Charlotte, one year later

 - September 20, 2006, 4:36 AM

Wilson Air Center’s Charlotte/Douglas International Airport FBO in North Carolina recently celebrated one year of operation, under a management contract with the airport authority. The FBO terminal, refurbished at a cost of $1 million, opened in February, and Wilson Air Center is already adding hangar space, with a new 25,000-sq-ft building to open this month. Vince Papke, who used to work for the former Charlotte FBO Signature Flight Support, is general manager of Wilson Air Center Charlotte.

The FBO’s management contract with the airport authority is unique in aviation, although other airports are beginning to adopt similar plans. “When we took over,” said David Ivey, Wilson Air Center vice president, “Charlotte had the highest fuel prices in the nation. The aviation director gave us two orders: enhance service levels and reduce costs. I’m proud to say we accomplished both goals in the first year of operating.” The Charlotte facility’s jet-A prices are 50 cents lower than average prices measured at 32 busy airports, he said. “Pilots are frugal these days.”

The Charlotte facility sees a high level of VIP traffic, especially in large airplanes. Wilson Air Center employs two dispatchers from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to facilitate communications between front-desk customer-service representatives and line personnel. Another appealing element at Charlotte is the valet station on the land side, which lets arriving passengers deposit their luggage at the front door.

The airport authority encourages Wilson to make local businesses comfortable keeping their airplanes hangared at Charlotte, so Wilson Air Center offers an incentive fuel discount to tenants. “Charlotte corporations are important to the city,” Ivey said. Despite the fuel discounts and start-up expenses, he added, “the first year has been a win-win situation, and we still made the airport a considerable amount of money.”

At Wilson Air Center’s Houston Hobby facility, two hangars have already been rebuilt, and the refurbished terminal is open for business, with one additional hangar under reconstruction.