FBO’s for Spring Break '09

Our fifth and sixth trips across the country led us to these Fixed Base Operators, and I wrote the following reviews on Airnav, which is the site many pilots (including me) use to select an FBO or even an airport. (I reviewed the FBOs for my 2007 trips across the country, but somehow neglected to do it for our 2008 trip. Really, I need a master list of places we have been, just in case there are some we don’t like.)

KRYN: Ryan Field near Phoenix, AZ – Todd’s
We stopped in on March 30 flying from Santa Monica to Marfa, TX. The waitress could not have been sweeter to our two little boys, and the breakfast was delicious. My thirteen year old ordered a waffle with chocolate chips, warm apples, cinnamon and whipped cream. If you are allowed that sort of sugar shock, I highly recommend it. The few bites I had were like some sort of desert. Comfortable, reasonable, good food and good service. What more could you want right on the field?

KMRF: Marfa, TX – Howard Petroleum
Ron Lewis could not have been more helpful. We landed in a windstorm with just a call ahead to an answering machine, but he had a car to rent us, a map, and a lot of advice and information about the town. A friendly face at that juncture (dropping into a small airport outside a small town with a couple little boys with us) could make the difference between a difficult overnight stop and one that is fun. Ron was optimistic and enthusiastic about our visit. The next morning he fueled the plane without delay even though there was a big twin waiting for the pump. Don’t mistake this for a big city charter jet FBO, but Ron and his crew certainly provided the service we needed and then some.

50R: Lockhart, TX – Martin & Martin Aviation
We arrived with only an email in the morning as warning. They had a big huge Suburban as a crew car for us and pointed us to the best BBQ in town (Lockhart is known for its BBQ, they have made the national news with their feuds). They don’t have WiFi, but they had a weather terminal over in another building. They are having a little trouble getting their bathrooms re-plumbed, but there are a couple in the next building as well. I wish I had written down her name because the woman at the desk was very friendly.

KNEW: Lakefront Airport in New Orleans, LA – Odyssey Aviation
The fuel price would suggest a higher quality facility. The waiting room is a double wide. This might be unavoidable, but the flat screen television with the garbled sound and the green-tinged, burnt-in image is not. It looks like the new building is a long way off and I think they could do a little better to make up for it. Returning to the location the taxi driver had difficulty finding his way through the maze of construction fences. Would it be that difficult to post some signs with the logo and name with a big arrow? The plane was handled well, the WiFi worked, and the bathroom was clean. They weren’t that busy and I would have enjoyed a little more service, which is what I expect from Oddysey (nee MillionAir). Try someone else next time (Flight Line looks good.)

KPDK: Atlanta, GA – Signature Flight Service
We were on our way up from New Orleans to Charlotte and stopped in Atlanta for dinner. Signature was spot-on with their service. They had the plane chocked, the red carpet laid out, the keys to the crew car and a map to help us find our way. They are the first FBO I have seen with a canopy big enough for a bizjet to board passengers (if it was raining I would have used it for my little DiamondStar, the canopy can mean the seats get wet). The plane was fueled on our return and they were very welcoming to two rambunctious little boys and tired parents.

KCLT: Charlotte, NC – Wilson Air Center
We landed our little Diamondstar at 10pm in a light rain. The lineman offered to grab the bags and showed my wife and boys inside. The CSR helped my wife select a hotel room for the night. They welcomed us as if we had stepped out of a bizjet. In fact, they shuttled us to the hotel, even though it was a little past their deadline for shuttle van service, with the pilot from a bizjet. This is definitely a case of service scaled for the charter jet crowd trickling down in a really nice way for us little piston folk. In the morning they happily grabbed the bags from the hotel’s shuttle van and my kids settled into the comfortable lounge while I loaded up and did the pre-flight.

KIAD: Dulles International in Washington, DC – Signature Flight Service
They treated us like high-end lobbyists, and we arrived in a little piston single. The facility is one of the cleanest, sharpest, and most modern I have been in. The WiFi was easy to hop onto. They gave us a crew car to drive over to the Air & Space museum adjacent to Dulles, and reminded us to wait until the weekend to top off so we could get the weekend rate. They are a little more aware of high-end options for getting into town (hire a car, rent a car), and had less information about the metro, but that is to be expected. They were happy to drop us at the main terminal with the crew van.

KMMU: Morristown, NJ – Signature Flight Service
Morristown is becoming the major overflow airport for Teterborough, which means a lot of bizjets into the airport and onto Signatures ramp. The CSR I spoke to on the phone about my arrival seemed a little snooty about having to handle just a piston single, but the ramp crew and the people we saw in person were friendly. It was a seamless operation getting our little family of four out of the plane and into the hired car they called for us. It was definitely a better experience than flying into Caldwell, but it was not the friendliest Signature we have visited.

KAGC: Allegheny County near Pittsburgh, PA – Corporate Air
We landed our piston single in a high wind and the line crew was great marshaling us in to a position close to the building where we were a little protected. The WiFi was not providing a connection and the CSRs at the front desk offered to let us step behind the counter to use their computer if we needed to file a flight plan or something urgent. They recommended a good place for lunch, provided a crew car and a map. The plane was fueled and nicely chocked in place when we returned. They had no problem having two little boys let off a little steam in their passenger waiting area, which always endears a place to me. Having tried both FBOs at KAGC we will be returning to Corporate.

KIND: Indianapolis, IN – Signature Flight Service
I landed with my family in a piston single. Winds were pretty high and I wish the line crew had marshaled us into a position facing the wind, but the plane was fine for the forty minutes we were there. The facility is clean, modern and comfortable. The vending machines were well stocked, bathrooms were well kept, and the counter staff weren’t too bothered by the two little boys. It was certainly worth landing at a big airport to get this level of service and comfort, especially the pilot lounge and WiFi. We planned our next stop in a conference room that seemed worthy of a Fortune 500 company.

KSTL: St. Louis, MO – Signature Flight Service
STL is a huge field and Signature is like a home away from home. They treated our little piston single with extreme care (making sure it was backed up as far as it could be from the jet blast, make sure it was properly chocked and coned. The next morning on taxi out we had a flat tire and the manager could not have been friendlier or more helpful. They ran my wife and older son over to the terminal to fly out commercial and provided snacks and entertainment for my younger son while I dealt with the flat. When it was clear I was going to have to spend the night they even provided a crew car overnight, which seems above and beyond the call. This was my second stop there and I’ll always keep them in mind.

KSUS: St. Louis, MO – Executive Beechcraft
I was at nearby Lambert Field with a flat tire on my Diamondstar DA40. Chris Faulbaum found the tire, the tube and had a guy on his way in a truck, through a thunderstorm, soon after I called. The maintenance shop on the field at STL is geared for jets, so having a local shop go WAY out of their way to get us back in the air the same day was what we needed. I love Signature, where we were parked at STL, but anytime I am in the St. Louis area I will now land SUS and stay with Executive Beechcraft. (It’s a sister company, anyway.) I had a similar experience July 2008 at Kansas City and Executive Beechcraft was great then, too. I was so glad to hear their name mentioned up here.

KICT: Wichita, KS – Ying Ling
At our quick turn here the line crew was helpful and so was the girl behind the desk. They had no issue with my 10yr old doing laps in the hallway to unwind from being stuck in the plane. The WiFi is nice and fast, the seats are all comfortable, and I can’t imagine stopping somewhere else on a trip across the country. My ten year old left his Gameboy behind (plugged in to charge), and they sent it home ahead of us. He was so happy at our next stop when they confirmed that it would be in the mail. Great service and a great stop.

KDHL: Dalhart, TX – Cafe and fuel
A little airport in the middle of nowhere, but the service could not have been better. The cafe was open and my ten year old son and I had a fine lunch which watching the ramp. They fueled out little piston single in a pretty high wind and didn’t seem to spill a drop. On the route from Wichita to Albuquerque I can’t think of a better place to stop.

KABQ: Albuquerque, NM – Cutter Aviation
In the midst of ten Apache helicopters arriving, the line crew had no trouble getting our little piston single to a good spot for the hour we were here. They attended to the needs of my ten year old son (water? vending machine? bathroom? pinball on the computer?) while I relaxed for a little bit before we pushed on to their Deer Valley location.

KDVT: Deer Valley, AZ – Cutter Aviation
After ten hours of flying on the Hobbs it was the end of a long day and Cutter made it much easier. They booked our hotel, shuttled us over there, and gave us a little run down on the area. There were high winds and they had the plane tied tightly. It was fueled and ready to go in the morning and they offered to bring my ten year old out to the plane under an umbrella, since there was a light rain. We will return.

About Colin Summers

I am an architect, programmer, private pilot, husband and father. A couple of those I am good at.
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