“When you get into the larger aircraft it becomes like a hotel, with dozens of staff supporting the plane based in a galley area down below. You have very comprehensive cooking facilities, and on larger aircraft we have looked at theatres, with spiral staircases and a Steinway grand piano. The limitations for what you can put inside a plane are pretty much the limits of physics, and even money cannot always overcome that. Even so, people are still always trying to push [the limits]. ”
The Best FBOs 2011
To determine which of more than 1,700 FBOs around the world best serve their customers, BJT's sister publication, Aviation International News, conducts an annual survey of its readers regarding the experiences they have encountered. There are two kinds of FBOs: chains, which may manage dozens of facilities around the world; and independents, which may own but a single FBO. At some airports, both types compete for customers. Traditionally, independent FBOs have tended to occupy the top slots on the survey.
In 2011, several independent FBOs made their debut in the top 10, including first-place finisher J.A. Air Center at Aurora Municipal Airport, which is west of Chicago in Sugar Grove, Ill. The nearly $10 million facility, which opened at the end of 2008, boasts a 25,000-square-foot canopy to shelter arriving aircraft.
Coming in second was the perennially highly rated City of Sugarland, Texas FBO, which was rebranded over the past year as Global Select. It was followed by XJet at Centennial Airport in the Denver suburb of Englewood, Colo. This newcomer to the top ranks of our list started five years ago as a private club for a group of business jet owners and eventually added services for the public.
Many airports have multiple FBOs, but Oakland County Airport in Waterford, Mich. has 10. Despite the competition there, Pentastar Aviation has landed in our No. 4 spot (and
has been in the top five in the survey in each of the past five years).
After trading in its temporary trailers for a new state-of-the-art building, Hangar 10 at Kansas City Downtown Airport made such as splash that it landed in fifth place in this year's survey. The No. 6 position went to Tampa International Jet Center, which has had three top 10 finishes in its six years in business.
The only FBO chain with facilities in the top 10 this year was Wilson Air Center, which took the seventh and ninth spots with its Memphis and Charlotte, N.C. locations, respectively. Also in the top 10 were Fargo Jet Center in Fargo, N.D., and Banyan Air Service at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
Other highly ranked North American FBOs include Irving Aviation Services at Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, and Skyservice Avitat in Toronto. In the rest of the world, TAG Aviation's Farnborough, England FBO once again took the top spot, followed by the Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre, and Harrods Aviation at London's Luton Airport. Rounding out the top five were Signature Flight Support's Munich, Germany FBO and TAG Aviation Geneva.
AIN's survey tasks readers with rating the FBOs that they patronize in four categories: line service (fueling and servicing of the aircraft); passenger amenities; pilot amenities and services (showers, quiet/sleep rooms and crew cars are among the most popular); and facilities. Forecast International administers the survey, which this year resulted in 1,970 completed questionnaires containing evaluations of 23,452 FBOs.