MidCoast Regional Airport’s new fixed-base operator told local Joint Management Board members Wednesday that efforts to reduce costs, train airport staff in fuel quality control and promote the airport are going well.
Brian Ciambra, Volo Aviation’s senior vice president for FBO operations, told board members staff has been monitoring the type of customers who come in and out of MidCoast Regional to determine the services they need. He estimated 60-70 percent of customers who come into the airport fuel their own planes.
In an effort to market MidCoast to potential customers, the Volo executive said there are eight airports near MidCoast that cater to similar civilian aircraft. Airport staff can track the types of planes that patronize MidCoast’s competitors through the TRAQPak data program, and then contact those pilots through email to invite them to try MidCoast, he said.
“It’s an exhausting, tedious process, but it does pay off,” Ciambra said.
Volo also is promoting MidCoast through trade shows and organizations like the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, he said. Ciambra said fly-ins can create more exposure for MidCoast, increase fuel sales and pull in potential new tenants. He said Volo is talking with AOPA about a fly-in event at MidCoast, possibly for 2015 or 2016.
The Volo executive said fly-ins, on average, tend to bring in 200-300 airplanes for a weekend event.
“Usually, they (pilots) stay for the day,” he said.
Ciambra also reported there are 12 potential clients on a waiting list for an available hangar. He suggested the board consider building more T-hangars or having a private developer build them. Ciambra said he could provide a regional T-hangar analysis to compare rates.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, a voting member on the board, said construction costs were higher when the airport first built the hangars it has now. Though costs have gone down since then, they are rising, he said.
The JMB also should include its military partners in any conversation about new construction, Thomas added. He also suggested that the JMB consider providing services, such as supplying aircraft fuel, to Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield as the military downsizes and looks to acquire government-to-government contracts to cut costs.
The mayor said Secretary of the Army John McHugh mentioned templates for these types of agreements were being drafted and could be implemented, pending approval.
He said the JMB should schedule a planning session in the next several weeks to discuss this and other issues.
Volo also advised the board to consider contracting with another fuel provider once that contract is up in September, in order to reduce fuel costs.
Ciambra presented a fuel-rate comparison between the airport’s fuel provider, Avfuel, and World Fuel Supply for the weeks of Feb. 10 and 17. WFS charged 27 cents less per unit than Avfuel for the week of Feb. 17, and 16 cents less for the week of Feb. 10, he said.
Ciambra praised MidCoast staff, including general manager Charlie Martin and two full-time and two part-time airport employees, for being “open to change” and accepting additional responsibilities.
The JMB awarded its management-services contract to Volo Aviation late last year. FBOs provide aeronautical services to the public, including fueling, maintenance, storage and ground and flight instruction, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Volo Aviation, which is headquartered in Stratford, Conn., manages airports in other states, including Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.
The Liberty County Board of Commissioners, the city of Hinesville and the Liberty County Development Authority collaborate on overseeing MidCoast. The full board includes representatives from the United States Army, as MidCoast is utilized by Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield.
Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette and LCDA Chairman Allen Brown also are voting members on the board.