While the major New York City-area GA airports such as Teterboro and Westchester County are certain to receive the lion’s share of private aircraft during next month’s Super Bowl, there is another tower-controlled airport just 12 miles from kickoff, and its FBO is hoping for a big score on game day.
Essex County Airport (commonly referred to as Caldwell, for its location in Caldwell, N.J.), has been in operation since 1929 and for the past four years Air Bound Aviation has been the lone service provider, having assumed the lease from the former Avantair, which used it as its New York City base. Company president Andy Ferguson knows the airport well, having spent nearly a quarter century there, starting as an aircraft sales broker. When the opportunity came to run the FBO, he took it.
“[Avantair] was leaving and they needed somebody to grab the lease,” he told AIN. “Our lease just started this year, 25 years with a five-year option.” Along with the lease, Air Bound inherited a facility that was once part of Curtiss-Wright Propeller, which made thousands of airscrews for warbirds. In fact, the terminal highlights New Jersey’s extensive aviation history and is decorated with posters, photographs, memorabilia and articles. A Curtiss-Wright propeller from a WWII-era Lockheed P-38 Lightning serves as a centerpiece.
At 5,000 sq ft, the terminal, which is about to undergo some minor refreshment, features a spacious passenger lobby, 10-seat conference room, a kitchen, onsite car rental, crew lounge, snooze room, flight planning and complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the facility. During the summer months the FBO hosts weekly barbeques for passengers and crews on its landscaped rampside patio. The terminal is attached to a 20,000-sq-ft wooden 1930s-vintage hangar (it can accommodate aircraft up to the size of a Falcon 900). In total, the facility has 48,000 sq ft of heated hangar space, including a 13,000-sq-ft hangar dating from the 1990s, which underwent a $1 million renovation last year (paid for by the FBO’s Essex County landlords) that gave it a new roof, new heating and lighting and a repainted floor. Air conditioning was just added to this hangar as well, allowing it to be used as a venue for functions during the warmer months.
The airport’s 4,552-foot-long main runway (plus a 3,719-foot secondary runway) suits it to smaller jets and turboprops, although Ferguson has seen some larger business jets land there too. It is home to approximately 20 turbine-powered airplanes, including eight jets ranging from a Falcon 50 to an Eclipse 500. Among the dozen or so turboprops, including several Pilatus PC-12s (Air Bound remains a Pilatus dealer), are offerings from all the major manufacturers, as well as eight helicopters. Those aircraft are fueled from the county-owned, Shell-supplied fuel farm by a pair of 3,000-gallon jet-A tankers, while another two 1,000-gallon refuelers serve the piston traffic at the airport. The four flight schools at the airport account for one-third of the FBO’s fuel flowage. That extra traffic makes Caldwell the second busiest GA airport in New Jersey. (Teterboro is the first.) Among the larger aircraft, the FBO sees approximately 20 operations a day.
Located little more than 20 miles from NYC’s Times Square, the airport offers another benefit to city-bound business travelers seeking fast connections: direct airplane-to-helicopter transfers. “We’re trying to get more helicopter traffic,” he said. “If we know someone is coming in on, say, a Citation, we could have the helicopter literally 40 feet away ready to go.”
Since the FBO controls the ramp gate, passengers can also step straight from the aircraft to a waiting limousine or rental car. For those on a smaller budget, Air Bound can also arrange a transfer of passengers and their bags to the nearby bus terminal within minutes of arrival for a $6, half-hour ride into Manhattan using express bus lanes.
The FBO is open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, with after-hours call-out service available. It has 16 employees, including its NATA Safety 1st trained line staff. Air Bound offers an aircraft cleaning and detailing service. It does not have its own dedicated maintenance service, though it will allow onsite repairs with approved contractors. Three tenant aircraft charter companies, including a helicopter operator, occupy offices in the facility as well.