As aircraft taxi into Atlantic Aviation’s facility at Cleveland-Hopkins International, it’s likely few visitors are aware of the history behind it. The airport, currently the largest in Ohio, hosted the Cleveland Air Races starting in 1929; it was also the first in the U.S. with a lighting system (installed the following year), and the first municipal airport with a radio-equipped control tower.
More than 80 years later, that control tower stands as part of Atlantic’s FBO. In fact it currently serves as the office of the facility’s general manager, Chuck Buckland. As the sole private aviation services provider on the airport, the FBO has changed hands a few times during its long history. Most recently Atlantic acquired it as I-X Jet Center in August 2007.
The 10,000-sq-ft building that serves as the FBO terminal was built in the late 1920s as well, dating back to the earliest days of the airport, indeed the earliest days of passenger air travel. It’s no great stretch to picture the likes of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, walking its corridors.
FBO Gets a Facelift
Yet the FBO is far from a museum piece. Last year Atlantic completed a nine-month-long renovation of the facility that cost more than $1 million. The parking lot was repaved, along with the drive leading to it. Both the interior and exterior of the building received facelifts, with new brick and glass on the outside and new stonework, tile and glass on the inside. All new furniture was brought in and the lobby, bathrooms, pilots’ lounge and café were all renovated. “[Atlantic] recognizes Cleveland as an important part of its network, and that’s why it wanted to invest back into it,” said Buckland who has been with the facility for the past 18 years.
The FBO is currently home to 19 tenants with 25 aircraft, including a GIV, a trio of Falcon 2000s, a pair of Hawkers and a quartet of Beechjets, along with several turboprops and smaller airplanes. Those based aircraft occupy a pair of heated 35,000-sq-ft hangars that date back to World War II. “The hangars are all-wood structures, with all wooden trusses and beams, and the only real metal is where the hangar doors mount,” said Buckland. As part of the recent major renovation, the floors of both hangars were resurfaced, a blessing and a curse, said Buckland, as the hangars are unable to accommodate the latest generation of long-range large-cabin aircraft. To remedy this, the company has discussed making alterations to the vintage structures. Costs could run as much as $1.5 million. Another addition during the recent upgrade is a rampside drive-under vehicle canopy for drop-off and pick-up of passengers who prefer to bypass the terminal.
The FBO sees approximately 3,000 transient arrivals a year and specializes in large-aircraft handling. With Cleveland home to baseball’s Indians, football’s Browns and basketball’s Cavaliers, the location receives plenty of experience dealing with professional athlete charters, not only from the comings and goings of the home teams but also from the charters of their opponents. To serve them, the FBO has two 7,000-gallon and one 5,000-gallon jet-A tankers, more than ample under most circumstances, but on some occasions even those aren’t enough. Buckland recalled a recent occasion where the leader of a Middle Eastern country arrived on a government jet for medical treatment at the renowned Cleveland Clinic. “He had a 747SP and we pumped nearly 25,000 gallons on that one feeding,” he said. “We need the size to hook up to them and take care of them,” he told AIN. Other notable visitors to the FBO’s 400,000-sq-ft ramp have been a U.S. Presidential 747 and the Antonov An-124 freighter.
An Epic Aviation dealer, the FBO pumps approximately 1.5 to 1.8 million gallons of jet-A annually from its 60,000-gallon underground fuel farm. It also stocks 100LL, which, at less than 12,000 gallons a year, represents but a minute fraction of its sales.
The location is open 24/7 with a staff of approximately 25 employees covering the three shifts. The line service staff is NATA Safety 1st trained, and the FBO offers type I and type IV de-icing and oxygen and nitrogen service as well as the typical ground services. The FBO has tenants who offer Part 135 charter service as well as aircraft management.
The facility offers onsite car rental, crew cars, a 24-hour airport shuttle and a spacious pilots’ lounge, including a separate Internet café with WSI. It has an eight-seat audiovisual-capable conference room, with complimentary Wi-Fi service throughout the terminal as well as on the ramp. Shower facilities are available in the hangar. The airport offers customs and immigration clearance at the main terminal. Above all, Buckland noted, “We like to have a good time with all of our customers and keep it friendly and personable instead of all business.” That level of friendly service extends to the small but appreciated details such as making sure a regular customer and aircraft owner always has a cup of hot coffee waiting in his favorite mug when he walks in the door.