FBO Profile: Flight Level Aviation

 - July 28, 2009, 8:37 AM

Operators of small- to medium-size turbine aircraft looking for a quality facility to use in the Boston area should consider Norwood Municipal Airport (OWD) and its FBO, Flight Level Aviation. The airfield offers two 4,000-foot runways and localizer and Rnav approaches, and it is a U.S. Customs landing rights facility. An FAA-contract tower operates from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the spring and summer and to 8 p.m. in the fall and winter.

Flight Level Aviation, established last year by an investor group for the express purpose of acquiring existing FBOs, purchased the former Eastern Air Center at Norwood in January last year. In March, it completed the acquisition of the Landmark and Columbia FBOs at Lakeland, Fla., combining the operation under the Columbia name. Peter Eichleay is president and owner of Flight Level.

Other than new signage, there are few physical changes to the facility’s 8,500-sq-ft terminal and 100,000 sq ft of hangar for storage and maintenance. Most of the veteran ground crew from Eastern Air Center stayed on with Flight Level, among them long-time general manager Len Carroll, chief of maintenance Glenn Juber and line service supervisor Bob Powers. The only other changes were a switch from Exxon to Shell for fuel service and from Enterprise to Avis for rental cars. There is a total of 120,000 sq ft of building and ramp area. Flight Level holds the lease on nine acres–“plenty of room to build additional hangars for maintenance, storage and based aircraft,” said Eichleay.

The two-story terminal might not be as large, fancy or modern as some at other FBOs, but it is clean and has the necessary amenities, such as a crew lounge, dedicated flight-planning area and a 16-seat conference room. Renovations to modernize the terminal scheduled to have started last year were put on hold when the economy went south and some potential hangar customers backed out.

Flight Level’s regular operating hours are 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily, but the company can be called at any hour to request line service, terminal access or emergency maintenance. Avis is on-site and rental cars can be picked up during regular and nonbusiness hours. Tasos, a full-service restaurant, is also on site. One crew car is available for short durations, and Flight Level will shuttle crew or passengers to and from the nearby train station for the 30-minute ride into downtown Boston.

Boston to the north and Providence, Rhode Island, to the south are each a 30-minute drive (during off-peak hours) on I-95, which is five minutes from the airport. The FBO will also provide transportation to nearby hotels, restaurants, golf courses and other recreational and fitness facilities. Boston’s major colleges, universities and professional sports arenas are also within a 30- to 45-minute drive of OWD.

Catering is provided by Sensations, a company specializing in providing business aircraft food services to several airports in the New England area. Eichleay also recommends ordering box lunches from Tasos and Perks Coffee House in Norwood. Flight Level Aviation can provide refrigeration for meals that arrive at the FBO in advance of being picked up. The FBO’s Web site contains an online arrivals form to request in advance such services as fuel, catering, hangar storage, crew or rental cars, hotel reservations and so on.  

Flight Level Aviation charges a “modest” ramp fee if an operator parks and uses its facilities without purchasing fuel. However, a fuel discount program based on volume starts with an uplift of just 100 gallons. Eichleay noted that turbine fuel pricing at OWD is the lowest among Boston-area airports. Also, OWD has no landing fees or any curfew or mandatory noise-abatement procedures (but there are published recommended procedures).

Although operations at OWD are prohibited by any aircraft exceeding 75 decibels as measured in FAR Part 36, Eichleay said this has not been a problem for the small to medium jets typically using OWD and even for the larger ones that use the airport occasionally. There have been no noise issues with the surrounding communities, Eichleay told AIN. What’s more, he said, there are few ATC delays compared with the other Boston-area GA airfields. Additionally, OWD has no mandatory TSA requirements (such as prop locks). Nevertheless, a “high level” of voluntary security measures is in place, according to general manager Carroll, including cameras and fencing. He said there have been no security incidents, but, amusingly, the cameras did reveal who had been using the FBO’s dumpster without authorization.

Flight Level maintains about 75 percent of the nearly 200 aircraft based at OWD, of which some 25 are jets, turboprops and turbine helicopters. The company has FAA airframe and avionics repair ratings and can perform engine inspections and repairs up through hot sections. It is not an OEM-approved Citation facility, but maintains many Citations and can perform inspections on these aircraft through Phase V.

Fuel sales, which account for 75 percent of Flight Level’s revenue (25 percent comes from maintenance and tiedowns), are divided nearly 50/50 between based and transient operations. OWD sees about 20,000 movements annually and despite the fact that Flight Level provides, on average, line services to about 60 based and transient turbine aircraft daily, “business dropped about 20 percent” since last October, Eichleay told AIN. But it is starting to come back a “little–little being the operative word,” he said. “We are always looking for jets that fly a lot. There’s plenty of room for new customers.”