Crownair Aviation Brings Royal Flush in San Diego

 - November 1, 2022, 9:00 AM
Crownair Aviation's new 16,000-sq-ft terminal represents a more than 560 percent increase in space over its previous facility. The San Diego FBO also more than doubled the size of its leasehold through the acquisition of a former rival's business. (Photo: Crownair Aviation)

San Diego FBO Crownair Aviation has dealt itself a royal flush over the past two years, with the opening of its new facility and the acquisition of a former competitor that more than doubled its footprint at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport (KMYF).

The company has been at KMYF for the past 71 years, with its current ownership involved there since 2008. According to president and general manager Ray Richmond, Crownair presented an offer to the city to upgrade the FBO terminal back in 2010, and after a slow approval process, finally moved into the newly-built facility in January 2021.

While Richmond described the company’s former decades-old 1,200-sq-ft terminal (with 1,200 sq ft of adjoining office space) as little more than a shack, the new Crownair facility, at 16,000 sq ft, is fit for a king. The two-story building offers a lobby with a 35-foot-high atrium; refreshment bar; business center/flight planning area; pilot lounge with two snooze rooms; shower facilities; tenant offices; meeting rooms; and on the second floor, a 15-seat, A/V-equipped conference room that opens onto a deck overlooking the ramp.

The $15 million construction project on the 16-acre leasehold also included a pair of 7,000-sq-ft hangars, which brought it to 170,000 sq ft of hangar space that can accommodate aircraft up to a Dassault Falcon 900. Also last year, family-owned service provider Gibbs Flying Service (founded by the same Bill Gibbs who started KMYF back in 1937) decided there was no one in the family-owned business who wished to continue running it and therefore allowed the airport to accept bids for its operation, a process which was won by Crownair. The addition included 29 acres of property, 80,000 sq ft of hangars, and another small, dated terminal, now rented out for additional tenant space to meet demand.

Richmond told AIN the company plans to eventually replace that structure with a new satellite terminal, which will largely cater to the single-engine, owner-flown segment, leaving the larger corporate aircraft to the new main terminal. It is expected to house a café, a flight school, a flight simulator academy, and a pilot shop.

KMYF’s Runway 10L/28R is 4,598 feet long, but the 10R end has a displaced threshold that limits its useful length to 3,401 feet. Richmond noted that while the threshold is slated to be removed in the airport’s master plan, it may be years until the airport receives FAA funding for that to occur. “It was put in place originally as a kind of community appeasement for noise,” he said, “but then the ILS system points people into that displaced landing area, so they will have to move the ILS back when they get rid of the displacement.”

As a result, the airport does not see much heavy jet traffic, and the 30-turbine aircraft based at the FBO range from a CJ4 to a TBM 700.

At approximately 34,000 fueling operations a year, the facility claims the lion’s share of activity at the airport and pumps approximately 1.25 million gallons of fuel a year from its Epic Fuels-branded tank farm, which holds 20,000 gallons each of jet fuel and avgas. Crownair, which is open from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, has three jet-A tankers, a pair of 3,000-gallon refuellers, and one with a 1,500-gallon capacity that is dedicated to serving the city police helicopter flight department.

As the field sees significant flight training and owner-flown piston activity, it also has two 1,200-gallon avgas trucks. They are tended by the location’s NATA Safety 1st-trained staff, and Crownair just achieved Stage 3 registration under the International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling, one of just a handful of FBOs worldwide to have done so.

Richmond noted that KMYF is perennially one of the top busiest GA airports in the U.S. It is centrally located in the San Diego area, just seven miles from the coast near La Jolla. “A lot of our customers live or have second homes in that area,” he explained, adding that summer through the winter holidays is the busier portion of the year for the FBO.

Despite San Diego’s casual, laid-back reputation, “it’s been really important to us to make sure the customer service experience is super professional,” said Richmond. He urges his staff to “blow people away with anticipating everything that they could have thought of.”

Like most service providers, the location saw a strong dip during the early pandemic but has come surging back. Its numbers are above pre-Covid 2019 levels. “Each month has been higher than the month before,” said Richmond. “Part of that is because we took on this new leasehold, but everything is growing for us.”