Ever heard of a Fixed-Base Operator? Also called an “FBO,” it’s like a heavy-heavy-duty repair shop in a way. There’s one at many of the airports across the nation. FBOs service private planes, small airlines, or any aircraft without its own shop in those locations. While a Fixed-Base Operator carries out maintenance and other shop services, it often goes beyond mechanics and repairs.
Way back in the day, in the early 1900s, there were no rules in the air travel trade. Aircraft was more a novelty and a source of entertainment than a way to get around. Pilots went from town to town performing acrobatic shows and offering flying lessons. There weren’t many airports at that time, so they often landed in farm fields. Without airports, pilots either had to bring their own mechanics along or be able to work on their planes themselves.
In 1926, the government stepped in and passed the Air Commerce Act. It set laws for pilot training and licensing as well as setting rules for aircraft maintenance. The new laws ended life on the road, so to speak, for most pilots. More airports sprouted up across the nation and the pilots opened shops—known as Fixed-Base-Operators—at those airports. Today, there are around 3,000 FBOs nationwide. Don’t confuse Fixed-Base Operators with the airports themselves. They’re an entirely separate business at the same location or next to an airport. They want to be nearby to provide services to any planes that need them, from 152s to 747s and bigger.
Fixed-Base Operator Maintenance Services
The Federal Aviation Administration sets policies for some of the things a Fixed-Base Operator does. Those are things like flight training, air carrier services, and serving as maintenance and repair stations. FBOs typically have an in-house mechanic and tend to be efficient shops. They take care of PMs, tune-ups, and minor repairs such as changing out batteries, belts, hoses, and other “small” parts. Many times, Fixed-Base Operators at bigger airports strike a deal with other on-site companies for larger services, such as replacing an engine. Other common things FBOs offer include:
- sale of aircraft parts
- selling aircraft fuel
- airplane storage such as hangars or space for tie-downs
- aircraft rental and/or sales
- basic aircraft line services
- air charters
Beyond the Maintenance
The FAA doesn’t dictate everything an FBO does. Many Fixed-Base Operators provide much more than basic repairs and maintenance for their customers. Crop dusting, taxi or car services, aerial pictures and filming, and baggage handling are some services FBOs might offer. Also, a Fixed-Base Operator commonly has lounge facilities like restrooms, showers, and conference rooms. A number of them even provide food and drinks as well as a place to relax. Most of them supply baggage services and security screening, and some have concierge services for passengers, pilots, and flight crews. At the bottom of it all, a Fixed-Base Operator is a service provider. FBOs strive to bring top quality maintenance, facilities, and conveniences for customers to make the air travel experience as nice and hassle-free as it can be.