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FBOs Share Their Outlook for 2018

Note: Bloggers John Enticknap and Ron Jackson, principals of Aviation Business Strategies Group (ABSG), will be facilitating the next NATA FBO Success Seminar, now in its 10th year, in Miami on March 6-7.

Every January, FBOs begin to gear up for the annual NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers (S&D) Conference where they can attract new business to their ramp while cementing trusted relationships with current customers.

At this year’s conference, Feb. 6-9 in Long Beach, Calif., we had a chance to converse with many FBO owners and operators, as well as schedulers and dispatchers, to find out how they view the health of the industry and if there are any real concerns going forward. We believe the following statements reflect the overall opinion on each subject:

Vitality of the Industry

  • Ramp activity increased overall in 2017 compared to 2016. There appears to be more transient business aircraft activity than in the past.
  • One FBO owner said that business has almost returned to 1990s level.
  • From an S&D perspective, many flight departments reported an increase in the number of flights being scheduled.
  • Confidence in the economy appeared to be stronger than in previous years, which parallels the results of our Annual FBO Fuel Sales Survey. In the survey, we found that 73 percent of respondents felt the economy is headed in the right direction.

Airport Lease Terms

  • Several FBO operators indicated it is becoming more difficult to get lease extensions beyond five years, even with capital improvements taken into consideration.
  • One FBO owner lamented that a better economy is a two-edged sword when it comes to negotiating lease terms. When the economy improves, the airport wants higher fuel concessions, he said.

Employee Hiring and Training

  • Many FBOs expressed concern not only for a lack of qualified potential employees, but also over the ability to retain employees in whom they have invested valuable resources for training.
  • Some FBOs say they cannot find Part 135 charter pilots for their charter turbine aircraft. If they do find such pilots, they cannot keep them.
  • Aircraft maintenance technicians are also in short supply.

100LL Market in Decline

  • There are concerns about the decline of the 100LL market with comments like these: Where have all the GA pilots and planes gone? Youngsters do not seem to be interested in becoming a pilot.
  • Airports are getting grants to put in self-service 100LL fueling. This has hurt FBOs’ operations financially, and the aircraft owners who use the self-serve fuel still want to use FBO facilities for free.

Please leave a comment on this subject below. If you have any questions, please give us a call or send us an email:, 404-867-5518;, 972-979-6566.


John Enticknap has more than 35 years of aviation fueling and FBO services industry experience and is an IS-BAH Accredited auditor. Ron Jackson is co-founder of Aviation Business Strategies Group and president of The Jackson Group, a PR agency specializing in FBO marketing and customer service training. Visit the biography page or for more background.


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