SALT LAKE CITY – Each winter, drawn by fluffy, powdery snow falling in abundance along the soaring Wasatch Mountains, flocks of skiers and, yes, film celebrities descend in private aircraft to TAC Air’s newest fixed base operations at Salt Lake City Airport (SLC) and Provo Municipal Airport (PVU).
With an airport-to-slopes drive time less than many daily commutes, it’s no wonder these FBOs – two of the newest Phillips 66® Aviation-branded dealers – are popular destinations.
Snowboarders and skiers can fly into these TAC Air FBOs, have a ramp-side limo pick them up, and in under an hour be gliding down thousands of vertical feet across thousands of acres of terrain – beckoning from no less than seven closeby resorts. And the icing on the cake? All of it is frosted by dry, downy snow, the stuff downhill skiing dreams are made of.
On big winter holidays like Christmas/New Year’s and the opening of the famous film festival at Sundance, TAC Air Salt Lake handles some 140 arrivals and 100 departures daily. That’s an extraordinary amount of traffic for any FBO, let alone one managing the challenges of snow, ice, freezing weather and varied customer needs.
But at TAC Air Salt Lake City, says its General Manager Mike McCarty, the crew is as zealous about keeping customers happy and on schedule as downhill skiers are about discovering waist-high powder.
“The passion our crew has for service is amazing,” says McCarty. “We have really benefited from a full-service approach because we can feed off each other’s departments, teams and resources to provide solutions and know-how for our customers.”
The Phillips 66 Aviation FBO succeeds, explains McCarty, by creating a full-service, 24/7/365-day experience that is all-encompassing.
One example: a staggering half-million square feet of space in 25 hangars, full of based customers, flight departments and service providers. It’s an extraordinary footprint few FBOs can challenge.
And then there is TAC Air SLC’s investment in advanced deicing capabilities, plus its five snow-clearing trucks with broad, 32-foot blades. The FBO responds so quickly it’s earned the respect of major airlines, which often call on TAC Air SLC to keep their ramps cleared and planes on schedule.
“All our deicers feature air-to-ground radios so that pilots are talking directly to crew members,” explains McCarty. “Hand signals can frustrate pilots, but here they can communicate to the deicing crews directly on radio so they know step-by-step, what’s going on. When it’s snowing, we also have the ability to pull in a lot of resources so that there are no delays with our customers’ flight plans.”
But then, McCarty is a thirty-year veteran of weather-challenged aviation, one who helped keep aircraft moving during the busy 2002 Winter Olympics. It was an event that introduced Salt Lake to the world – and a host of companies were lured into relocating.
“The Olympics showed what Utah and Salt Lake represents and the resources we have available,” McCarty says. “Now it seems like the state is on fire with business and growth. It is exciting to be part of it.”
With Utah’s 3.5 percent annual growth during the last five years – more than any state other than oil-laden North Dakota – the FBO has leapt on the opportunity, growing its hangar space from 22,000 square feet in 1995 to today’s 500,000 square feet.
To meet the demands of business aviators, the FBO also built a reputation as a quick-turn specialist. That quick-turn capability complements TAC Air SLC’s pilot and passenger amenities, with meeting rooms, pilot lounges, theater, luxury crew cars and free shuttles.
“Our customer experience on the ground is designed to be fast, productive, comfortable and relaxing,” says McCarty.
Large charter and maintenance departments have also helped TAC Air SLC grow its base of business aviation customers.
“We are just fortunate to be in this area and be able to service those aircraft that are coming into Salt Lake.”
Deep snow, deeper service
And service is something TAC Air SLC delivers.
In 2011, the world’s largest fractional jet company named the Salt Lake location “FBO of the Year,” while a leading aviation magazine’s annual pilot survey ranked the facility in the top one percent of all individual location FBOs.
TAC Air acquired the Salt Lake and Provo FBOs this year, building the general aviation chain to 14 locations. According to Greg Arnold, President & CEO of TAC Air parent Truman Arnold Companies, the aviation group views the acquisition as ideal, matching the Salt Lake FBO’s award-winning approach with the aviation group’s success at being regularly named one of the top FBO chains in industry surveys.
“We’re very excited about the synergy of combining the service levels of these operations,” Arnold explains.
“This move brings many positive things to the users of SLC and PVU, as well as the other TAC Air locations,” says Christian Sasfai, TAC Air VP & COO. “We’re going to deliver the best of both operations to our customers in the 14 markets we serve. Consolidation and resource-sharing has become a necessary component of today’s aviation-services industry in order to provide high-quality, low-cost products and services to aircraft owners and operators.”
At Salt Lake and Provo, aircraft charter, management, maintenance and sales and brokerage services are provided under the Keystone Aviation brand. TAC Air Company operates Keystone with industry veteran Bill Haberstock at the helm.
The jets and single-engine aircraft that fill TAC Air Salt Lake and TAC Air Provo’s ramps each winter carry skiers and snowboarders to the doorstep of what many call the greatest powder skiing in the world. Fueled by salinity from the Great Salt Lake, 500 inches of dry snow can fall from November to March on the world-renowned ski resorts of Alta, Brighton, Deer Valley, Park City, Solitude, Sundance and The Canyons. Two years ago, the “lake effect” dumped 696 inches of snow on Alta.
Each resort offers different experiences, making Salt Lake popular for all skiers, from professional to novice. Amenities on the slopes vary from super luxury to modest. The entire resort offering is a draw that keeps the TAC Air SLC crew hopping during ski season.
And then there’s the film festival at the Sundance resort, a January event that draws in movie directors, actors and producers the world over.
To greet this winter’s fliers, TAC Air SLC is opening in its lobby an art gallery, featuring works by local, regional, national and internationally renowned artists. The art exhibit is one more way TAC Air SLC sets itself apart from the everyday flying experience, says McCarty.
“Visitors here are fanatical about winter sports and the movie industry,” says McCarty. “What gets our crew excited, though, is making aviation easy and enjoyable, even in the middle of winter. It’s something we feel very fortunate to be able to do.”