FBO Profile: Rectrix Aerodrome SRQ

 - January 29, 2009, 10:45 AM

Rectrix Aerodrome Centers is aiming to raise the bar for FBOs by building “five star” facilities with service and amenities to match. Additionally, the company intends to shake up the market by injecting fresh ideas such as its Hangarminiums, a condo-type arrangement for hangars, and possibly two-level hangars, for which Rectrix holds a patent.

Like many FBOs, Rectrix was born out of a businessman’s need for hangar space. Dr. Thomas Russell, founder of Bio/Dynamics, needed a place to keep his airplane at Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis, Mass., so he tapped cousin-in-law Richard Cawley, a fellow entrepreneur, to help him develop a hangar there.

The partnership spawned Rectrix Aerodrome and aircraft charter and management subsidiary Rectrix Aviation, which is co-owned by the pair. The companies’ name, Rectrix, is defined as the “quill feather of a bird’s tail controlling the direction of flight.”

While the two initially intended to build only a hangar, the deal Russell and Cawley negotiated with the Barnstable Airport authority allowed them to build a full-service FBO, so they did. The pair opened a $6.5 million FBO at Hyannis airport in August 2005, but things haven’t gone as smoothly as planned with the airport authority. Rectrix is in litigation with the airport over rights to sell fuel. The airport authority has a monopoly on fuel sales, but Rectrix is challenging the status quo by claiming its agreement allows the FBO to sell fuel. The case is still pending.

Sunshine State Facility

The experience at Barnstable didn’t sour the partners on seeking to expand their FBO business; if anything, it was a lesson on how to do things better in the future. And it wasn’t long before they started looking at other secondary airports where they could build an FBO.

Russell and Cawley soon set their sights on Sarasota/ Bradenton (Fla.) International Airport, where Rectrix Aviation was leasing hangar space from Dolphin Aviation and Russell has “other interests.” They tapped Rectrix COO William Weibrecht to oversee the construction of the Sarasota facility and manage the FBO.

According to Weibrecht, airport officials in Sarasota greeted the company with open arms, and negotiations for a 20-acre parcel on the east side of the airport went with hardly a hitch. Rectrix is the third FBO at Sarasota, sharing the field with Volo Aviation and Dolphin Aviation.

Rectrix started operations at Sarasota in mid-2007 in temporary buildings while it was building its $25 million FBO complex. The terminal, which opened in October, is a three-story, 15,000-sq-ft facility with features and amenities galore.

On the ground floor, the lobby contains many nooks for passengers and crews, as well as a lounge area that could easily be mistaken for an upscale bar. Also on this floor is a private passenger lounge, complete with leather chairs, a library and faux fireplace; crew snooze room with showers; weather briefing room; a work area where crews can use their laptops or BlackBerrys; and FBO offices.

On the second floor is an executive office for Russell, as well as a large conference room with a view of the airport. A second, slightly smaller conference room occupies the third floor. The entire facility has been decorated with contemporary finishes and furnishings reminiscent of five-star hotels and country clubs, Weibrecht said.
Amenities include complimentary crew cars, WSI weather and Hertz rental cars.

At press time, Rectrix was still offering jet-A at $3.50 a gallon to celebrate the facility’s recent grand opening. Weibrecht said he intends to keep the FBO’s fuel prices low but maintain a high level of service. Rectrix Sarasota pumps ChevronTexaco fuel and participates in the fuel provider’s Alliance Program.

Unlike in Hyannis, the relationship between Sarasota airport officials and Rectrix has been “great,” Weibrecht said. In fact, Sarasota Airport director airport Rick Piccolo had nothing but good things to say about Rectrix and its new facility: “There is no facility like this anywhere in Florida, and we are happy that Rectrix elected to invest
in Sarasota and bring such a great product to our corporate and leisure travelers.”

On the adjacent north side of the terminal are three hangars, offering a combined 150,000 sq ft of space, that can accommodate ultra-long-range business jets. There is also space to build additional hangars on the south side of the terminal. Outside is nearly 15 acres of concrete ramp space. Weibrecht said that the company decided to use concrete rather than asphalt because the former can better withstand the weight of business jets and will last longer.

Just a couple of hundred feet north of the terminal and attached hangars are the Hangarminiums. Rectrix has pioneered the Hangarminium concept, “offering owners all the benefits of private hangar ownership without any of the hassles or expense associated with additional staff or equipment.” Each Hangarminium is designed and constructed to the owner’s specifications, and can be sized to accommodate aircraft as large as the Global Express and Gulfstream G550 or multiple aircraft fleets. So far, there are five Hangarminiums, with open space for up to three more.

Meanwhile, Sarasota is only the beginning of the start of the FBO chain. Weibrecht said Rectrix is looking at several other secondary airports, on both coasts, and is eager to continue building its “five star” FBO network.