Executive Planning

Aug. 8, 2005
Later this year, Montgomery Aviation, located here at Indianapolis Executive Airport (formerly Terry Airport), will begin construction of a new terminal.

ZIONSVILLE, IN — Later this year, Montgomery Aviation, located here at Indianapolis Executive Airport (formerly Terry Airport), will begin construction of a new terminal. Once a privately owned airfield, the now county-owned airfield and new facility will be reflective of the corporate clientele the husband and wife team of Dan and Andrea Montgomery hope to attract to their FBO. Growth has been significant in the past few years, and the couple expects it will continue as the new terminal and planned infrastructure improvements draw more business to the airport.

Indianapolis Executive Airport is located some 22 miles north of downtown Indianapolis, serving the counties of Boone, Hamilton, and Marion. In 2003, Hamilton county purchased the privately owned airfield for $4.6 million. It was renamed Indianapolis Executive Airport. At the time, says Dan Montgomery, president of Montgomery Aviation, the airport’s fixed base operation, Boone county, in which the airport is located, didn’t have an interest in owning an airport. “Hamilton county saw big potential here,” he says. “They didn’t want to lose an airport.” If Hamilton county ever chooses to sell the airport, Boone county will have the first option on purchasing it.

From FBO Beginnings

Dan’s aviation career includes a stint with local carrier ATA as an aircraft maintenance technician. When he left the airline he was its chief inspector. In 1989 he opened a maintenance shop at Terry Airport. Wife Andrea has been a flight attendant with ATA for some 25 years and holds aviation science and paralegal degrees.

In 2000, Dan and Andrea were presented the opportunity to take over operation of the fixed base operation. “That’s always been my goal,” says Dan, “to have a full-fledged FBO.”

The Montgomerys decided they were up to the challenge of the FBO, quickly realizing they would have to live at the airport because of all the time the business would require, as well as for security and customer service purposes.

“We renovated the back end of the terminal and would cook meals for the pilots,” says Dan. “Our dining room table was where people sat and did flight exams.”

Dan says that shortly after taking over the FBO, business quickly improved. The first year of operation, some 60,000 gallons of jet-A and 100LL were sold. Today the company sells some 600,000 gallons annually. “That’s a vast improvement,” says Dan.

It’s estimated that in 2003 Indianapolis Executive had a $33 million impact on the community, whereas the impact in 2001 was just some $11 million, according to Dan.

The couple was operating out of what airport users named “The Shack.” Both knew they couldn’t have a viable operation unless they expanded and upgraded the facilities. A new terminal with a connecting hangar was built in 2002 with a lobby, offices, and conference room. It was not without challenges, though, says Dan.

Zoning issues stopped the project midway through because neighbors of the airport appealed the expansion. “I had to get a special exception to build this building,” says Dan. The 535-acre airport has since been rezoned for airport use instead of agricultural, allowing the Montgomerys to build hangars without having a public hearing. “It took a lot of time and money, attorneys, and educating people, but this airport needed to be rezoned.”

The Montgomery’s current lease is for 40 years with a ten-year option. Andrea penned the contract with the county and, unlike most airport/FBO agreements, at the end of the lease the buildings will not simply revert back to the airport operator. “The county has to buy the buildings at appraised value,” says Dan.

When Hamilton county purchased the airport, Dan signed on as the airport manager. The agreement is for five years, with another five-year renewal available. The county leased the Montgomerys land at the airport to build a house. “We’re here all the time,” says Andrea, VP of Montgomery Aviation. “Dan’s on duty 24 hours a day; we don’t allow the airport to close.”

If and when Hamilton County decides to hire a different airport manager, the county will buy the house from the Montgomerys at its appraised value.

Accommodating Growth

In only a year, the business outgrew its expanded facility. The Montgomerys are now preparing to grow again with a corporate terminal. The project is expected to be completed in November 2005 at a cost of $1.7 million.

The new structure will include 18,000 square feet of hangar space as well as a 4,500-sq.ft., two-story terminal connecting to the current facility. The county has agreed to fund the construction of the ramp for the new terminal building, but other costs will be left to the Montgomerys.

A 120-foot wide canopy will cover the ramp area to the entrance of the terminal, providing a protected entrance and exit to corporate aircraft. “This will pay for itself [in terms of customer service]” says Dan.

Montgomery Aviation employs six maintenance personnel in its 100,000-sq.ft., FAA-certified repair station, working on “anything from Gulfstreams on down,” explains Dan. Some 30 percent of the business’s overall revenues can be attributed to the maintenance operation, while 50 percent comes from fuel and services, and 20 percent from the flight school. In total the company employs 23 full-time and 11 part-time employees.

Eagle Flyers, the flight school operated by the Montgomerys, has some 150 members.

Indianapolis Executive currently has just under 100 based aircraft and a lack of hangar space, which is being remedied by private investment. “It’s nice to see investors who actually realize the economic potential here,” says Andrea. The first set of 12 hangars was completed in June and a second set is being erected and a third set possible yet this year. “We’ve got this first set already filled, and then next set all but three are filled,” says Dan. Montgomery Aviation will manage the hangars for the private investor.

In addition to the terminal and ramp projects, Hamilton county will also completing a taxiway project. “We’ve got two stubs of the taxiway that don’t connect,” explains Dan. Some property will be acquired by the county to finish the project and Dan expects the airport will receive FAA discretionary funds to complete the parallel taxiway.

The airport sees some 50,000 movement annually and the FBO is on pace to sell some 750,000 gallons of fuel in 2005. Looking ahead, the Montgomerys would like to see the 5,500-foot runway extended to 7,000 feet. “That will allow us to sell more fuel,” says Dan. “A lot of the corporate jets, when they come in here on a hot summer day, they’re limited to how much fuel they can put on because of the length of our runway.” A longer runway will also give the airport a better safety margin, adds Andrea.

Dan and Andrea would also like to see the surrounding area zoned for industrial/business development to attract both aviation and non-aviation business development.