The Game's the Thing

Feb. 8, 2001

The Game's the Thing

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

January/ February 2001

Each fall, Corporate Wings becomes Notre Dame's FBO
SOUTH BEND, IN - Randy Jones, general manager of the Corporate Wings fixed base operation at Michiana Regional Airport here, relates that all new employees are instructed up front that there are six weekends each fall during which they will work: Notre Dame football game days. After all, it is these days which stretch the FBO's commitment to customer service, often taking care of Fortune 500 clientele.

NOTRE DAME GAME DAY: Taxis waiting in a row and a buffet for pilots are standard fare at Corporate Wings during game day. This season, the big game was when top-ranked Nebraska came to town, attracting 172 business aircraft at kickoff.

Explains Jones, "Those six weekends are undoubtedly the biggest days of the year for us. Go back to the Florida State game in 1993 - we pumped 40,000 gallons of transient fuel in one day." This year, the big weekend came when then top-ranked Nebraska visited South Bend, attracting some 172 corporate aircraft at game time. On average, says Jones, the Notre Dame game day brings in some 100 transients.
To airport director John Schalliol, A.A.E., the game days provide the FBO and the airport the opportunity to see how well what they have put in place works. In particular, he says, it is a chance to show influential transients what the region has to offer. In North-ern Indiana, which markets heavily into the Chicago market to attract business, follow-through is top of mind.
Says Schalliol, "The Notre Dame grads really care about coming back here and being involved in the South Bend area; they gravitate back here. A lot of them retire and live in the area. It's all about the relationship they have with the university and the community. Our relationship here with the FBO can play an important role in that.
"We're really are in this situation together. I recognize that Randy has a special concern on a day like this. These are not just football fans; they're Fortune 500 businesspeople. They're not just going to be customers here but in the overall aviation system as well. The better they're treated here, the more favorable impression they'll have of South Bend and of the system as a whole. We're ambassadors."
On the busiest game days, the director will pitch in and drive a shuttle bus and help move customers. It affords him the opportunity, he says, to see if his airport is meeting the needs of Corporate Wings' customers.

COMMON GOALS Both Jones and Schalliol continually refer to their ongoing (8 years) relationship and history of cooperation as key to meeting the number one goal, which is customer service. At Michiana Regional, Corporate Wings provides most aircraft-related services for general aviation and the commercial air carriers, including aircraft loading-unloading for UPS. In the middle of a 30-year lease that lasts through 2012, Corporate Wings pumps some 4 million gallons of fuel, with a significant portion coming from Notre Dame activities. Jones points to the airport's expansion (3 times) of the general aviation ramp as indicative of its willingness to aid his efforts.

Randy Jones,
GM, Corporate Wings

Explains Schalliol, "The general aviation ramp is a common use area, though it's adjacent to Corporate Wings and they are the only FBO. But it's our ramp, and the projects were paid for with AIP (Airport Improve-ment Program) dollars. The last project, we strengthened a portion of it to handle charters. So, now we can handle the Notre Dame team charters on the north side of the field, away from the terminal, making it much easier for Randy to handle and much better from a security standpoint."
Schalliol points to Corporate Wings' assistance it putting together a hangar deal which eventually led to Chicago Express (dba the ATA Connection) putting in a maintenance base at Michiana Regional, with which Corporate Wings has a contract. "Once they had the maintenance operation here," says Schalliol, "it made sense to have (airline) service between South Bend and Midway Airport. It was a win for everybody."

VESTING EMPLOYEES Jones says that his company's philosophy centers on taking care of the customer, which requires taking care of the employees. As such, he focuses on employee incentives. Besides a full plate of benefits that include medical, 401-K, and life insurance, there's a Senior Staff Program which employees can join. Explains Jones, "It requires an employee to apply, and a review board of other senior staffers is convened to discuss the merit of accepting that person as a member of the senior staff. They get additional benefits and status, and the ability to participate in management decisions.
Coporate Wings, Inc. was foundd by Kenneth Ricci, who is also the CEO of Flight Options fractional ownership program - and a Notre Damn grad.

"We have some very candid review sessions, where sincerity is really the deciding factor. We need employees who take our guiding principles to heart and who play a role in ensuring that the company lives up to the promises we've made to our customers and our employees - that we understand the value of integrity. That's what the Senior Staff Program is all about."