Local Atlanta FBO Hill Aircraft & Leasing (Booth No. 6244) is celebrating its 55th year at Fulton County Airport-Brown Field here at NBAA. The family-owned FBO was founded by U.S. Navy aviator Guy Hill, Sr., in 1955. While a pilot for Eastern Airlines, Hill started buying and selling airplanes and then bought an FBO at Fulton County for $10,000. He built that into a diverse business with FBO operations, aircraft management and charter, maintenance, parts distribution and aircraft sales. Current FBO president Larry Westbrook married one of Guy’s daughters, Carol, and began working for the company in 1984, starting in line service and then working his way up to president.
Earlier this month, Hill Aircraft marked the anniversary by inviting airport patrons and colleagues to a celebratory breakfast catered by the Waffle House restaurant chain. Waffle House also had its 55th anniversary this year and brought a truckload of waffles, biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon and sausage to the party.
The Hill family did a major renovation of the FBO in 2005 to coincide with its 50th anniversary and prepare for the last time the NBAA convention was in Atlanta in 2007. The airport enjoys an advantage over other Atlanta-area airports, according to Westbrook, because it has the only 24/7 control tower besides Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Fulton County can accept international arrivals, with on-call U.S. Customs officers available.
“Business has been challenging, but having multiple operations under one roof has helped,” Westbrook said. “Fuel and hangar sales are our bread and butter, but when it’s off in one department, others take up the slack. I think pricing on airplanes is still depressed and probably will be for a while. It’s still going to be some time before it picks up. I don’t know if it’s the worst I’ve seen, but it’s different. It has affected everybody, no matter what business they’re in.”
Although fuel sales were down in 2009, volume grew during every month of this year except July and August, he said, thanks in part to a military fueling contract. Hill Aircraft “has been here a long time,” he said, “and hopefully we’ll be here for a long time to come” delivering the “sensational Southern service” that the company is known for.