An FBO (Fixed-base operator) is an organization that operates at an airport, providing aeronautical services such as fueling, tie-down, parking, hangaring, flight instruction, aircraft maintenance or rental, and other services. FBOs are usually the primary providers of support services to general aviation operators at public-use airports and are located on land leased from that airport. Most FBOs operating at high or moderate traffic airports are non-governmental organizations, meaning that they are either privately owned or publicly held companies.
The term “Fixed-base operator” originated in the United States but has become a common international aviation industry term due to the growth of business and corporate aviation. Although it hasn’t been officially defined as an international standard, there have been uses of the term in ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) publications.
Civil aviation was primarily unregulated in the United States after the end of WW1 as it consisted primarily of barnstormers, who were transient pilots flying cheap military surplus aircraft from city to city. They would usually land in farming fields just outside of town because airports were few and far between. These aviators usually joined together as “flying circuses” to perform tricks, stuns, and improvised airshows for the townspeople. As a result, mechanics and flight instructors moved around with their aircraft and had no established base of operation in any certain location.
The transient nature of civil aviation was curtailed after the passage of the Air Commerce Act of 1926 and its resulting requirements for the licensing of pilots, aircraft maintenance requirements, and regulations in training standards.
Therefore, pilots and mechanics who used to make their money on the road began starting permanent businesses, and thus the term “Fixed-base operations” was born.
Fixed-base operators support a wide selection of aeronautical activities, including but not limited to one of the following:
FBOs also usually provide basic auxiliary services to pilots, flight crews, and passengers even though they are not required. These services include restroom facilities, telecommunication services, waiting areas, and more. General aviation FBOs might also provide cars that can be used for free (or for little cost) by flight crews for short trips from the airport and the surrounding area. Larger FBOs may provide extra services such as restaurants, vending machines, transportation arrangements, shuttles, in-flight catering, accommodation reservations, lounges, showering facilities, and so much more.
We’ve established that FBOs (Fixed-base operators) are companies that are permitted by an airport to operate on its premises in order to provide aeronautical services for aircraft, and auxiliary services for flight crews and passengers. FBOs are usually found at the airport or can be found operating in a property somewhere next to it. FBOs at high-traffic or large airports are usually private companies, whereas FBOs at low-traffic or small airports are almost always run by the local government.
The most important questions to ask yourself when considering FBOs are:
FBOs offer essential business aviation services for your aircraft such as fueling, hangar storage, de-icing and aircraft shelter, ground handling services and more. Thus, inquiring about the availability of fuel and different aviation services offered by the FBO is a must before making your decision. It is best to partner up with a reputed flight support provider like iJET, who can consult you on which FBO perfectly meets the needs of your aircraft and passengers.
FBOs provide a wide range of aeronautical services that can vary based on airport size and from one FBO to another. If you need an FBO that provides maintenance, repair, parking, and fueling services, then make sure to ask if those services are provided. Don’t assume that all FBOs provide the same services as many FBOs don’t provide private jet charters, crop-dusting, aircraft sale or rental, sightseeing tours, or conferencing facilities, just to name a few.
The amenities, like services, are also dependent on the size of the airport and can vary from one FBO to another. FBOs at small airports usually offer the most basic amenities, while better-equipped FBOs at large airports offer more luxurious options. Amenities include but are not limited to resting lounges, restrooms, washing facilities, restaurants, vending machines, accommodation reservations, in-flight catering, transportation services, and airport concierge services of all kinds.
Aviation professionals view FBOs as partners and a crucial piece in determining the success of their clients’ flights. FBOs are essentially an extension of their services so the way they serve clients hugely affects client relationships and impacts brands.
It goes without saying that safety, security, and privacy are essential necessities that every FBO should provide, which is why it is important to consider other overlooked factors before determining which FBO best suits your needs. FBOs must be knowledgeable about the regulations and operational requirements that necessitate a smooth operation of the flight, such as slot and landing permit requirements and passenger or crew visa regulations. This aspect is more important than ever due to the constantly changing rules and regulations brought on by COVID-19.
Additionally, FBOs must have clear and straightforward communication policies. Their call center staff and operations supervisors must be available around the clock to keep the clients updated, fulfil their requests, and make sure that their emails and phone calls are answered in a timely manner. FBOs are more concerned with fascinating travelers by providing luxurious internal designs than making sure that their services are satisfactory. Tailoring services to suit the passengers’ needs is a requirement. Personalization and customization are expected from FBOs and should be provided wherever possible.
Finally, going that extra mile for the client is always appreciated. FBOs can show their clients that they really care by providing extra services such as payment of airport fees, having competitive fuel prices, and providing hotel accommodations and airport hotel transportation prices.