Showalter Flying Service, the well-known, family-run fixed base operation at Florida’s Orlando Executive Airport, has been sold to Texas-based Atlantic Aviation, the nation’s largest FBO chain.
The Showalters, despite exiting the FBO business that their family has operated for 70 years, will remain fixtures on the general aviation scene through a sales operation to be known as Showalter Aviation and Marine. The sales business will operate in a location to be determined, the family said in an announcement Dec. 3.
"Being a large part of a 70-year family legacy like Showalter is something that most people will never have the opportunity to experience, and I am grateful for all of the memories," said Chairman Bob Showalter, owner of the business for the last 41 years.
His wife Kim Showalter included a personal farewell message in the announcement in the December issue of the FBO’s publication The Fly Paper, as did their daughter Jenny and son Sandy. Kim discussed how a changing aviation business climate brought about the sale.
"This has been a decision years in the making. For a long time we have talked about being a dinosaur in our industry. Our industry is rapidly changing, as are so many others," she wrote.
"Competing as a single, stand-alone business has become more difficult. We don’t have the economy of scale that the chain FBO's have. And then there are the hours and the risks. In 41 years we have been closed 1 day! (The hurricane didn’t hit!) And every moment you are open you have risk. Risk for people's safety and customer's aircraft."
The Showalters chose the abbreviation for global positioning system, GPS, to express the "gratitude, pride and sadness" they felt at the changeover, adding that those same elements would help them set a new course.
They felt gratitude that their business allowed their family the unique experience of growing up at the airport. Pride came from "a safety record that we feel confident in saying is unmatched in our industry—not only where customer’s aircraft are concerned, but more importantly, the safety of our people." The Showalters would feel sadness from missing their customers, and "the daily interaction," the small things "that have created the fabric of our last 41 years," wrote Kim.
Bob noted highlights of operating an FBO business including "accomplishing nine NBAA shows here in Orlando and another five NBAA static displays in other cities with no injuries and not so much as a broken static wick." Another was helping to "launch the careers of countless airline captains, industry executives and even an Air Force One commander."
The buyer, Atlantic Aviation, based in Plano, Texas, is an airport-services component of Macquarie Infrastructure Co., a public firm based in New York City. Atlantic Aviation has more than 65 FBOs in 28 states, according to its page on the business network LinkedIn.
The Showalters’ announcement of the sale followed disclosure of the transaction consistent with regulations applicable to the publicly traded parent company, the Showalters said in an email.