A Trend or Golden Opportunity?

 - December 1, 2010, 10:42 AM

The grand opening on September 29 of Signature Flight Support’s new FBO at California’s Fresno Yosemite International Airport was an interesting move. Instead of buying a facility and entering into a lease with an airport, the traditional method of FBO building, Signature signed a management contract with the FBO’s owner, McDonald Aviation. Under the contract, Signature adds another FBO to its 100-plus global chain and David McDonald doesn’t have to go through the hassle of trying to create a single-FBO brand and attract new business. While this is a first for Signature Flight Support, the company is interested in other similar deals, according to president Michael Scheeringa. (Click to watch video of the new facility.)

McDonald, who owns a Gulfstream G550 and is retired from electronics manufacturer Pelco, bought the Fresno facility–formerly Scott Aircraft–after the bank took the company over because he still needed a place to keep his jet. In deciding how to refurbish the facility, McDonald looked to his favorite FBO chain and tried to emulate Signature Flight Support’s amenities and features. When it came time to decide whether to operate the FBO under McDonald Aviation, he decided to contact Signature Flight Support and see if the FBO chain would be interested in a management contract. Signature chief commercial officer David Best and Patrick Sniffen, vice president of marketing, took McDonald seriously when he told them, “I’ve got an FBO that’s not operating in Fresno. We’re refurbishing it, and it would be an ideal mid-market location for Signature because of the competitive situation in Fresno.” The airport is served by two other FBOs, Atlantic Aviation and Corporate Aircraft.

The new Signature Fresno is managed by station manager Justin Zaklan and consists of a 40,800-sq-ft hangar with 28-foot-high doors. Hangar space is available with offices in the 6,100-sq-ft FBO terminal building next door. The crew lounge features new touch-screen computers and two sleep rooms with fully reclining sleeper chairs. A neat feature of the FBO is the welcoming covered patio on the ramp side, with outdoor tables well protected from the warm Fresno sun and with a view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The passenger lounge offers comfortable chairs and tables, as well as Signature’s standard fresh popcorn, Starbucks coffee and Otis Spunkmeyer cookies. Because Fresno is in the heart of California’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley, the Fresno Signature has a fridge full of fresh green and red grapes for customers.