FBO’s Eastward Flight, Summer 2010

Our ninth flight across the country brought us to the follow Fixed Base Operators, so I reviewed them for the Airnav web site. I also wrote reviews for our Spring Break 2009, and 2007 trips. I wish that Airnav had an iPhone or iPad application, so we could plan where to land (and where to park) when we were aloft in the plane.

KSEZ: Sedona, Arizona – Red Rock Aviation
This is our standard first stop out of Los Angeles, this fuel stop introduces us to the idea that people are going to be outgoing, friendly, and helpful as we make our way across the country. The plane was fueled quickly and cleanly while we took a short walk around the airport. My younger son left his laptop charger in the passenger lounge (not technically part of Red Rock’s business), and the Red Rock guys located it, called us, and mailed it back to us on the East Coast. Outstanding service from great people.

KSAF: Santa Fe, New Mexico – Santa Fe Jet Center
I am pretty sure we were the poor cousins landing at this place. Santa Fe is a destination for a lot of second wives on their journey to find themselves, so NetJets and the other charter operations land here regularly. The crew car we borrowed really was a car for a jet crew and the FBO wanted it back in two hours. That gave us just enough time to nip into town, stroll a little in the heat, and grab a bite. Rudy reviewed the restaurant on Yelp! which was great to see. Oddly, the FBO is not on AirNav. I’m not sure why such a large operation would let themselves slip off that page. On our return there were four Citations waiting for their aura-aligned passengers to return from Santa Fe and nearby Taos.

KLBL: Liberal, Kansas – Lydden Aero Center
This is the real deal. We were coming in very close to ten o’clock at night, their closing time, from Santa Fe. I was worried they would be closed, but figured if they were we would self-serve fuel and hop to the closest 24hr place for the night. Jesus was there to wave us in after we announced our arrival on the CTAF. He not only helped us pick out a hotel for the night (not good enough to recommend, not bad enough to warn you off of), he let us have a crew car for the entire night. With two sleepy little boys dragging their luggage around, he was really kind, helpful and spot on. After we got to the hotel we realized that we had flown into a new time zone and it was, in fact, eleven o’clock instead. In the morning the plane was topped off as requested and the morning staff was just as pleasant. This is an FBO from another time.

KMKC: Kansas City, Missouri – Executive Beechcraft
I was sad to hear that EB would be switching over to the Signature brand in the coming months. They were the remnants of a great, iconic name in general aviation. We stopped here on the way across the country so our boys could have some real Kansas City BBQ. EB dropped us at Jack Stack’s, and when it turned out it was too long a wait for a table they zipped back to pick us up at the take-away window. We had our delicious lunch in their break room. It required multiple calls to the front desk and they could not have been more pleasant and friendly.

KHUF: Terre Haute, Indiana – Terre Haute Air Services
Although it was a little difficult to find (they recently moved into the terminal building itself), the FBO was very friendly. They are a complete training facility, so they are familiar with student pilots and little planes. They fueled the plane for our quick turn and were polite and helpful.

KISZ: Blue Ash, Ohio – Blue Ash Aviation
Was a little nervous given the recent comment, but had a great experience. Apparently when their fuel delivery is missed (not their fault) they are forced to limit transient customers. Delivery was on time this week, I guess. Terry stayed past his 7pm quitting time to make sure I got tied down and fueled tonight so I can leave early tomorrow. He suggested the Wyndham and said there was an $83 special. I will stop here again.

KELM: Elmira, New York – Atlantic Aviation
This was a compulsory forty-five minute stop on a day with two long legs, so it was nice to be in a spot that offered some comfort. There’s a soft serve ice cream machine, a popcorn machine, and some vending machines. Our two boys had ice cream with crumbled cookies as topping. The Corning Glass Museum is ten minutes away and they offered us a crew car to go check it out, but we decided to push on. We didn’t pay a ramp or handling fee and the fuel price seemed reasonable for that large an airport. They were very friendly and we will be back.

KLEB: Lebanon, New Hampshire – Signal Aviation
I am confused by my three years of experience with Signal Aviation. I have called to have the plane pulled up for my arrival so it’s easier to load, and it’s still at the tie down. But the second time I flew out this summer it was right up next to the FBO like it was a jet. Sometimes when I land there’s no one there to help with the plane, or the lineman that shows up seems put out, other times they are all over it. It’s a mixed bag and I have told myself that they are the only FBO on the field (so there’s no competition to respond to), and it is vacation land, so I try to switch over to “island time.” They have also done a lot that is great customer service, like calling us in the rental car when we left something behind, and driving us over to the terminal when our rental car was over there.

KRUT: Rutland, Vermont – Columbia Air Services
Don’t use the email address; I sent several emails to it over a week-long period and there was never a response. But this FBO definitely went above-and-beyond during the five days I was based at Rutland. They worked hard to get a rental car up from town and out onto the tarmac even through I would be returning to the field after they were closed. I was flying in and out in the middle of July and they let my passengers cool off inside while I was pre-flighting the plane. They had the plane fueled right when I needed it, and had a suggestion for a maintenance possibility when I was curious about getting the oil changed. Other than the email problem, a top notch FBO even though it is a small operation.

1B2: Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts – Katama Airfield
As soon as you have enough hours to comfortable do a turf landing, you should journey out to this little gem. Our DA40 has a little longer (low) wingspan and the taxiways aren’t mowed quite wide enough for it, so we picked up a few grass stains on the ailerons on the way in. But it is worth it. The diner (The Right Fork) is great. Our group had burgers, floats and salads. All delicious. The parking wasn’t outrageously expensive. Airnav doesn’t have a diagram of the field, which is too bad. We parked by the diner, but there’s another parking ramp that is steps from the sand of South Beach. We walked out there instead and swam for two hours. It was fantastic.

KPSM: Portsmouth, New Hampshire – Port City Air
I flew in on July 17th to visit my son at nearby Exeter. They obviously monitor the frequencies and a lineman was trotting out to guide us in even before we were on the ramp. They were very helpful with directions, arranging the rental car, and discussing the fueling arrangements. It was the middle of a heat wave and for just $20 they put the little Diamondstar in the shade of one of the quonset huts. Those WW2 shelters are so cool I had to go out and take a photo of the plane tucked into one. This is a very professional operation with great people.

7B2: North Hampton, Massachusetts – Northampton Aeronautics
This was one of the smaller airports we had landed at recently and we’re flying a little single engine piston. We were treated like we had rolled out on the ramp at Jackson Hole in a Gulfstream. They had a golf cart take us back out to the plane, used the cart to tow the plane to the pumps, ran back to get us a funnel to dump in the quart of oil, and kept us entertained the whole time. Our rental car was ready and waiting, the bathrooms are clean, and the air conditioning was blowing full blast. A wonderful place to have stopped.

N07: Lincoln Park, NJ – Lincoln Park Aviation
This place is a gem, hidden away in the hills of Morris County. If your plane is small enough to land here, you should. This isn’t really an FBO (or, at least, I didn’t find the passenger lounge), but they collected me from the bus stop, did great maintenance work on the little Diamondstar (oil change, found a cracked spark plug), and were friendly every time I called. The field is straight out of the fifties, so small that people stroll across the runway to get to their hangar. There’s a delicious grill on the field with a patio overlooking the runway. It was hopping with live music when I landed on Sunday night. This is my new base when I am in New York City.

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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