-done facilities. They are not overdone, just well done. Our visitors have all they need from an FBO."
Golden Isles recently joined the Phillips 66® Aviation-branded dealer network and now "flies" the legendary wings logo on their ramp. Wade says he always had an affinity for Phillips 66.
"I always thought their programs were great, for both the FBO and pilot," says Wade.
The FBO's line crew is NATA Safety 1st PSLT certified, which falls in well with a Phillips 66 program that gives FBOs access to online training for ramp safety, customer servicing and fuel farm management. Already, Golden Isles Aviation is participating in WingPoints®, the Phillips 66 program that rewards repeat fuel purchases.
As part of its "home away from home" ambience, Golden Isles Aviation offers a nicely appointed pilot's lounge, a pilot's quiet room, showers, a full kitchen and concierge service that arranges discount lodging. Aircraft services include government contract fuel, conference room, overnight hangars, lavatory and GPU, Palmetto Aviation aircraft maintenance and self-serve avgas to complement the full service fueling.