They say time flies when you’re having fun, and for Banyan Air Service at Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, time must have been traveling on a business jet.
The company, a 100-acre, self-contained aviation ecosystem with every conceivable service, wasn’t always the Beast of Southern Florida. It started at FXE in 1979 as a small maintenance shop specializing in piston-engine aircraft. Six years later, business had improved to the point that founder and president Don Campion was looking to move to a larger facility, and Jerry Holland, founder, president, and chairman of Florida-based aviation real estate developer and FBO operator Sheltair, offered him a hangar with an attached small terminal that had fueling rights, thus marking the beginning of the Banyan FBO.
According to Campion, the ramp at that location was so small that he mandated three employees to walk each aircraft during taxiing, one ahead, and one on each wingtip, to avoid any mishaps. Rather than viewing it as a necessity, pilots interpreted the extra attention as superior customer service. As the FBO’s reputation grew, Jerry Holland began building hangars around it to accommodate the influx of based aircraft, and as the leases of neighboring FBOs drew close to expiring, Banyan would offer to buy them out and renegotiate the lease with the airport in exchange for further development. Through that strategy, the company (exhibiting with Avfuel, Booth N4123, and Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, C11843) absorbed four former competitors.
Today the Banyan complex is home to approximately 450 aircraft and has more than one million sq ft of hangar space. As stratospheric as that number may be, it’s still not enough, as the facility is at 100 percent occupancy. To remedy that, a new 160,000-sq-ft hangar complex is under construction on the north side of the airport. The $30 million project, built by Holland Builders, is expected to open in early January, with a satellite terminal to be completed in time for Super Bowl LIV, which will be held in Miami on February 2.
Banyan expects to handle more than 175 aircraft for the event, and unlike most FBOs in host cities, has enough staff on its own payroll that it won’t have to import workers from other locations to handle the crush.