We wanted to find out how an Operator selects an FBO from the multitude on offer close to, or competing at, the same location.
What should an Operator be asking to rate and select the right FBOs for a seamless experience? And how can an FBO achieve a higher rating to win more business? We asked Paul Cremer of Gama Aviation who, as Head of Business Aviation Delivery, leads the teams responsible for Aircraft Operations and their FBO selection, alongside those running Gama’s FBOs in Jersey, Glasgow and Sharjah.
What questions should Operators ask FBOs ahead of choosing them?
“We are very familiar with these types of questions, asking them ourselves for the aircraft we manage and the Trip Support we provide on behalf of other Operators, and receiving them from visiting aircraft at our FBO facilities around the world. There are a number of key questions to ask when selecting an FBO to ascertain exactly what is on offer to passengers and crews; and patients in the case of an air ambulance flight. From the inception of the trip, we are looking at the facilities available to us and the support available at each location. These are reviewed at each pre-dispatch stage of the planning process and incorporate pre-planning, operations and commander assessments. Facilities are given a rating from 1-5 with 1 being good (offering FBO/Full Handling, Terminal Facility, Maintenance Support) 2 and 3 being medium (Airport Handling, Terminal Facility, possible Maintenance Support), 4 being poor (Airport Self Handling, No Facilities, No Maintenance Support) and 5 offering no facilities and therefore, receiving the biggest risk rating.”
“We feed this data into our myairops Flight Operations System for the benefit of future operations as well as for Gama’s charter and business aviation teams. When we are selecting suitable suppliers for trips and work the various groups have that data available, which helps speed up the selection process and ensure the required standards are met. Questions we ask the FBO supplement the data we receive from sources such as Aviowiki, including general items such as whether the supplier has their own dedicated facility, where they are located at the airport, and are they in the main terminal? We need to understand what the opening hours are and if there are extensions available if required. Do they have a passenger lounge/VIP area and can the agent escort passenger vehicles onto the ramp for airside drop off and pickups? And finally, can passengers clear Customs at the facility?
…and Crews and Services?
Our crews will want to know whether there are rest areas or snooze rooms, briefing areas, computers and printers for accessing their flight paperwork and printing it, internet access, refreshments, nearby facilities such as day rooms, availability of catering, newspapers, etc. Services are also required -questions will include the availability of Jet-A1, who is the Jet-A1 supplier? does the FBO/agent have their own bowser? Can de-icing be provided, are staff trained, and what types of fluid are available? Questions around toilet and water servicing, in-flight waste disposal and if there are steps available for our ACJ and BBJ if required? We also need to understand hangarage availability and up to what aircraft size. Another key question to ask is what maintenance facilities are available to the operator in the event of an AOG or minor servicing being required and what type approvals are held?”
“Security is fundamental when selecting an FBO. As an operator, we need to know what the standard processes are for passengers and crew and whether screening is available for commercial flights, is the facility compliant for NASP and have the staff undergone specific security training? What are the security measures in place such as CCTV, fencing, lights, etc.? Approvals and Regulatory requirements can also be taken into consideration -EASA/IATA/ICAO/NCAA/IS-BAH, is the facility regularly audited and if so by whom? Safety, Compliance (IS-BAH/IATA ISAGO) and Environmental (IOS14001) aspects must also be considered. Finally, staff are very important, where are the staff based? Do company representatives oversee flights? Have staff received dangerous goods training? and are they trained in aviation security?”
“All or any of these can play a part in the final decision when choosing a preferred FBO/Handling Agent option. Experience says that there is also a service delivery element and decisions can be made on past visits to the locations and feedback from both crew and passengers. Based on our experiences and Flight Crew feedback audits we are then able to decide whether an FBO/Handling Agent should be entered into myairops as one of our preferred suppliers, to be automatically selected for that location.”
What can FBOs do to increase their attractiveness to an Operator?
“Beyond delivering these services and providing answers to the questions above, it is helpful to know of any Approvals status such as EASA and IS-BAH to know quickly what standards the supplier adhere to. We also appreciate quick turnaround on documents such as a quote, handling confirmation or invoice. It helps us as we are often dealing with many factors affecting day-to-day operations, such as ‘go now’ requests. It’s good to see more FBOs using software to create and send documents so that their responses are faster and in a clean, easy-to-read format which is appreciated by the Ops team –keep it simple and factual!”
“Always to the benefit of us as the Operator, and ultimately the PA or representative of the Principal, are movement messages informing us as our client and their aircraft proceed through the facility, services and the parts of their journey overseen by the FBO. The more information the better. They help us maintain total oversight of our operation and allow us to react quickly should there be any delays or potential issues. Our FBOs use myairops fbo so we know what we can expect from suppliers around service delivery and billing aspects. What I would like to see in the industry is the embracing of API connections linking us to our FBO suppliers. We would like a smooth flow of data which populates our task diary within our Flight Ops System. Having our systems talk directly to theirs would be a significant efficiency gain when ordering and scheduling services, and sorting billing and feedback post flight.“
Final word to the Operators and FBOs reading this?
Paul Cremer bio:
Paul has 39 years of service, solely within the Business Aviation and General Aviation side of the industry, with experience in operational, commercial, charter and air traffic fields. He started with Gama Aviation in 1996 and has held various roles within the company over the last 25 years. Paul previously led the Gama Aviation charter team to success by becoming the first operator to win the coveted Air Charter Association Best General Aviation Operator award over three consecutive years.
Today Paul heads up the Business Aviation Services Team ensuring that Gama Aviation delivers an exceptional operational service to its Aircraft Management, Charter and Special Missions clients. He also ensures the service delivery of Gama Aviation’s outsourcing business which offers third party operators and aircraft owners alike, Operational Support and International Trip Planning services H24.