In aviation, the acronym FBO is short for fixed base operator. While this term is known worldwide, it is more common in the United States. A fixed base operator is a commercial operation that provides aviation services to both major airports as well as smaller airports and hangars.
These operations receive approval from the airports they work with to provide a wide range of needs for both pilots and travelers. From fuel stops to maintenance and repair to parking and more, fixed base operations can help to keep all your flights on track.
Don’t let any airport you fly into be a hassle. Work with an FBO you can count on to be your go-to whenever you’re taking to the skies or preparing to.
How Does an FBO Work?
Have you ever taken a cross country road trip and stopped at those massive truck stops that have all the amenities? A fixed base operator is vastly similar, but instead of providing these services for drivers, they are geared towards pilots and those in the air.
Fixed base operations have gained permission and hold a lease agreement with the airport they provide services at in order to be a truly fixed base operator. This agreement allows them to legally provide different aviation services to those using that airport.
Whether you need fuel, a place to park or store your aircraft, aircraft services, or a slew of other aviation services, a fixed base operation can keep flying a breeze. A lot of factors come into play when you’re looking to hire or utilize an FBO. Consider what services you need, and find your helpful fixed base operator before you fly again.
Where Did the Term Fixed Base Operator Come From?
The end of World War I, in 1918, is when fixed base operators are believed to have originated. This is because at the end of the war there was an excess of military planes that were no longer needed and these planes were being bought up left and right by civilian pilots.
With all of these civilian pilots using airfields and airports across the country, there was a major need for aviation services at these airports. These services went unregulated until 1926 when the Air Commerce Act was passed.
This act enforced aviation regulations of all kinds, meaning pilots and aircraft were now required to be licensed and certified. This also meant that the services being provided were now required to remain stationary at a location.
This brought about the term Fixed Base Operator. The Air Commerce Act has helped to enforce and maintain a safe airspace for all types of pilots and their passengers.
Do FBO Provide Pilots?
Larger fixed base operations tend to offer more services. Not all fixed base operators will provide pilots, but many do have pilots available for both private flights and flight training. Every FBO is different so it’s important to ensure they cover your needs before you get there.
Does Every Airport Have a FBO?
While we can’t say for a fact that every single airport has a FBO, we can say that nearly any airport with consistent traffic will likely have some type of FBO available. Fixed base operations can provide as many or as few services as they like. Airports throughout the country utilize fixed base operators to simplify aviation services for pilots, passengers, and more.
Who Is the Largest FBO?
There are fixed base operators of all sizes throughout the country. The current leader and largest fixed base operation in the United States is Signature Flight Support. With more than 200 locations across the world, Signature Flight Support delivers the support those in aviation need on a grand scale.
Example of What Happens When You Arrive at an FBO
Once you land at the airport, you find your way to the ramp of your fixed base operator. When you arrive at the ramp, an employee of that fixed base operation will greet you and let you know where you are to park.
Once parked, this employee will chock your aircraft’s tires for you. This employee is often the one that will refuel your aircraft as well. If fuel options are available, be sure to be specific. You can then enter and enjoy the varying amenities that fixed base operator has to offer.
It’s good protocol to check in at the front desk when you arrive inside. Once you’ve checked in, you’ll likely find clean restrooms, snacks, and beverages available to help you stay refueled yourself.
You will be notified once your aircraft is refueled and ready to go. You can then go to the front desk, pay up, receive your receipt, and head back to your aircraft!
If you are staying in the area and are storing your plane, the steps will be similar. However, instead of hanging around the FBO, you may request a crew car if available and head out to your necessary location.
Every fixed base operator is different. Look into the airport or airfield you are using before your flight to be sure your needs can be met with ease!
What Do FBOs Do?
FBOs have been around for more than a hundred years now, and really we’re left to wonder, “What don’t they do?” Some of the largest fixed-base operations provide an extensive list of services for pilots, passengers, and more.
Refueling was and continues to be the main reason for fixed base operators. How often do you stop at a gas station on a road trip and not top off your gas tank? Pilots often utilize fixed base operators in the same manner and refueling continues to be the main source of income for FBOs throughout the country.
Many fixed base operators will have several fuel options available, so ensure you let your operator know what type of fuel your aircraft requires. As with any fuel stop, especially when you are not the one physically refueling your aircraft, checking your fuel levels and gas caps is crucial.
FBOs offer a wide array of aircraft services. Whether you need your aircraft cleaned while you wait or if you need it repaired, you can find an FBO that will do it all for you.
Many FBOs employ professional mechanics that are ready to service your plane appropriately. Not all FBOs will offer these varying amenities, but the majority of the larger ones do. From lavatory servicing to aircraft part sales, fixed base operators aim to support their aviation customers in every way they need.
If you’re stopping over and looking to park your aircraft, whether short or long-term, an FBO is a must-have. Fixed base operators often offer parking services to their pilots to ensure they can stay and relax when needed.
Whether you’re simply going out for a meal or if you’re staying overnight, FBOs can accommodate you and your aircraft. It is important to let them know ahead of time to ensure they have the proper space, etc.
FBOs usually have cars available for your use as well so your time is as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible. Parking fees and various other fees may apply.
It may sound silly, but pilots across the country continue to appreciate the clean and stocked bathrooms FBOs offer. Fixed base operations are much more than fuel and bathrooms these days though.
Depending on the size of the fixed base operator you are utilizing, you may be able to enjoy dining at a restaurant, relaxing or planning your next flight in the lounge, stocking up on your pilot supplies, and more.
When you begin planning your next trip, make sure you look into the FBOs in the area and make it a trip to remember with all the comforts you want and need.
Keep Flying A Joy With The Right FBO
Both busy pilots and travelers have been utilizing FBOs for decades. Finding the right fixed base operator will depend on your flying locations and needs, but there is no doubt they are out there and eager to help!
From simple refueling stops to relaxing overnights, a fixed base operator will help you keep your aircraft in check anytime you’re ready to fly. FLYING Magazine offers an incredible amount of resources to ensure you’re always setting yourself up for success.
New to flying and looking to set up a homebase with the right fixed base operator? Or taking a trip to a new location? Subscribe to the FLYING Magazine today and make sure you’re always sourcing the best FBO!