Can FBOs remain competitive in their local markets? How will the actions of airport sponsors affect the industry?
What is to be done
Texas Jet at FTW (Meacham, Fort Worth TX).
As I stated earlier, we need to encourage discussion and share our opinions with the airport sponsors at the airports where we're based as well as at the airports that we frequent, and see where it goes.
A dear friend of mine offers the following analogy for consideration. He says, "I like to compare the stability of our industry to a 4-legged table. The 1st leg is the airport sponsor.
The 2nd is the FBO or aviation service business with leasehold interests to provide services. The 3rd leg is the vendors that support the FBO [by providing] fuel, insurance, equipment, training, etc. The 4th or last leg is the aircraft operator, pilot or consumer who supports the FBO. If any one of these legs becomes broken or wobbly, the table is unstable."
Let's do our best to ensure the stability of all 4 legs. One possible solution for maintaining a stable industry is requiring a respectful partnership between those 4 legs that strengthen the table.
It starts at the local level. Former Republican President Ronald Reagan and then Speaker of the House "Tip" O'Neill—a Democrat—were known to sit down together after a day's work to enjoy an adult beverage. Both men were leaders because of their strong but differing principles.
They were respectful of their duties to represent the people and were respectful on a personal level to enjoy one another's friendship and insights when the day's work was done. This respect and friendship carried over into their professional careers to establish them as leaders of the people they represented—and often allowed them to work in a bipartisan manner while representing their respective parties and the people of the United States.
Speaker O'Neill is quoted as saying, "All politics is local." Local implies sitting down from time to time to understand—and care—about what's going on in our aviation community. We need to discuss openly our collective goals and challenges with our state and local government officials, our airport managers, colleagues who may also happen to be our competitors, FBO business owners, local pilots and the transient aircraft operators that use our airports.
All politics is local, and the way to provide a vibrant market for aviation services at city, county and state level is for private and public enterprise partners to work together to provide the highest standards for safe, professional services.
In order to do this we must understand and respect each other's different roles as well as those of airport sponsors, profit-motivated aviation business and service providers and airport users themselves. If we do this, we may achieve the aviation community's collective goals for our airports. And if doing this helps at even 1 airport then I believe it was a worthwhile endeavor.
Increased communication leads to thorough consideration of the effects of airport fee structures and how they relate to an airport's ability to be competitive.
In addition, we must not lose focus on maintaining the airport consumer's ability to operate within a financially viable budget.
I always say that you never know how much of an impact you can make until you try. Most readers know by now that I enjoy trying. Call, write, communicate and play a significant role in creating a respectful partnership between our 4 major industry components. Long-term success will result from a collective effort that best serves all who have a vested interest in attaining this goal.
Gene Condreras is president of Panorama Flight Service, a family-owned and operated FBO that employs a support staff of more than 70. His aviation career began in 1978 at the age of 19 as a line service technician for a competing FBO at HPN. Condreras also serves as an FBO advisor to the board of directors of the Corporate Aircraft Assn, which represents more than 95 program FBOs in the US and Canada.