2016 FBO Survey – The Americas.
J.A. Air Center – Rating 4.78 / 5.00
Starting out as an avionics shop more than half a century ago, J.A. Air Center (the J.A. stands for Joliet Avionics) has since evolved into an FBO in the Chicagoland
suburb of Sugar Grove that AIN’s readers consistently rate highly. One of two service providers at the general aviation Aurora Municipal Airport, J.A. handles the vast
majority of transient traffic, according to general manager Randy Fank. The location sold 7 percent more fuel last year, despite losing one of its most active tenants. Being
recognized as a CAA-preferred FBO also has its benefits, according to Fank. “We’re probably averaging 10 CAA guys a week and two or three of them are new, and it just keeps getting busier and busier with that type of program.” So far this year, the location’s traffic is up 20 percent over the same period last year.
The FBO is home to 13 turbine-powered aircraft ranging from a 737 to a Caravan, with all but the Boeing sheltered in the location’s 125,000 sq ft of heated hangar space. While Aurora provides direct access to downtown Chicago via highways, local helicopter operator CHE (Chicago Helicopter Experience) will soon launch shuttle service from the airport to its downtown helipad using Airbus helicopters and Robinson R44s. The service will cost between $600 and $1,900 depending on the helicopter requested. J.A. will be the arrival and departure point for the service.
J.A.’s seven-year-old 11,000-sq-ft terminal and 15,500-sq-ft arrival canopy earned the location its highest score (4.84) and aside from the occasional replacement of a flat screen tv, the facility currently requires little in renovation. Instead, the company will refresh its crew car fleet with two new vehicles. “We’ve got two sets of customers: the front and the back,” said Fank. “The pilot’s goal is to make sure the guy in the back is taken care of, so that’s what we focus on when they get here, and then we focus on the pilot customers, and that’s why we upgrade our cars. We try to keep things nice.” One of its most popular amenities is the recently introduced valet parking. Customer vehicles are parked indoors and if necessary washed and detailed before the customer returns.
A one-stop shop for virtually all aviation needs, J.A. offers aircraft charter and management, interiors, maintenance and, true to its heritage, one of the largest avionics shops in the country, which is seeing an upswing driven by the looming ADS-B mandate. “We’re seeing a good flow of traffic starting to look at doing the upgrades they need to do,” noted Fank. “Maintenance is really busy too; we have backlogs in both our shops that we haven’t seen for a while.”