Fixed Based Operators: What is an Airport FBO?

For those that enjoy the comfort and convenience of private air travel, the airport FBO, or Forward Base Operator, is an essential part of flying and maintaining their aircraft. An FBO will offer services to the private traveler, usually including a range of aircraft services and on the ground amenities like a lounge.

History of the FBO

FBOs came out of the post-war era of the 1920s. During that time, there was a surplus of military aircraft that became available to private citizens. Pilots, or “barnstormers” as they were often called, offered passenger services and performed in airshows, among other things. They tended to bypass the airports of the time, preferring to land in farmers’ neighboring fields. These aviators were operating a business but without a fixed location.

In 1926, the US Air Commerce Act was established. It enforced new licensing for pilots, aircraft maintenance regulations, and training standards. The era’s pilots and mechanics began to establish their businesses at particular, fixed locations. They were appropriately named Fixed Base Operations or Operators.

The term FBO continues to describe the individual aircraft operators and service providers at smaller airports. When a private pilot wants to land at an airport that is not their home airport, they contact the FBO there to make arrangements. As the private jet industry expands, there are also FBOs at larger, busier airports to support the private aircraft that land there.

What to Expect from an FBO

Depending on the size of the airport, there may be one or several FBOs on site. It’s not just the size of the airport that varies, the size of FBOs varies, as well. They can be very small operations with just a few services, like fueling and a basic lounge. An FBO can also be a large facility, with VIP lounges, aviation support, and a wide range of aircraft services. They can accommodate passengers, pilots, and crew and assist in charter service and arrangements. These full-service FBOs offer luxury and accessibility to frequent business travelers and those who enjoy the speed and convenience of private air travel.

How to Choose an FBO

Once you’ve decided that aviation or private plane charter is a good fit, it is time to choose an FBO. Needs will differ depending on whether you are a pilot or a passenger, but it is important to choose an FBO with the services that fulfill your requirements. Fuel prices and fuel brands, amenities, charter management, and the availability of major and minor airframe services should be considered. Other services like hangar storage, lav service, and catering may also be needed. Quality of those services is of utmost importance, as is efficient, capable, and friendly customer service.

Saker Aviation has two full-service FBOs known for quality, safety, and value. Learn more about our services on our website.