No matter how many times you’ve done it, preparing for something as large and as busy as the influx of aircraft at an NBAA Convention takes a lot of planning and coordination.
Sheltair Aviation Services general manager Eddie Dussault said, “We pretty much started planning right after the last NBAA. We generally get down to the details four months prior and start meeting with our different vendors, like catering, rental cars and fuel. We also work closely with the [Orlando Executive Airport] facility authorities.”
Signature Flight Support marketing v-p Patrick Sniffen said that with two FBOs in the area–one at Orlando Kissimmee Gateway and the other at Orlando International–they put things in motion about six months in advance. “We do a lot of large events at our locations around the country, so handling lots of traffic is nothing new to us. But you can always learn from past NBAAs–good and bad,” he said. “One thing we’ve learned is to expect the unexpected and that, above all, every operation is done in a safe manner.”
All the FBO representatives shared the same thoughts: advanced planning and adequate staffing is key to minimizing stress and mistakes.
“One area we’re concentrating on is better coordination with visiting flight crews in advance of their departures,” Dussault said. “That’s the toughest part to coordinate. Once the show or static display closes, it’s a big bug out–everyone wants to leave at once. If we know what everyone wants in advance, we can make sure everyone has their fuel orders and catering on board when it’s time. Nobody wants to be waiting for a coffee order when it’s time to be taxiing out.”
Ranger Jet Center’s president Charles Bonar, said the Kissimmee-based FBO “can handle the fueling and aircraft with our regular line team. But we do bring in extra customer service representatives to make sure we can meet every crew that comes in.”
Sniffen said that, with traffic coming and going 24 hours a day to and from two locations during the NBAA show, Signature also brings in extra help from other facilities. “Our goal is to give our customers the same high level of service during NBAA that they receive every day,” he said. “Our customers are professional business fliers and they expect a certain level of support, no matter what the circumstance. Our goal is to meet their expectations.” And that goes for all of Signature’s regular services and perks. Sniffen said that, along with its TailWins pilot rewards program, Signature is offering other promotions during the NBAA show.
Dussault and Bonar also said their facilities impose no special fees during the event. “We have all of our normal fuel discounts,” Dussault added. “There is no special charges or fees. We don’t believe in it.”
While fly-in attendance for the NBAA static display and convention has grown over the past few years, Bonar said the number of day-trippers has picked up at Kissimmee because of its proximity to the convention center. “We’re just 10 minutes away, so we get a lot of aircraft that drop off passengers and immediately leave to get more. They’ll do it multiple times in a day,” he said. “We try to make it as convenient and comfortable for them as possible. We have barbecues a few days a week and the crews can use our snooze room to rest.”
Whether you’re here for the day or the week, all of the FBO representatives said their number-one goal is to make the visit for passengers and flight crews as comfortable and stress-free as possible. They also strongly urge that if any crew has any problem or suggestion to share it with their facility’s management or customer service reps as soon as possible.
While the safe handling of passengers and crew is top priority, the fact is, there are hundreds of millions of dollars of combined company assets parked on FBO ramps during the NBAA show. And the hosting FBOs are well aware of their responsibilities.
“The Kissimmee police department provides officers to patrol the area during the show,” Bonar said. “We also have the Osceola County Sheriff’s flight department headquartered in one of our hangars. In addition, we’ve already incorporated a lot of aviation security training for our staff. It gets pretty busy and hectic around here, but you have to pay attention to everything,” he said. “When you get right down to it, for us, NBAA is business as usual–there’s just a lot more of it.”