Roger Woolsey, president and CEO of Houston-based Million Air (Booth No. 4601), gave an update on the company’s development plans here at NBAA’07, which include the expansion and rebranding of Westair, the family-owned FBO that has served Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y., for more than 50 years.
Westair was founded by the fathers of the FBO’s current owners, Mike Mason and Bill Weaver. During the general aviation boom in the 1970s, Westair operated a fleet of 31 aircraft and grew over the next 20 years into a full-service FBO, maintenance and flight-training center on the south side of the field near the control tower. The company’s Web site is filled with accounts of its history and the walls of the existing building are decorated with black-and-white photographs of the airport from years gone by, when Westair occupied little more than a trailer.
But sometime within the next few months, the green-and-gold logo colors of Million Air will mark the front of the building where Westair now stands. Weaver told NBAA Convention News that he and Mason made the decision to join the Million Air brand within the last two weeks, and their next priority will be to work with their customers and the community to ensure the transition is a smooth and positive one. He said it is time for Westair to move forward and realize its full potential.
“Our fathers came to the airport in 1947 and we’ve been there ever since,” Weaver said. “It was a tough thing to give up a name that has meant so much to us, but it’s great to be part of the Million Air family.”
The design and exact size of the new facility is still in the works, but Weaver said it will include new office space and several hangars on a 24-acre site adjacent to the existing building. Meanwhile, Million Air has called for upgrades to the facility, including an expanded beverage station, pilot’s lounge and rest rooms. “We originally built our office and hangar to be a light GA facility, but then after September 11, we got more into the jets. It really wasn’t set up to be the type of facility we’re running today.”
The other FBO at White Plains, Panorama Flight Service (Booth No. 1907), has also been on-site and family-run for nearly as long as Westair. In 2002, Panorama opened a new $14 million facility at the southwest corner of the airport, catering to both general aviation pilots and business jets. Eugene Condreras, president of Panorama, told NBAA Convention News that Million Air approached him some time ago, but he was not interested. “We think our name stands strong,” Condreras said, noting some of the industry awards Panorama has received for its service. “It just was not the right fit for us, but I wish [Westair] all the best.”
Condreras said Panorama has no immediate plans to expand or change its operations in light of the Million Air deal with Westair.
Million Air’s Woolsey, who is a 14,000-hour pilot, highlighted the relative convenience of White Plains compared with some other New York area business aviation airports.
“It’s a real nightmare getting into and out of Teterboro,” he said, noting that even though White Plains is slightly farther from Manhattan than Teterboro, the drive downtown is usually faster. Million Air moved out of Teterboro in June 2006, and was replaced by Meridian.
Woolsey also announced that Million Air is building new facilities in Tucson, Ariz., and San Bernadino, Calif., both of which are expected to open sometime next year. The $5 million Tucson facility will consist of a two-story, 20,000-sq-ft terminal and office building, plus a 20,000-sq-ft hangar.
In San Bernadino, Million Air is acquiring an existing 32,000-sq-ft FBO hangar and repair station and constructing a new 24,000-sq-ft hangar, 13,000-sq-ft passenger terminal and 500,000-gallon fuel farm. The facility will also feature a U.S. Customs center that can accommodate up to 150 people. The airport’s 10,000-foot runway can accommodate aircraft as large as the Airbus A380.
Million Air now operates 38 FBO locations throughout the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Europe, including its recently opened facility at Le Bourget Airport in Paris. Woolsey also announced that Troy Meryhew, a 14-year veteran of safety operations at Continental Airlines who also has experience in the hospitality industry, joined Million Air earlier this year as the company’s director of safety and best practices. “As a chain, we are trying to bring the safety and structure of the Part 121 world, but in a personal way,” Woolsey said.