Unlike commercial airlines, private jets and charter flights primarily use FBO, Fixed Base Operation, for arrivals and departures. If you are new to traveling by private or charter planes, you might be wondering, what is an FBO? In this article, we discuss the key features and services offered by an FBO.
Definition of an “FBO”
“FBO” means “Fixed Base Operation”. An FBO is an organization granted the right by an airport to operate at the airport. The FBO provides services such as fueling, hangaring, tie-down and parking, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance, and flight instruction. An FBO caters specifically to private and charter flights.
The history behind the term “Fixed Base Operation” dates back to the early 20th century. Before the U.S. Air Commerce Act was passed in 1926, transient pilots (known as “barnstormers”) offered passenger flights and airshows. They traveled around the country and landed in farmers’ fields rather than in airports. The U.S. Air Commerce Act of 1926 regulated aviation support businesses for maintenance and training standards, leading to the new term “Fixed Base Operation” because of the development of fixed airport addresses.
What Services are Offered by an FBO?
At a minimum, an FBO sells aviation fuel, provides space for parking, and supports take-off and landing. Many FBOs will provide maintenance services as well. At J.A. Air Center, our comprehensive FBO services include the following:
- Aircraft Detailing
- Aircraft Hangar Space
- Avionics Equipment at Pilot Store
- Certified Aircraft Maintenance
- Charter Services
- Crew Services
- FAA-certified Part 145 Repair Station
- Flight Instruction
- Fueling Service
- Ground Handling
- Ground Transportation
- Passenger Services
- Private Terminal
- 20,000 Square Foot Canopy for Arrival/Departure Coverage
In particular, we have fuel and maintenance services that are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our staff of certified mechanics and aviation professionals work around the clock to ensure that every arrival and departure is convenient, safe, and welcoming.
What Amenities are Offered by an FBO?
Basic amenities at an FBO are a seating area, Wi-Fi, and restrooms. Most FBOs also include a pilot lounge area to allow pilots to relax between flights.
At J.A. Air Center, we offer extensive amenities to pilots and passengers in our spacious FBO, including the following:
- Complimentary gourmet coffee and cookies
- Complimentary wireless high-speed internet
- Full restrooms including showers
- Pilot lounge
- Pilot’s weather briefing and planning room
- Apple AirPrint capable printers for printing from iOS devices
- WSI Weather and printing capabilities
- Comfortable reclining leather chairs
- Fully appointed office space
- Exercise room with private shower
- Hotel reservation services
- Catering services
- Crew car
- Rental car reservation services
- Secure, gated parking
- Satellite television
- Snooze rooms
- VOIP phone system
Whether you are a pilot or a passenger, our goal is to provide you with a relaxing stop between your destinations and first-class support to make your trip even more enjoyable.
What Security Standards Apply to an FBO?
One of the top advantages of private flights is the ability to forego the long lines for security that are a standard inconvenience at commercial airports. According to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the average wait time at commercial airports is 30 minutes (as of January 21, 2019). Of course, wait times can easily become longer during times of high-volume traffic, such as around the holidays.
Although an FBO still implements security measures for the safety of crew and passengers, the significantly lower volume of traffic means that security can be quick and relatively hassle-free. The TSA has outlined minimum security measures that apply to an FBO. In the United States, passengers on a Part 135 charter flight need to provide current government-issued identification. The passengers must also be on the passenger manifest. In addition to meeting TSA standards, FBOs may be subject to safety regulations from state, regional, and/or local authorities.
If applicable, passengers will be subject to immigration checks. There may be additional screening in airports outside the United States, such as luggage searches and full-body scanners.
Many FBOs implement additional security measures for enhanced safety. For example, an FBO may have on-site security personnel and surveillance cameras.
How Common are FBOs?
FBOs are spread throughout the United States. In fact, private aviation in the United States has access to over 5,000 airports (compared to less than 500 for commercial airlines). Additionally, some larger airports have two or more FBOs. There are as many as six FBOs on-site in airports with a high volume of private jet flights, such as Teterboro Airport near New York and Van Nuys Airport near Los Angeles.
You can check online databases of airports (such as aopa.org) to find a list of all FBOs in your area and what services they offer. If you are arriving/departing from an airport that does not have an FBO, your charter operator may still be able to arrange the flight using a local handling company.
Are FBOs Only for Private Airports?
FBOs are meant to service private aircraft and charter companies; therefore, they will only be located at airports that offer private jet services. Private and commercial airports are usually completely separate, but some commercial airports have private terminals with FBOs.
Can I Request a Different FBO?
Most operators will allow you to change the FBO selection when booking a private flight as a passenger. Services such as FlightBridge facilitate reservations for pilots and flight departments at 1000+ FBO.
J.A. Air Center: Chicago’s Premium FBO
J.A. Air Center is the Midwest’s leading aviation support facility. Our FBO features a fully appointed terminal and offers concierge-level services to pilots and passengers. Over 150,000 square feet of space at J.A. Air Center means ample room to house private jets and flight departments. Professional fueling and maintenance services are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.