How do you host a large, multi-million dollar display of the latest business aircraft, along with thousands of visitors and scores of additional flights, while running your normal fixed base operations like nothing is out of the ordinary?
If you’re Showalter Flying Service – Florida’s oldest and largest family-run FBO – you spend months preparing, you work with the State of Florida to resurface 25 acres of ramp, you recruit top line and customer service pros from across the land, and then you do what you’ve always done, take care of your clients like you have for the 22,000 other days you’ve served Orlando Executive Airport (ORL).
When the 2012 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Annual Convention rolls into Orlando, with a static display of the latest executive aircraft drawing a steady stream of visitors, Showalter Flying Service will be ready, saysKim Showalter, President and CEO of Showalter Flying Service.
After all, for this longtime Phillips 66® Aviation-branded dealer, it will be their eighth time hosting the NBAA display – while handling a dramatic jump in transient flights, pumping thousands of more gallons jet fuel, and serving based customers like it’s just another normal week for general aviation in Central Florida.
“We love to host the NBAA,” says Showalter. “The demands are large, the work hard, but it gives us a great opportunity to reach out to both our customers and visitors from all over the world. Many of the NBAA visitors get their first impression of Showalter Flying Service during the convention, so this is our chance to show what we can do.
“It circles back to our purpose, which has been the same since the FBO began in 1945. We’re here to show people how convenient and satisfying business and general aviation can be.”
In fact, when Howard and “Sandy” Showalter and their cousin “Buck”Rogers bid to become the FBO at Orlando in 1951, they were flying against the grain of an airport facing decline. The city-run airport had a reputation for poor service, the story goes. Transients were avoiding the place, and only three aircraft remained based there.
But the Showalter brothers and Rogers saw an opportunity.
“Their premise was that they were not in the business of selling fuel and servicing aircraft, they were in the business of taking care of pilots and passengers,” explains Kim Showalter, who has headed up the FBO since 1994.
Today it’s clear the founders of Showalter Flying Service succeeded. The FBO, still run by the Showalter family, is one of the most successful in the South.
Static display: Anything but static
For the 2012 NBAA Convention, the static display will feature more aircraft on more square footage than when Showalter last hosted the event two years ago.
The Florida Department of Transportation is rebuilding and expanding Orlando Executive’s north ramp to an open area of about 25 resurfaced acres. The $1.1 million project will finally repair damage sustained eight years ago during Hurricane Charley.
And while the NBAA static display is open to the public for three days, it takes over the ramps at Showalter Flying Service for over two weeks. Setting up, hosting and tearing down the display – while accommodating the 175 based aircraft on-site – makes the event a logistical challenge.
It’s an effort that requires Showalter to recruit extra line techs and customer service reps from FBOs across the country – and immersing them in Showalter’s customer service training.