For the Atlantic Aviation facility at Connecticut’s Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport (BDR), life is finally returning to normal after the repairs and clean-up from 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, which ravaged the Northeast two days before Halloween. The FBO occupies a historic WWII-vintage complex on the north end of the airport near the Long Island Sound and sustained approximately $1 million in damage and cleaning costs to its terminal and hangars, forcing it to relocate temporarily.
“We’re close to the shoreline here,” noted Maria Tari, general manager of the Bridgeport facility and of Atlantic’s FBO at Hartford-Brainard Airport as well. “Between high tide and the hurricane, at the same time as a full moon, it created a 12-foot storm surge and we are only nine feet above sea level here…There were areas where there was three feet of water.”
While the surge slowed somewhat as it reached the buildings, it still pushed eight inches deep into the terminal and hangars for the first time, coating everything with a thick layer of mud. In the terminal, the lobby, pilots’ lounge, offices and bathrooms–indeed, anything on the ground floor–were ruined, requiring the removal of carpeting and sheetrock.
Tari returned to the facility the day after the storm to survey the damage. “As we were walking through the hangars, in the thick mud bath there were all these little criss-cross tracks everywhere,” she recalled. Once the waters receded, thousands of half-foot-long ornery mantis shrimp were left stranded. “They were everywhere,” said Tari, “the next day we had a field day with seagulls all over the ramp.”
The operators of most of the based aircraft had heeded warnings to relocate before the storm. While a new Global Express rode out Sandy in one of the vintage wooden-beamed hangars with no damage, many smaller aircraft were not as lucky, eventually requiring extensive landing-gear repairs after their salt-water bath.
The FBO was back in operation two days after the storm. It would occupy a temporary trailer in front of the sodden terminal for the next six months as walls were removed, wiring replaced and offices were reconfigured. The location’s four 25,500-sq-ft historic heated hangars, with doors large enough to accommodate a G650, were originally constructed to serve as final assembly buildings for Vought’s renowned Corsair, and housed the flight-test operations for the prop-driven fighter. They were emptied and power-washed before they could once again house the FBO’s more than 20 based turbine-powered aircraft, ranging from a pair of Globals and a trio of GIVs to a TBM850 turboprop.
By mid-April, the FBO staff was able to move back into the 1,400-sq-ft terminal and begin setting up for operations. Among the improvements, where a brick wall formerly stood, a new set of automatic glass doors that open on to the ramp was installed, making a welcoming entry for passengers and crew alike. An outdoor patio was created, along with new garden landscaping, and the parking lot was resealed and painted. The pilots’ lounge and flight planning area was extended, a new kitchen/dining area was added, and the first floor was reconfigured with new hallway for access to tenant offices. All the bathrooms at the location were renovated, with a shower room installed in hangar three where there had not been one previously.
The FBO’s World Fuel-supplied tank farm escaped serious damage during Sandy. It can hold 12,000 gallons of jet-A and 10,000 gallons of avgas. According to Tari, the location dispenses approximately half a million gallons of fuel a year, from a pair of 5,000-gallon jet-A tankers and one 1,200-gallon 100LL refueler.
Normal hours of operation at the facility, one of three on the field, are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., although call-out service is available. While BDR is generally considered a domestic airport, international arrivals can clear U.S. customs and immigration there through on-demand service provided by the office at the port of Bridgeport. The location, which sees up to 20 operations a day, has a staff of 16. It formerly used NATA’s computer-based line service training program, but last month it switched those duties to the Atlantic Academy, the service provider’s in-house training program.
Among the amenities offered are complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the facility, onsite car rental, crew cars and linen service for based customers. Valet service is offered for passengers who prefer to drive their vehicles on to the ramp for planeside embarkation. According to Tari, many of the FBO’s based aircraft will reposition down to New York City-area airports such as Teterboro or Westchester County to pick up their passengers, but helicopters ferrying passengers to the city are a common sight at BDR as well.
As for her customer service philosophy, Tari says it doesn’t matter what aircraft a passenger arrives in. “We give everyone what we call the red-carpet treatment, whether it’s a Piper or a Global,” she told AIN. “We cater to everyone exactly the same way and make sure they get the service they really deserve when they are out there.”