By Angel MedFlight Contributor
The private and business jet industry uses them for parking, fueling, de-icing, maintenance, the handling of passengers and many other aircraft services. With Angel MedFlight’s base of operations being anywhere we land, our air ambulances use them all over the world. We’re talking about Fixed Base Operators or FBOs.
Recently, Angel MedFlight was given a behind-the-scenes tour of Landmark Aviation, one of the two FBOs at Scottsdale Municipal Airport (KSDL). What we found was an impressive operation offering a wide range of aircraft services and amenities.
Operations Manager Paul Gaudette told us, “The people that we’re dealing with are the one percenters in the country. And they have an expectation of service. We are trying to provide an ultimate service experience and in the course of providing that service, we’ll sell them some fuel and maybe provide some maintenance.”
A typical aircraft arrival at Landmark begins with the party having a reservation, so as Gaudette puts it, “we already know they’re coming.” This means Landmark can have a rental vehicle ready for the passengers or maybe their own car which was stored at the FBO. In any case, Landmark will have that car washed and detailed and parked on the tarmac when the jet arrives. Landmark wants that passenger to be able to get in his or her vehicle and be on their way. “If the passenger gets off the airplane and the car’s not sitting there, that’s a problem. If he’s got to wait around. We’re failing at that point,” says Gaudette. Departures are mostly the same process in reverse. Landmark will handle the baggage and if the travelers had a rental car, Landmark will return it for them.
If the aircraft needs maintenance, the Landmark Aviation location in Scottsdale is also an MRO, short for maintenance, repair and operations. Landmark has a full heavy maintenance capability and Gaudette says “we can work on pretty much any airplane that comes into this airport and do whatever necessary it takes” to get them in the air again. And Gaudette says “we have trained qualified people handling these aircraft for the safety of the flight and the mission.”
FBOs will service a wide variety of aircraft. On our tour we saw single-engine prop planes parked a few yards away from a 19-passenger Bombardier Global Express jet. If clients wish to get out of Scottsdale’s summer heat, Landmark provides both community and private hangar storage.
Fuel is how FBOs make their money and Gaudette took us past a tower-like structure called a fuel farm which pumps out 20,000 gallons of aviation gasoline (avgas) for piston-engine aircraft and 20,000 gallons of jet fuel.
Upon entry into the building one walks into the nicely appointed passenger lounge. But as Gaudette pointed out earlier, if a passenger “is in here, there’s a problem” as typically clients go directly from the plane to their vehicle waiting for them on the tarmac. Upstairs is the crew lounge where pilots can relax on a plush sofa, kick their feet up and watch a game. If they prefer a room with less activity where they can really sack out, Landmark has a couple of quiet rooms with overstuffed recliner chairs. Snacks, drinks and shower facilities are also available plus a good-sized kitchenette where flight attendants can prepare special meals for their client’s upcoming flights.
According to a survey by Aviation Resource Group International (ARGI) there were over 3,100 fixed base operators in the U.S. in 2009. Landmark has 50 FBO locations in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe and it’s possible an Angel MedFlight jet will be parking at one very soon. Thanks to Landmark Aviation for taking Angel MedFlight behind the scenes of one of the top FBOs in the country.