FBO Manager Here - Seeking Advice from Pilots

Discussion in 'Cool Places to Fly' started by redknight, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    car fee or receipt for gas - make it as fair as possible with fewest headaches - I really don't mind a small car fee
     
  2. tmyers

    tmyers En-Route

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    I would gladly pay a fee for a car. The issue I have run into is the length of time a car might be needed. An hourly fee might resolve that issue, but then insurance comes to mind.

    I used to inspect building projects in Indy and flew to Eagle Creek every two weeks. The guys there knew me so well I could call them up over Mount Comfort and they would have the courtesy car warmed up and ready for me by the time I landed. I always bought fuel, I always left them a 10 spot and I always had the car back within 2 to 3 hours. Mind you this was in the late 80's. Times they have changed.
     
  3. tmyers

    tmyers En-Route

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    As for rental cars the folks at KTRI were great about meeting my airplane with the rental car ready to go. I could step off the airplane and right into the car and be on my way in a matter of minutes. It took a few trips for us to get in sync with each other but it worked like a well oiled machine after a few trips.

    I find that a phone call the day before the trip always helps out.
     
  4. wabower

    wabower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Cheap gas and anything resembling full service are nigh-on impossible for most privately-operated FBO's. Margins just aren't there, especially when the competition is city/county owned airports with a self-serve pump and a junker squad car. We can save $2.50/gal by flying 40 miles in any direction from Dallas, but AFAIK none of the vendors (that we use) are private FBO's.
     
  5. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Once you start charging, you are in the rental car business, have to charge and account for sales tax etc. Also, once you charge, people expect the car to be available. If it is a courtesy, it is just that.

    I would consider putting something along the lines of 'If the car has not been returned within 2 hrs, we will consider it theft and ask the Jamestown PD to start looking for our car.'
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  6. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    The dynamic in Jamestown is a bit different, there is not much you'll find within 40 miles, often not even cellphone service ;) . I used to travel to a little place called Cooperstown every couple of weeks, Jamestown was were I would pick up a coup of coffee on the way. It is really nice out there, if you like pheasants and stuff.
     
  7. docmirror

    docmirror Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Cowboy - yeehah!
    This is why I remedied the situation as a bailment for the fuel, and not the car. Fuel is a consumable, and not a rental, you are actually 'using' the fuel, and it's already taxed as it comes out of the pump. So, FBO can set rates for fuel, and not have to worry about the whole rental miasma. Collect $50, or a CC imprint when the car goes out, and only a charge for fuel when it comes back.

    Also, I've been asked to share ride with the crew car once before. I was only a few miles away, and the FBO called and asked if I could come pick up a couple at the airport and we would all get eats, hotel, whatever as a group. I was happy to go back and help out, and I think most pilots wouldn't mind, as long as it didn't turn into a chauffeur deal - 'driver, now take me to the mall, I should only be a few hours', would not work well.
     
  8. Henning

    Henning Ejection Handle Pulled

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    The alternative is to just have rental cars at the FBO, although if you have a decent food option such as a small cafe/diner, you can pretty much dispense with the car and also attract $100 hamburger people as well as some local custom.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  9. el con

    el con Line Up and Wait

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    Courtesy cars can be a pain but probably necessary for building your business .If you are close to some of the places pilots would need, maybe consider bicycles or the unlicensed scooters in addition to the car.
    I've had some fun riding a bike to town to get some breakfast at KMNM in Mi.
    ND in the winter, maybe a snowmobile:wink2:
    You know what you need to do to make money,do whats reasonable for your airport or area.
    Some pilots can be real pains in the rear like they're god's of the air. Some are down to earth people who need your help. Every one is a little different.
    Polite ,Courteous, Helpful is all most ask of you.
    Having an answer or fix to their need or request even if your FBO can't provide it is important.
    My son works at an FBO and loves it. I'm amazed at the stories he tells, he mostly works with the jet crowd.
    They do it all the right way. I'm dumbfounded at some of the tips he get's some large some not at all. There are some real cheapskates flying out there.
    "Hey look at me I'm one of the jet set crowd I spend $2,500 an hr to fly this,I'm just passin through from Vegas on my way to Antigua for the weekend. Naw that's my girlfriend, wife's at home with the kids, here ya go kid don't spend this $3 all in one place." I'd slap them silly. My son just says" Thank You sir it was a pleasure to have you here".
     
  10. FORANE

    FORANE Pattern Altitude

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    I too have had good service from KTRI, but it comes at a price (sometimes). Sometimes I am asked for fees while other times I am not. Fees would cause me to discontinue use of a small airport I would only use otherwise as a fuel stop (for the OP). KTRI has fuel more expensive than my home field just about 12 miles away 0A9 Elizabethton, TN. Rental cars are available also at 0A9. My experience has been 0A9 also is faster in and out typically. So, as a transient, I would likely not choose KTRI. If it were closest to my destination though, it would be a likely choice.
     
  11. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    24 Hour (cheap :) ) Fuel (or at least long hours at the FBO).

    Clean, extended hour, accessible restroom (especially important for those flying with spouses).

    Friendly and courteous service.

    Someone who answers the phone and emails about upcoming trips promptly.

    Courtesy cars are always appreciated, but some provision for transportation: number of cab/rental car company, a ride into town, etc...

    Frankly, I've had courtesy/crew cars from everywhere from Washington Dulles to Pochahontas Iowa and have everything from late model rental cars to surplus police cruisers to a 60's era Caddy. Never had nor caused any problems to my knowledge.
    I've also had the FBO guy just drop me at hotels, or my brother's place of business, or even the Police Department offering riders.

    If you don't have a mechainc on staff, at least the telephone number of one that can be called out in emergencies.
     
  12. somorris

    somorris Pattern Altitude

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    A popcorn machine is nice. One nearby FBO has ice cream and bottled water for pilots also. Ground transportation is also very important.
     
  13. Texastaildragger

    Texastaildragger Pre-takeoff checklist

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    How close to oil boom are you ? Some of those guys are going to want to spend money on flying lessons, airplanes, & fuel. You could develop a niche market.
     
  14. Mike Smith

    Mike Smith Pattern Altitude

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    Do you offer instruction at your field? If so, treat the tire kickers with patience and respect. I have visited 3 different FBO's locally inquiring about training. I have been treated pretty poorly at 2 out of the 3. The last one had a young lady working there who knew nothing.....i mean nothing. She was pleasant though, took my information and had someone call me back (the next day). This is where I will train when I finally start. The problem is, it is 15 miles away and the other 2 are within 5 miles. People who dont know, dont know what they dont know, ya know? Treat them with respect, not as an annoyance.
     
  15. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    If you are not in the training business, look if there is a local instructor you can refer interested parties to. More students, more planes, more fuel sales, more maintenance. Make sure that your front desk staff doesn"t judge people interested in flight training by their appearance. Just down the road, we had someone who walked in and bought a mooney with cash to start his flight training. With all the oil money floating around, the range of people interested in personal aviation has expanded.
     
  16. dans2992

    dans2992 En-Route

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    I fly a Comanche and I rarely tip. Is it expected from us lowly piston drivers? If someone goes above and beyond, sure, but just for waving the plane in and throwing a pair of chocks, no...
     
  17. Z06_Mir

    Z06_Mir Pattern Altitude

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    Tip when you have a lot of bags that we help you with. Tip if we bring your rental car out to you. Tip when we go above & beyond. If your service is good say thank you and fill out a comment on Airnav or foreflight, those are worth more than tips.
     
  18. Kiddo's Driver

    Kiddo's Driver Cleared for Takeoff

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    24 hour access to someplace warm and dry, with a toilet.
    24 hour credit card fuel.
    A telephone that can be used to call a weather briefer.

    I got stuck at a fairly large airport one night. I was lucky enough to find the crew van unlocked and smart enough to have two blankets and a pillow in my plane. It was not my worst night of sleep. I would much rather have simply fueled my plane and kept going. I would also have loved to be able to get into the crew lounge and sleep on the couch. At least I was able to sleep on the floor of a van.

    24 hour credit card fuel is VERY high on my list. I plan my stops based on being able to buy fuel. Strangely, it seems that there are plenty of FBOs out there that think people only fly during the day.

    Jim
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  19. redknight

    redknight Filing Flight Plan

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    We have recently started up flying instruction here and the boom is coming this way ever slowly. We are already seeing some indirect benefit from the boom in the area so I am hoping with more time we can grow our business here which will also help in growing other businesses on the field like the Maintenance shop with more planes and the flying instruction with more students. Already starting to see more construction projects sprout up around town, too.

    Just wanted to say again a HUGE thanks to all who have posted on this thread with advice and personal preferences in what you like in a small FBO. I also wanted to say that although I have definitely not replied to each one, I have read them all carefully and will use much of the advice to train the other line personnel here and to implement some new things and provide better information to transient pilots. This information has just been so incredibly valuable to me and hopefully with me taking flying lessons soon, I will be posting on this site as a fellow pilot! Thanks from everyone here at Jamestown!
     
  20. dell30rb

    dell30rb Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Get a working GCO and post the frequencies/how to use it in the lobby. These GCO's always seem to be broken.

    If you don't have a GCO, the next best thing would be to get the direct phone number to the local approach or center, whoever is responsible for coordinating IFR departures out of your airport. And post this phone number where pilots can easily see it.
    Dialing the 1-800 number to get a clearance takes forever and is super annoying.

    Good wifi is a must.

    Have tiedown spots with good ropes available.
     
  21. Everskyward

    Everskyward Administrator Management Council Member

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    I'm not sure what kind of traffic you have or expect, but if you have airplanes which come in with pilots who stay all day while the passengers go do something else, it's nice to have a separate room with comfortable chairs or a couch you can sleep on. I don't care about having a TV there but many pilots are TV addicts. You probably don't want them hanging out in your public lobby all day anyway.
     
  22. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Cheap fuel,food ,decaf coffee,a place to relax and wait out weather.connections with a nearby hotel with transportation.And most of all friendly staff. Good lick
     
  23. Doggtyred

    Doggtyred En-Route

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    For a small town op thats not open full time here's what I would like to see...

    Competitive fuel price, with self serve available 24/7/365. Doesn't have to be the cheapest, but not dollars above your neighbors either. Full service fuel during opening hours with people who understand proper care and feeding of aircraft.

    When open, clean restrooms that are modern/updated. They dont have to be decked out like Millionaire or Signature, with bottles of cologne and all that, but clean, spacious, accessible (some passengers may be disabled - angel flights and such) and look like they were built or remodeled since the turn of the century (and kept up). Rust on the stalls, mold from drips and leaks, and dingy tile doesn't cut it, nor will it with the wife or girlfriend. Access to restrooms after hours would be a plus but I recognize that may not be practical unless or until you undergo a major rebuild. When that happens, look at ways to make that happen (maybe put the code to the area containing the restrooms in the AFD comments, or on airnav.. someplace only wingnuts would ever look)

    I can count on one hand the number of times I've used a crew car/courtesy car. Most were at city run airports and were leftover run out cop cars. As you mentioned, abuse was a problem, and I get that. Rather than a crew car, have an agreement with one or more car rental agencies in town where you can serve as the agent. Car planned in advance, delivered by rental agency, and you sign it out/sign it back in. When people PAY for the car they are more likely to take care of it, and because you are the agent and not the renter, you dont earn the hassle when it happens.

    A pay phone on the ramp. With numbers to the airport management after hours, the cab company, the rental car company, and maybe a nearby hotel or two with a shuttle laminated in the weather housing..Sometimes cell phones die. Sometimes signal sucks.. who knows.


    When open, a flight planning room with a computer or two for DUATS/weather and a phone set. Wall charts with appropriate area charts. Wifi would be nice (again, cell signal may or may not be reliable), you can make it password protected but again put the password where people who need to know could find it.

    All the other stuff is icing on the cake - donuts, dancing girls, what have you.. StormStack? thats nice.. as would be bringing a morning departure into the hangar to thaw out (i've had it done once or twice)...
     
  24. Henning

    Henning Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Showers are nice...
     
  25. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    The folks who built the FBO in Park Rapids, MN designed it with a small lobby that is open 24/7 and has access to a simple bathroom. In the lobby, there is a small desk with a weather monitor and a phone that is set up to connect to FSS , motels, restaurants, the taxi-guy and the on-call lineperson.
     
  26. Tony_Scarpelli

    Tony_Scarpelli Pattern Altitude

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    Cheap gas might bring me the first time but it won't guarantee I will come back.

    I like a car to run into town pickup things from the QuickTrip or Walgreens and take a bit of a break from flying.

    The FBO's I continue to frequent have 24hr access to the lobby; pilots lounge/bathrooms by key code usually coded with their CTAF frequency as the code number to get in. I prefer self serve fuel.

    If you do not have a courtesy car because someone stiffed you then you are running your business based on your worst customers not your best. That is a big no no. You should always make policies for your best customers otherwise you will lose them and have the worst customers who stay.

    You have already told me I am not worth a courtesy car to you..... So not likely I will stop in and visit you when in the area.

    You are doing one thing smart, asking pilots.... now go out and implement all the things that you can.
     
  27. timwinters

    timwinters Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Put a quick drain in the courtesy car's gas tank. When someone brings it back full, drain half of it out and use it in your lawn mower or tug or whatever...

    Most (non-a**hole) pilots are likely to put more fuel in the tank than they use if it's down to a 1/2 or so...at least I always do as a "thank you". If it's already full...can't do it.

    Doing this will give you a far better chance of MAKING MONEY with your courtesy car and getting free gas for some of your airport equip.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013
  28. ChrisK

    ChrisK En-Route

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    While this sounds evil, I agree that posters here at least would make every effort to return a courtesy car with a full tank regardless how it was received, and would want the fbo to do what it had to to maintain service. I'd be perfectly Ok with a (maybe even optional but encouraged) small fee or donation for use of a car.

    There is an interesting idea. Put a box up with a suggested donation where a pilot can discreetly deposit. You can even post vehicle maintenance costs or recent expenditures next to the box on a clipboard. I would like to think you'd get a better response if the vehicle was owned and operated by, say, a non profit airport booster Club of some sort. Some bad apples might abuse the FBO but God help the poor soul who messes with a group of local pilots who formed a charity to maintain a car that the FBO donates.
     
  29. Henning

    Henning Ejection Handle Pulled

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    I have never gotten into a courtesy car that had a full tank, typically they have a 1/4 or so.
     
  30. timwinters

    timwinters Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Maybe they had a quick drain installed!

    I've gotten into many cars that were full and could barely squeeze a gallon or two in it when I was done.
     
  31. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Without reading the whole thread (I know, I'm a bad person)...

    Tiedowns. I bring my own ropes but have been known to forget (once).
    A hangar option.
    Water /soft drinks available.
    After hours fuel (self service is fine)
    After hours access to the toilet - a keypad lock with a hint (CTAF, Gaurd, etc.) works. In Michigan, there is a common Michigan FBO code.
    A list of after hours phone numbers that include things like taxi, hotel that will pick up, etc. posted somewhere obvious.
    Can I camp under the wing? A note in the AFD would be nice.
    Wireless for us luddites who still use a laptop.
    If you are going to come up with rules like "no hand propping" put them in the AFD so I know better than to come there with an airplane that has no starter.
    Some way to get to the airplane after hours even if you are playing the TSA security game.
     
  32. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    If the courtesy car is full you can always leave a donation on return of the car.