Supermarine. For aviation aficionados the name brings to mind sleek Spitfires knifing through the sky, and that’s precisely the imagery that spawned the name of the FBO at the recently renamed Bill and Hillary Clinton International Airport in Little Rock, Ark. Company founder David Price once owned a pair of the legendary World War II fighters, best known for their staunch defense against the Nazis during the Battle of Britain. He raced the Rolls-Royce Merlin-powered aircraft at Reno during the 1970s, and he acquired the North American rights to the Supermarine name, which he then applied to FBOs at Santa Monica Municipal Airport in California, and at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, N.Y. He subsequently sold those locations to Atlantic Aviation in 2007, leaving the Little Rock location the only current Supermarine FBO.
New Terminal Facility
That facility sits on the former Omni Air site, which Supermarine acquired in 2006. For several years, Supermarine–one of two providers on the field–operated out of a trailer while the existing FBO was knocked down and rebuilt. It moved into its new home at the beginning of 2011. The modern terminal occupies 10,000 sq ft and features a passenger lounge, two multimedia-equipped conference rooms seating six and 20 respectively, concierge service, a pilot lounge, a pair of snooze rooms, fitness room with showers, weather/flight planning room, crew cars, onsite car rental and even onsite U.S. Customs service for customers with over-flight permits. Fresh-baked cookies and fine coffees and teas are available. In fact, one of the FBO’s slogans is “Sweet tea with sweet service.”
“We train our staff to handle whoever is in the back first, and then we handle the pilots’ needs,” general manager John Mears told AIN. “We always try to make the pilots look good.” The facility, which is open 24/7, has a staff of 15.
The terminal’s interior is decorated with photos depicting famous and not-so-famous airplanes built by Supermarine from the 1920s to the 1950s. The theme even extends to the music played on the facility’s phone system: 1930s Jazz, reflecting the era when the Spitfire was born. The facility was built to be as customer-friendly as possible. Guests arriving at the landside of the FBO can park under a large portico in front of the building. “We designed it for the fewest steps possible for the guy getting out of his car, through the facility and into his airplane,” said Mears, who has been with the facility since it opened. All told, it is little more than 50 feet through two pairs of hands-free doors from the streetside to the nose of the airplane for those who wish to walk. The airport also allows cars to drive up to the airplane door with an escort.
The Avfuel-branded dealer sells approximately 1.5 million gallons of jet-A a year, pumped by its fleet of four 3,000-gallon tankers. Its fuel tank farm can store 50,000 gallons of jet fuel and 12,000 gallons of avgas. According to Mears, the FBO sells between 2,500 and 3,000 gallons of avgas each month and has a 600-gallon fuel truck to serve those customers. The FBO’s line-service staff receive Avfuel training.
The former Little Rock National Airport/Adams Field, the primary airport serving the Arkansas capital, is a multi-use facility that receives airline, air taxi, GA and military traffic. Its three runways (ranging from 6,224 feet to more than 8,000 feet long) see approximately 260 operations a day.
Currently, the FBO is home to 15 turbine-powered aircraft, from a Falcon 20 to a King Air, and it has a single 23,000-sq-ft heated hangar that can accommodate aircraft up to the size of a Gulfstream V. Faced with 100-percent occupancy, Supermarine will soon take advantage of the expansion room available on its 15-acre leasehold and break ground on a 30,000-sq-ft hangar that will be able to shelter the latest generation of long-range business aircraft.
When asked if there are plans once again to expand the Supermarine brand into other markets, Mears replied, “We’re always looking.”