In 1968, the Vietnam War was raging, the public got its first glimpse of Boeing’s iconic 747 and Apollo 8 orbited the Moon for the first time. Meanwhile, up in the “Great White North,” entrepreneur and general aviation pilot Irving Shoichet launched an aircraft charter company and founded the first FBO at Toronto International Airport (renamed Lester B. Pearson International Airport during the 1980s). Shoichet passed on in 2008, but Skycharter, the company he founded, remains in operation 45 years later and is still owned and run by his wife, Dorothy, and son, Richard, in the same two-story structure at the northwest end of the airport.
One of three providers on the field, Skycharter claims one third of the general aviation business at Canada’s busiest airport.
Its operators describe the facility as a “boutique” FBO and its upstairs passenger lounge has a cozy atmosphere, tastefully decorated with sculptures and original artwork, befitting the level of clientele the location regularly sees. “It’s very private,” said Carla Libralato, the company’s manager of sales and marketing. “It’s actually the only FBO on the field with completely secure access. We cater to a lot of people who don’t like to be seen–celebrities and stars.”
Passengers at the site are met at their vehicles and escorted to their waiting aircraft through the 2,000-sq-ft terminal, which includes an espresso bar, business center, two 12-seat A/V-equipped conference rooms, a pilot lounge, snooze rooms, flight-planning room, laundry service, a kitchen, concierge services and complimentary Wi-Fi. Onsite customs and immigration service is available at the FBO, which can clear entry for up to 32 passengers per aircraft for business purposes. One of its most popular amenities is a gummy candy. “We’re known for our excellent customer service, but we’re also known for our jujubes,” noted Libralato, who is also the co-chair of the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Business Aviation Association. “We started putting them out as a snack a few years ago; now it seems that when people come to our facility, they run right to them.”
The facility, which is open 24/7, occupies 10 acres and offers ample ramp parking. Its terminal and the older of its two 40,000-sq-ft heated hangars underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation several years ago. They can accommodate aircraft up to the size of a G650 and are nearly full, housing approximately 30 based turbine-powered aircraft ranging from a Challenger 850 to several PC-12s. In addition, fractional ownership provider AirSprint has a base at the FBO with several of its aircraft usually in attendance.
To fuel these aircraft, the company has three 10,000-liter (2,642-gallon) tankers and its NATA Safety 1st trained line service staff draws from a 60,000-liter (15,850-gallon) jet-A tank farm (avgas is no longer available at Toronto Pearson). Rare among FBOs, Skycharter is not a branded fuel dealer, preferring instead to obtain fuel from several sources. “We’re the last of the independents,” Libralato told AIN. “We do offer contract fuel, but we are able to work with customers to give them the best all-in price on the field.”
True to its name, the company operates an aircraft charter and management division, as well as an FAA-certified maintenance department capable of airframe and powerplant repairs from line service through scheduled inspections and out-of-phase tasks on a variety of airplanes. It also has its own avionics repair shop on the premises, and can perform all services from 24-month pitot-static calibrations through line service defects to annual cockpit voice recorder intelligibility checks.
In recognition of its level of service and competitive fuel pricing, the location holds Corporate Aircraft Association preferred FBO status, and it is the only handler in Canada approved by the European Business Aviation Association. Given its location on a busy international airport, the majority of its business stems predominantly from the U.S. but the company is looking to increase its overseas clientele.
As an independent FBO, the company takes steps to show its customers appreciation and often rewards them with gifts such as limited-edition cologne to martini glasses packed with the famous jujubes. “We have won the loyalty and admiration of a wide group of pilots and corporations and I think it’s because we all like being here,” said chairwoman Dorothy Shoichet, who began to participate actively in the company five years ago, after the death of her husband. “That is reflected in how we greet and treat people and how we serve them, so it’s a great place to be.”