FBO Profile: Sacramento Mather Jet Center

 - January 27, 2019, 3:12 PM
Elevation, a specially-commissioned art installation by Sacramento (California) artist Maren Conrad graces the brightly lit lobby of the Sacramento Mather Jet Center. A local artist used old aeronautical charts to depict the legend of a Koi fish transforming into a flying dragon.

If you have flown into California’s capital on business, you’re likely familiar with Superior Aviation Company (SACjet) which operates the lone FBO at three of the city’s four airports. The company traces its roots back to 1946 and now has facilities at Sacramento International, Executive, and Mather Airports.

The last airport, with its 11,301-foot main runway, is the company’s newest location, as it won the RFP over the incumbent service provider in 2014. A former military base, Mather encompasses 95 acres of ramp that once held scores of B-52s on operational alert. The Air Force base was shuttered in 1993 and turned over to the county, which now uses it as a general aviation/cargo airport.

Upon moving into the FBO there, and renaming it the Sacramento Mather Jet Center, SACjet immediately began a renovation project on the 1990s-era facility. “We took over whatever was there,” said company president Joe Hansen. “We’ve completely rehabilitated the site.” The 7,500-sq-ft terminal includes a well-furnished passenger lobby with specially commissioned aviation artwork by a local artist as a focal point, pilot lounge, a pair of snooze rooms, shower facilities, flight planning area, 20-seat conference room, refreshment bar, business center, onsite car rental, and crew cars.

The FBO’s leasehold comprises 55 acres with room for anything with wings and a vast blank slate for expansion. But until last year, the FBO did not have any hangar space, according to Hansen. That changed with the completion of phase one of the company's development project, a 65,000-sq-ft hangar complex consisting of a 40,000-sq-ft clearspan hangar capable of sheltering the latest big business jets, a quartet of 5,000-sq-ft corporate hangars, and 5,000 sq ft of office space. These were the first hangars constructed at the airport since the 1950s. So far, SACjet has spent more than $9 million on improvements and additions at the facility.

With approximately 40 based turbine-powered aircraft at the FBO ranging from a pair of Gulfstream Vs down to a King Air 90, those new hangars immediately filled up, leading the company to schedule phase two. Groundbreaking on another 40,000-sq-ft hangar along with another 7,500 sq ft of offices will take place this month, and cost another $5.5 million. Hansen expects that new hangar to book out quickly as well, and stage three is planned for further down the road.

Consistent Traffic Levels

“Because Sacramento is the capital of California, and California has the world’s sixth largest economy, we see a little bit of everything coming through here,” Hansen told AIN. While the FBO doesn’t have a peak season per se, he noted private aircraft activity may increase when the state legislature is in session, as companies and lobbyists descend on the capital. “It all comes through Sacramento.”

But given the company’s contract to manage, maintain, and operate the airport’s Epic Fuels-supplied tank farm, from an employee perspective, the airport’s busiest time comes between Thanksgiving and Christmas as package carriers UPS and DHL swiftly deplete the 150,000-gallon jet-A supply tanks every day, and spur a near-endless queue of tanker trucks to refill them. Between the cargo operations, a flight school and the GA traffic, the airport sees approximately 300,000 operations a year.

The FBO owns all the ground service equipment at the airport as well, and the fleet consists of three 10,000-gallon and two 5,000-gallon jet-A refuelers, and a 3,500-gallon avgas truck, the latter supplied from the airport’s 12,000-gallon 100LL tank. Those trucks are operated by the FBO’s NATA Safety 1st-trained line service staff.

The facility is open 24/7/365 days a year. While the company rotates its 85 employees among the three bases, at least 30 are deployed to Mather, its flagship location every day, with more shifted there during periods of peak operations.

In terms of customer service, a CSR greets each arriving aircraft on the ramp with the red carpet and a “Welcome to Sacramento” sign identifying the agent at the desk who will help them. “Everyone who comes here wants one of two things: a glass of water or to know where the bathroom is, and who to ask when they get in there,” said Hansen. He noted the company credo: “We are aviation professionals who safely, efficiently, and accurately meet the needs of our guests with discretion,” adding, that is all about managing customer expectations and proactively delivering service that they may not even know they are looking for.

One of the highlights of the year at Mather is the annual California Capital Airshow, which over its three-day span attracts more than 150,000 spectators, scores of aircraft and marquee aviation performers such as the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds. The FBO serves as a focal point.

The company also recently offered the use of its new main hangar for a county-organized charity event, which attracted more than 600 guests and raised more than half a million dollars. “We’ve got a very successful public-private partnership with the county and airports, and they’ve entrusted [us to operate] three of their four airports,” said Hansen, adding the company was happy to host the event. “The county and municipality leaders have been great for us, and we’re returning their graciousness for having trusted us with these assets.”