Six Tips for Hiring and Retaining FBO Technicians
Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 4:42PM
John L. Enticknap and Ron R. Jackson, ABSG in A&P, Employee Retention, hiring, leadership, line service, payroll, recruiting, technicians

Note: Bloggers John Enticknap and Ron Jackson will facilitate the next NATA FBO Success Seminar on March 26-27 in Savannah, Ga. Registration is now open.    

One of the biggest problems facing the owners and operators of FBOs is recruitment and retention of skilled technician personnel, both line service and A&Ps. (See our Annual FBO Fuel Sales Survey results.)

At the 2019 NBAA Schedulers and Dispatchers (S&D) Conference in San Antonio a month ago, many FBO operators we talked to were concerned the industry is fighting an uphill battle not only to recruit technicians but also to retain them once they have been fully trained.

“Basically, the smaller FBO is at a big disadvantage because we are unable to retain our top technicians who are recruited by higher-paying chains, airlines or the auto industry,” one FBO owner said. “It’s very frustrating. We make the investment in training while larger facilities reap the benefit.”  

Another problem is the shrinking pool for trainable skilled personnel. The U.S. unemployment rate of 3.9 percent is at the lowest level in more than 18 years.

“Most everyone who is capable of working is finding employment,” another FBO operator said. “We, as an industry, have done a poor job of communicating potential aviation career paths to youth graduating from high school or enrolled in technical schools.” 

Tips for Recruiting and Retention

1. Conduct a ‘Discovery Interview’

Keep in mind that retention starts with the job interview. As part of the interview process, take employee prospects on an interactive discovery tour of your facility to introduce them to the environment they will be working in. Let them observe an aircraft service. Provide an opportunity to sit in a refueler and/or tug, to touch and to feel pieces of equipment they would be using. Introduce them to potential team members.

2. Communicate your Company’s Value Proposition and Customer Promise

These are short statements that reveal your company’s passion for why you do what you do. They serve as reminders of the level of service that is expected of every employee. This way, recruits have a feel for whether they would fit in.

3. Treat Your Employees as Stakeholders

The definition of a stakeholder is anyone who has a stake in the outcome of your company and can send either a positive or negative message about the company through any channel of communication including social media and word-of-mouth. Stakeholders include your customers, vendors/suppliers and employees. The following suggestions will help establish employees as true stakeholders and help in retention efforts.

4. Create a Clear Path for Advancement

Communicate a plan that shows the recruit a clear path for advancement in the organization. The path might include reaching certain training goals as well as providing tuition assistance to advance education. If you have access to pilot training, show a path to first soloing and then obtaining a license.

5. Semi-Annual Compensation Reviews

Instead of a traditional, once-a-year review, break your compensation package into six-month intervals. Set attainable training goals to be achieved during the six-month compensation cycles. Reward the employee with semi-annual pay increases based, in part, on goals achieved.

6. Additional Compensation Incentives

If you can afford to set up a 401(k) matching fund, it is a good retention tool. In addition, or separately, consider a quarterly incentive fund for all employees based on targets/goals for increases in fuel volume. For instance, based on historical monthly fuel sales year-to-date, set a target increase each month and, if achieved, put an established amount per gallon into a fund that will be distributed to all employees on a quarterly basis. This will help incentivize the line serve and CSR personnel to upsell extra fuel at the time of transaction. 

Also, establish safety performance goals that tie directly to the fuel volume incentive fund discussed above. For instance, a safety goal might be to reduce internal accident/incident costs to improve ramp safety and reduce unwanted expenses. If no expense is incurred due to an accident/incident in the designated quarter, then no deduction will be made from the fuel volume fund.

Both the NATA and NBAA have been active in supporting provisions that will focus on providing opportunities for the next generation of aviation business professionals. One example is support for Section 625 of the Aviation Workforce Development Programs. This section requires the Secretary of Transportation to establish a program to provide grants for eligible projects to support the education and recruitment of aviation maintenance technical workers and the development of the aviation maintenance workforce.

Please leave any comments you have about this blog post 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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