What is a Fixed Base Operator?

The Fixed Base Operator (or FBO) is a commonly used term in the business aviation industry. However, despite this, few people really know what a Fixed Base Operator is. The term originated in the United States after World War I, a time when the aviation industry was essentially completely unregulated. The majority of pilots were either stunt performers (called barnstormers) or very short-distance commuter pilots in retired military aircraft. These pilots would often land in open fields on farms where they would make camp. These temporary bases were the original civilian airfields.

This changed in 1926, when the United States Air Commerce Act was put in place. It began a new, far more regulated era of aviation. Pilots had to be licensed, maintenance standards were stricter, and the training pilots underwent was tough. It didn’t take long for pilots and mechanics to realize that these new regulations made aviation a far more realistic and legitimate business opportunity. This led to the birth of the Fixed Base Operator. Aviators and mechanics alike began these registered businesses, setting them apart from the barnstormers of a bygone era. Like all industries, aviation evolved over time and the need to establish third party organizations to handle the rapidly-growing operations became pertinent. Tasks such as refueling, security, hangar management, lounges, concierge, and so on had to be attended to. This is where FBOs came in.

Modern FBOs generally provide six primary services: fueling, ground handling, aircraft parking, hangaring, charter services, customs & immigration, and passenger lounges. Fueling is the main source of income for FBOs, so it is an important aspect of their service. Many civilian aircraft operate on jet fuel or avgas, and most FBOs will have both of these. Depending on the size of the facility and its location relative to the runway, fuel is delivered either by truck or via a hydrant connected to the airport’s central pipeline.

Ground handling refers to any and all maintenance that takes place while the aircraft is grounded. This can include assistance with disembarking or boarding, loading & unloading of luggage or catering supplies, and cleaning services. The ground handling crew will also address general maintenance and carry out safety checks before the aircraft is cleared for another flight. To carry out the many ground handling processes, the crews employ a wide range of ground support equipment such as aircraft service stairs, belt loaders, chocks, de-icing equipment, ground power units, portable water trucks, and more.

Most FBOs will also offer parking and even hangaring. Parking is subject to availability, and busy airports often set limitations on the length of time an aircraft can be parked there. Parking is either on the ramp itself, at a remote location, or in a hangar. Not all FBOs will offer hangar access, but it can be a valuable asset to your aircraft, ensuring it is stored safely and away from outdoor conditions. Most hangars will also have a workshop area where basic aircraft maintenance and repair work can be done. FBOs often help with charter services too, providing a variety of aircraft and helicopters for hire. The aircraft are typically based at a certain airport where they are kept while not in use.

One thing you might not expect fixed base operators to assist with is customs and immigration. However, many larger FBOs have dedicated facilities on site. This allows customers to have convenient, quick passage through the airport after an international flight. For FBOs without such facilities, passengers will clear customs in the main area of the airport, where commercial airline passengers do the same. Finally, virtually all FBOs will have a passenger lounge area. As FBO services have evolved, luxury and customer service has become a top priority. Passenger lounges typically consist of private areas for customers to eat, drink, rest, etc. and a staff of employees providing service.

The main purpose of a Fixed Base Operator is to provide a smooth, comfortable flight experience. At Purchasing Management 360, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we aim to do the same for the parts procurement process. In our inventory of over 2 billion parts, we have ground support equipment for the aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries. This includes ground support headsets, APU power plugs, aviation fuel test kits, windsock & frames, and much more. We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at sales@purchasingmanagement360.com or call us at +1-714-705-4780. Our team of dedicated account managers is standing by and will respond to you in 15 minutes or less.


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