American Aero FTW: A Next Generation FBO

This isn’t your dad’s FBO.

American Aero lounge
American Aero's next generation FBO at Fort Worth’s Meacham International airport truly lives up to the hype.American Aero

When American Aero opened its new FBO at the City of Fort Worth's Meacham International airport a few months back, the idea of a public/private partnership seemed intriguing because those kinds of success stories are few. But calling the new facility a next generation FBO to boot seemed too enticing to ignore, especially since I was in the neighborhood last month for the Dallas Heli-Expo.

American Aero’s general manager Riggs Brown told me the FBO is now the primary tenant to the airport’s newly renovated 85,000 sq. ft. terminal that also functions as the airport administration office on the northeast side of the field. The redesign work even included a nifty second-floor deck for FTW airport manager Jeff Kloska to keep an eye on the place.

The rebuild of the airport’s original terminal was primarily funded by the city but supported by a major investment from financier and philanthropist Robert M. Bass. “We worked with the city to create a five-star experience for our tenants, the arriving and departing pilots and their passengers,” Bass said. In 2015, American Aero also became the first FBO in the Western Hemisphere to earn the new International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling certification from the International Business Aviation Council.

Entering American Aero from the main doors on the east side makes it clear just how large the new facility really is, at least until a person’s eyes are distracted by the walls. They’re not perfectly vertical, but slant outward slightly as they rise from the Italian slate-tiled floor that runs up to richly scrolled beige carpeting almost everywhere else. The angle of the wall isn’t large, perhaps just a few degrees, but it’s enough to make the visitor realize they’re not walking into their father’s FBO. Someone put some thought into this place. The pre-formed aluminum wall panels use a powder-coating that makes them appear semi-glossy in a deep midnight blue color that’s sure to catch a visitor’s eye.

Something else that’s quickly apparent is the noise level, as in there isn’t much of one, even with people speaking nearby. That’s no accident since much of the lobby was built of soundproofing materials and added white noise generators in the strategic locations to reduce transient conversations. The lobby’s floor-to-ceiling windows were created from intelligent, electro-chromic glass that automatically tints to reduce heat while maximizing natural light. Think of them like transition sunglasses, but on a much grander scale.

FTW Aero Lounge
Our own Rob Mark tests the American Aero lounge's plush recliners.Rob Mark

American Aero didn’t just recreate the airport terminal building to create a new home for themselves. They also added three new hangars that give them 280,000 sq. ft. of leasable space in addition to the 11 acres of open ramp with a U.S. Customs facility right next door.

Flight crews hanging around for the day will find the place pretty comfy thanks to plush recliners that are better than most people probably have at home. Should the company airplane arrive with a load of dirty dishes, even for a quick turn, American Aero offers a dishwasher capable of cleaning a load in 90 seconds.

On the ramp, fueling is handled at warp speed with all fuel truck meters wirelessly connected to the base station for instantaneous billing. In addition to free high-speed wireless within 1/3 mile of the building, wireless cameras provide crews a look at the parking lot and ramp so the boss’ arrival won’t go unnoticed.

Another useful tool on the ramp began to catch my attention as the sun set: the plastic cones the line service people placed in front of aircraft to make sure people in ground vehicles don’t run into them. Thanks to a couple of clever ramp employees/inventors, the cones lit up at sunset using their internal sunlight-charged batteries; a simple and effective solution to a major airport ground collision problem.

On the way on or off the FBO ramp, personnel are always warned to watch the gates, not just to be sure they close, but to pay attention to the fact that the American Aero gates close quickly just after a vehicle has cleared the opening which means no more sitting around counting sheep waiting for the gate to close.

Now if the place just ran Star Trek reruns it would be perfect.