When AIN visited Landmark Aviation’s San Diego International Airport FBO in July, the line service crew and general manager Charlie Ferraro were enjoying a respite from an influx of customers the day before. There were about 50 arrivals, mostly drop-offs of customers flying from Los Angeles to attend the hugely popular Comic-Con show at the San Diego Convention Center. The arrival of so many airplanes is always challenging for Landmark because the airport is jammed with airline operations and there isn’t a lot of room for business jet parking, but fortunately most of the Comic-Con customers didn’t need parking during the show.
Landmark San Diego is an unusual FBO. Given the constraints of the airport and the
difficulty of building new facilities, the FBO is located inside a hangar. Ten years ago when it was a Jimsair Aviation facility, the Bracamonte family, which opened the FBO in 1950, received approval to build a new FBO and tore down the old one.
Unfortunately, those plans ended up in the peculiar limbo that sometimes results when airport and local authorities can’t agree on development plans, and Jimsair had to compromise by building an FBO terminal inside one of its hangars. The new offices were completed in 2003 and take up roughly half the hangar. The other half is used to store customer airplanes. The FBO is elegant and comfortable, with plenty of customer and pilot lounge space, conference room, WSI weather, onsite rental cars, onsite catering and concierge services. A customer might not know that a hangar encloses the facility except for not seeing sunshine through the windows.
Landmark Aviation bought Jimsair Aviation in July 2008 from the Bracamonte family. At that time, Ferraro was working as a transition lead with Landmark Aviation, helping consolidate the IT and accounting systems from all the companies that became part of the Landmark chain, including Trajen and Encore FBO. Ferraro started his FBO career with Trajen in Austin, Texas, and took over as general manager at San Diego after the Jimsair acquisition. GTCR Golder Rauner and Encore FBO purchased the Landmark Aviation FBO chain from Dubai Aerospace Enterprise in March 2008 for $435 million.
At the time Jimsair had its own charter and maintenance departments, including four charter aircraft. But Landmark has a large charter division and didn’t see the need to retain that capability in San Diego and was able to provide charter services from its Scottsdale, Ariz. location. The former Jimsair maintenance division was closed, too, and now Landmark San Diego tenants offer those services.
Eight aircraft are based at the Landmark FBO, ranging from a King Air 200 to a Gulfstream V, and tenants rent office space at the FBO for various aviation-related businesses, including a charter broker and airline avionics and maintenance service providers, a general aviation maintenance company and mobile service teams from StandardAero, Cessna and Gulfstream.
“We’re happy to be here,” Ferraro said, noting that San Diego International is unusual in having such a large runway (9,401 feet) close to the downtown area. The airport is the second-busiest single-runway airport in the U.S., he said. And for business jet travelers to the San Diego area, there aren’t many choices if runway length and proximity to downtown are important. Shorter runways at the other local airports limit the ability of long-range aircraft to complete some missions, he said.
San Diego International has a large contingent of U.S. Customs officers and they meet arriving business jets at the Landmark FBO. Landmark contracts with a local Stericycle branch to sanitize trash from international flights.
Business at Landmark San Diego has stabilized, according to Ferraro, although it remains below the peak of the market in 2007 and early 2008. “I feel like we’ve seen the bottom, and compared to last year’s it’s not declining any more. We’ve had positive results in recent months. We take pride in our service and safety.”