Question of the Month: How do we build a better relationship with our local FBO?

December 15, 2012

Some FBOs may view clubs as competitors and a threat to income, particularly if a club has a flight training program or does its own maintenance. But there are a few simple solutions that can help ease tensions and build a good relationship that benefits both the club and the FBO.

A good starting point is to recognize that a healthy aviation community needs both FBOs and flying clubs. Approaching the relationship as a partnership in which both can benefit will go a long way to building a sense of community on the field and help both the club and the FBO succeed.

Anything the club can do to provide a direct source of revenue for the FBO will always help. Here are some ideas:

  • If you haven’t already done so, think about establishing an account with the FBO for fuel, oil, parts, and maintenance.
  • If the FBO has a pilot shop, encourage your club members to use it.
  • Offer to pay the FBO if the club wants to use its facilities for meetings or ground school.
  • Encourage club members to rent the FBO’s flight simulator.
  • Make customer referrals to the FBO when you can. For example, if the club is not accepting new members; or you have a customer that can’t afford your club’s equity buy-in.
  • Hold events such as a fly-in breakfast or airport open house where the FBO can benefit from additional fuel sales, and/or be exposed to potential new customers.

Don’t forget that flying clubs can also be an important source of indirect benefit to the FBO. AOPA’s research showed that 32 percent of all pilots are former members of a flying club (i.e. for tens of thousands of people, a flying club was a stepping-stone into a lifetime of flying and aircraft ownership).

Finally, think about your communications with the FBO. Your goal is to establish a reputation with the FBO as “a neighbor with good intentions”—with this in mind:

  • When was the last time your club had a friendly meeting with the FBO?
  • Is the FBO on your newsletter mailing list?
  • Do you have clearly designated club members to work with the FBO? For example, the maintenance officer should be the only liaison between the club and the FBO concerning matters of aircraft maintenance; and the treasurer would handle the club's financial obligations to the FBO. Members having complaints, questions, or suggestions should contact the club president or manager who is then responsible for discussing it with the FBO.

“What do you think?”

Patrick Timmerman
Sr. Technical Specialist
Center to Advance the Pilot Community
AOPA