News & Views
TAC Air — AMA FBO Expands and Improves in Amarillo
TAC Air Expands and Improves in Amarillo
Aug 19th, 2021
AMA is opening its “new” doors to the FBO's first major renovation since 1993, growing their footprint and improving their operations to meet the needs of Amarillo's growing market.
Located at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport (KAMA) in Amarillo, TX, TAC Air — AMA is in summer shape and showing off extensive upgrades to the FBO. The formerly 4,500 sq. ft. terminal and ground services facility has expanded into an 8,500 sq. ft. executive terminal and business center. And the FBO’s hangar grew to 102,700 sq. ft. of hangar space, 17,300 sq. ft. of office and 4,875 sq. ft. of shop space.
Tad Perryman, VP of Marketing, TAC - The Arnold Companies, said TAC Air has been at KAMA since 1993 and is excited for this major upgrade to the FBO and refresh to the whole campus. Perryman explained the upgrades have been driven, in part, to meet the growing market in Amarillo.
“We've taken care of the facility, but it clearly has been outgrown and advanced from the time it was originally built, as the city has been going through a lot of changes from an economic development standpoint, one of their areas of focus was the airport,” said Perryman. “We chose to come in and do a complete rebuild of the existing FBO structure. And with that, we grazed the land putting temporary buildings up to the side and then we started a complete rebuild of the executive terminal.”
Initial conversations and development on the upgrades began in 2019, with work then beginning the next year. Construction finished earlier in the year and the first passengers traveled through the renovated FBO in early August.
Perryman said the rebuild gave them the opportunity to really go “state-of-the-art” with what they incorporated into the FBO.
“We feature technology from an entertainment stand point, from a capability to charge your phone, charge your computer, have some workstations for those people that are traveling and spending time in the terminal, and actually for our employees and the crew as well,” Perryman said, highlighting some of the technologic upgrades. “Back in the line room, we've got new technology to run all of our systems and looks at all of the maps of incoming and outgoing flights and manage our internal communications from the line to the front counter as well.”
Some state-of-the-art features extended past the mere technological and into safety. Amarillo is located in the middle of the US’s Tornado Alley and the extreme weather that can befall the FBO was factored into the design.
“We designed and built into the center of the facility an extreme weather safe room. It's a 12' by 12' reinforced concrete cinder block room, all four walls, floor, and ceiling are built to withstand high winds and tornadoes. So if there is extreme weather, we have the ability to move quite a few people into a safe place. That's one of the key designs going on around the whole area as new facilities are being built. We want to take care of our customers and our crew, and we're providing a safe room in the center of the facility,” detailed Jeremy Vandyke, General Manager of TAC Air — AMA.
One of the questions people usually have when they come into TAC Air — AMA is the possibility of extreme weather and where they can store their aircraft in the event of some.
“We have a lot of a hangar space available for those flying through, because if it is inclement weather, if it is hailing, you want to have this option available to you. We have that available at the facility and we've actually redone the whole campus, so we've reskinned, repainted, remodeled. I like to call it refresh and regreen, the hangar facilities and made sure those are all up to par right along with the new executive terminal, the whole campus actually has a new look and feel to it,” Vandyke said.
TAC Air — AMA is also a high traffic area for military aircraft, so they’ve included a dedicated military situation room in the FBO.
“It actually is set up so visiting military can do training scenarios in the room, one-on-one between the two pilots that are in each aircraft. Or if they have a larger group and want to be able to do some additional training in the room, we can hold pilots from 12 aircraft, that'd be 24 pilots, through a training situation, separate from the regular pilots' lounge or regular meeting conference room available from a business standpoint. We really are catering to the military traffic that comes in. We know they like this airport in this part of the country, and we want to make sure they know they are very welcome to visit for fueling or a training stop,” said Vandyke.
He added that during the design phase, they asked military personnel passing through the FBO what would help them the most. One was to have space where crews could sit down and have a conversation, specifically between trainers and trainees. And two, was to have a location where they could store their gear and other items.
"It has an extra open locker storage area for military pilots to store their gear, their flight suits, their helmets," Vandyke said. “When they come in, they're getting in or out of flight suits, carrying helmets, gear and flight books with them, and having a place to put all these items and know it's properly taken care of is important.”
Constructing the New
What TAC Air — AMA has done is more than mere upgrades or facelifts, but a complete redo of the entire FBO and a rethinking of what a space like it should offer and be. Comparing the old TAC Air — AMA to the new, Perryman said the prior facility had everything it needed when it was built, but it was time for a new facility.
“The Amarillo TAC Air facility was very consolidated. Space-wise, we had all of the room required at the time,” he said. “What we've done is we've expanded. We really are providing more space for people, more opportunities to be able to relax or spend time if they have to, on the ground there, in a relaxed atmosphere.”
Perryman continued that some areas that were smaller have been enlarged and areas that before may have been more simple now pop. There are now specific areas, such as those for military personnel and general aviation operators, which are divided and identified.
“There's some separation for those folks to be able to do what they need to do when they're in the facility,” Perryman said.
To accomplish this, the old FBO building was torn down to the ground. To keep operations moving during the construction, temporary facilities were brought in.
“They're set up next door to where the old facility was and where the new facility is. We repositioned everything to go through those temporary buildings, a temporary line room, set next to temporary facilities of the executive terminal, where we receive people. And we've been running operations out of there for a year. It's worked great. People have been very kind and understanding it is a temporary facility, but it actually has worked very well out there for us to be able to take the building all the way to the ground and start over,” said Vandyke.
The design of the new TAC Air — AMA facility borrowed design ideas from other TAC Air locations. Chiefly, the suspension of an aircraft from the facility’s ceiling. The aircraft at TAC Air locations hold significance to the region’s location. For example, at TAC Air — RDU in Raleigh, NC, a Wright Flyer hangs in the facility and at TAC Air — DAL in Dallas, TX, a 1:5 scale model 727 of the Braniff Airways, Dallas Cowboys' aircraft that was first logoed for the NFL team hangs in the main lobby.
“In Amarillo, we really wanted to be specific to that airfield and what it was historically known for. It was one of the first MRO stations for the B-17 bomber and the facility and whole airport was designed around that aircraft,” Perryman said.
Perryman added that the Amarillo Airport runway’s length was tailored to accommodate the B-17 and there’s current construction going into the runway to keep it fully updated.
“I think we chose the B-17 as the featured aircraft because of the heritage there at English Field and the Amarillo International Airport. And so we will have a 1:5th scale B-17G bomber hanging from the ceiling inside the facility. It's going to follow a paint scheme, similar to the famous B-17, the Memphis Belle, making it exciting for both civilian and military pilots and travelers coming through to the facility,” he continued.
TAC Air Safety: Active FOD Prevention
As a part of our ongoing safety efforts, a story in a series of many to come, we wanted to share more details around FOD.
Foreign Object Debris (FOD) is a term heard often around airport ramps. The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) defines FOD as: Any object that does not belong on the airport runway, taxiway or ramp. Items considered FOD include aircraft parts, mechanics’ tools, nails, luggage parts, stones, shrubbery, personal belongings, and other objects which may cause costly damage to an aircraft, or even lead to an accident or cause harm to those present when left on the ramp.
This debris, called FOD in and around airport ramps, has the potential to cause damage to an aircraft and its passengers and crew if it makes direct contact with the aircraft, for example if ingested into the engine or cutting up tires. According to Boeing, the resulting damage is estimated to cost the aerospace industry $4 billion each year.
While certain external FOD hazards such as hail, bird strikes or an animal wandering onto a runway cannot always be controlled, this safety hazard can be managed by active measures such as conducting daily FOD walks around the airport ramp space to seek out and dispose of any found debris, or FOD.
Committed to keeping all customers, employees and aircraft safe, TAC Air has implemented FOD walks as part of its Safety Management System (SMS). NATA explains, “An SMS defines how operational safety should be managed and integrated into an organization’s business activities. A well-developed and implemented SMS keeps the safety message consistent, interesting and always out front. An SMS can help identify risks inherent within your business.” Armed with this knowledge, the TAC Air SMS enables frequent assessments of potential safety hazards and provides the chance to correct them to keep associates, customers and their aircraft safe from harm.
“We believe one of the most important things we can do is protect our customers, both physically and financially. By conducting FOD walks, we meet 3rd party requirements for safety compliance certifications,” stated Bob Schick, TAC Air Director of Operations Support. “By conducting regular FOD walks and following the other safety protocols as outlined in our SMS, we are providing customers an important safety service as well as a financial management service to protect their investment.”
The Salt Lake City International Airport Authority has a concerted effort to collect FOD every quarter. As a part of this, the airport created a sculpture from found debris turned in. Every quarter the airport tenant who turns in the most FOD is awarded the statue, called the “FOD Trooper.” TAC Air — SLC has won this award several times. Reference photo of statue below. Notice in the photo the zipper pull fingers, bag tags, luggage hardware arms, fuel caps, knee pads and seat legs that comprise the figure.
All TAC Air associates have a role when on a ramp or around an airport: to keep it clean and safe. “If you see it, pick it up,” said Schick. “Prevention is key to proper safety.”
TAC Air has earned 3rd party safety certifications from key industry organizations, including NATA and the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO). Certifications include: NATA Safety 1st, NATA Safety 1st Clean and IS-BAH Stage 2 Registration. These safety seals of approval confirm TAC Air is compliant with required safety standards and the FBO locations incorporate the global industry code of best practices.
These leading industry safety certifications require SMS program implementation, ongoing training to reinforce key safety messages and educating employees of the proper safety protocols and procedures TAC Air has established, including conducting FOD walks for FOD prevention.
FOD prevention is only one aspect of the comprehensive TAC Air SMS. Associates are required to perform regular ramp inspections and conduct formal FOD walks to reinforce the importance of this responsibility to all team members. TAC Air defines FOD as Found Object Debris, as it is no longer foreign since we remove it from the ramp, which keeps everyone safer.
Bob Schick of TAC Air Continues to Serve as Member of IS-BAH Standards Board for 2021/2022
by Kerry Lynch
May 28, 2021, 11:16 AM
The International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) recently appointed the 2021/2022 International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH) Standards Board, welcoming three new members. They are Kevin Donnelly from Jet Aviation, Dawit Lemma from Krimson Aviation, and Benjamin Hammond from Duncan Aviation.
According to IBAC, the IS-BAH Standards Board oversees content of the IS-BAH standard and suggests improvements or identifies other changes. A voluntary program, IS-BAH serves to establish best practices and enable FBOs/handlers to conform to those, in addition to the ICAO SMS framework. The program has registered more than 246 locations worldwide since its inception in 2014.
“The Standards Board consists of active professionals from around the world in the ground-handling service provider sector, demonstrating these are truly industry-driven standards,” said Terry Yeomans, IS-BAH program director. “The ongoing support of these leaders is promoting safer operations for us all. “
The new members join a board that also includes chair Allison Markey, of Wyvern; vice-chair Marc Pieters, of Jet Aviation EuMEA; Joseph Azzaz, of Sky Valet Golf de St-Tropez Airport; Chris Barrow, of Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre; Jennifer Bartenstein, of Signature Flight Support; Alain Champannois, representing his own business; Gary Dietz, of AT&T Flight Operations; Dr. Benjamin Goodheart, of Magpie|Human Safety Systems; Paula Kraft, of Da Vinci/Tastefully Yours; Bob Schick, of TAC Air; Lou Sorrentino, of AvMASSi; and Kyle Quinn, of Modern Aviation.
TAC Air and The Wall Street Journal Launch Digital Newspaper Distribution for Business Aviation Executives
To minimize touchpoints and promote safe and healthy environments for customers and employees, TAC Air has partnered with The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) to launch the private aviation industry’s first digital newspaper amenity program.
Innovation, convenience and accessibility transpire as TAC Air manages its COVID response and reduces touchpoints throughout its network of 16 FBO locations across the United States.
Prior to March, 2020, it was common for travelers to be seen reading printed newspaper copies while lounging in TAC Air FBO terminals and aboard their flights. Working through the summer to address the issues of additional shared touch points, TAC Air partnered with WSJ to identify and deliver a touchless solution for delivery of news to traveling business executives.
“As a part of our exceptional services we have historically offered WSJ to our customers, and recently, TAC Air had to limit the distribution of printed materials in the FBO terminals and aboard customers’ aircraft,” stated TAC Air Chief Operating Officer Joe Gibney. “We collaborated with WSJ to create a solution that would respond to the customer need for world-class news while we follow new cleanliness guidelines and protocols. By partnering with WSJ for digital newspaper distribution in our FBO terminals, it is a win-win for everyone–Customers, WSJ and TAC Air.”
The Text-to-Me (TTM) program is a downloadable PDF of the day’s newspaper. Customers scan a QR or text a numeric code using their phone or tablet to connect and begin reading The Wall Street Journal, for 24-hour access. TTM is portable and WiFi is not required.
“TAC Air responded to the challenge of their customer preferences for both a contactless and print amenity choice. Text-to-Me was the perfect solution to satisfy a contactless newspaper experience, while maintaining print copies for those still preferring a newspaper. The Wall Street Journal is proud to be partnering with TAC Air to provide their customers with a choice – a WSJ My Way dynamic -- that speaks to their desire to provide an exceptional customer experience,” stated Lisa Stuart, Director National Accounts; The Wall Street Journal.
About TAC Air
TAC Air is an aviation ground services company providing the highest level of service available in fixed-base operations, with more than 800 associates in its network of operations spanning 16 FBO locations across the United States. TAC Air is a division of TAC - The Arnold Companies, a Texas-based aviation services and energy marketing company and one of the nation’s largest independent distributors of refined petroleum products, with sales volume exceeding 2 billion gallons annually. TAC has a reputation for simplifying the business and exceeding what others in the industry are doing in order to create sustainable growth. Ultimately, it’s the company’s associates and their passion for service that sets TAC apart.
Learn more about the passion for great service TAC Air provides pilots, aircraft owners, airlines and the government/military at www.tacair.com. For more information about TAC - The Arnold Companies, visit www.thearnoldcos.com.
About The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal is a global news organization that provides leading news, information, commentary and analysis. The Wall Street Journal engages readers across print, digital, mobile, social, podcasts and video. Building on its heritage as the preeminent source of global business and financial news, the Journal includes coverage of U.S. & world news, politics, arts, culture, lifestyle, sports, and health. It holds 38 Pulitzer Prizes for outstanding journalism. The Wall Street Journal is published by Dow Jones, a division of News Corp (Nasdaq: NWS, NWSA; ASX: NWS, NWSLV).
2020 Airport Business Top 40 Under 40: Michael Welch
Michael Welch worked his way up from intern to general manager, serving in a variety of roles at TAC Air, including line service technician and line service manager. He was then promoted to lead TAC Air-BDL as general manager and in 2020 moved to the general manager role at the TAC Air-APA FBO at Centennial Airport.
“I really enjoy the interaction with people on both the employee side as well as the customer side,” he said. “Every day is a challenge and when I look back on the day, week, month or year and see what our team has accomplished it is the most rewarding experience.”
While general manager of TAC Air-BDL at Bradley International Airport (BDL), Welch participated in the airport’s Fire Foam committee to minimize environmental impact. Because of his involvement on this committee, local FBOs were able to apply for code modifications to remove or not install foam fire suppression systems in hangars on a case by case basis.
Welch substantially decreased employee turnover at TAC Air-BDL and built a lasting service culture where employees and customers could thrive.
“The biggest thing I take pride in when thinking about our industry is the good done for the local communities it serves,” he said. “From medical aircraft, to dog and animal rescue transportation, to being a part of the growth for local businesses and economy to thrive. When I read news articles about new business or large events that drive economic growth and know we were part of making it happen, especially without most people knowing our role, it’s just plain rewarding.”
Welch was an early adopter through implementation of a remote control tug. Introducing this technology into daily FBO operations continues to advance safety margins and increases efficiency with the ability to fit more aircraft into each hangar.
He is an active member of aviation industry organizations including NBAA, AOPA and the Colorado Aviation Business Association (CABA). Each year at TAC Air-APA, Welch helps plan and host the Morgan Adams Concurs de Elegance fundraiser. In addition, he took part in the Morgan Adams Foundation Mentor for A Day program, where he hosted one of the organization’s survivors and showed him what it was like to work at an FBO.
Welch has been involved with Make a Wish helping grant wishes for several years and has volunteered his time to cook dinner on several occasions at the Ronald McDonald House.
Hometown: Buhl, Idaho
Alma Mater: Westminster College
Fun fact about yourself: I enjoy riding and working on Dirt Bikes.
Someone I look up to in the industry: I know it sounds trite, but in the industry I look up to our company’s owner, Greg Arnold. He has tremendous leadership and has built a privately owned company and team of people, who I also look up to, to be a long-term major player in an industry that is dominated by large publicly traded companies.
My favorite thing about aviation is: Just being in the industry. Being around the airport and aircraft on a daily basis. It’s fun to listen to people outside of the industry talk about aviation and airplanes, knowing I get to live it every day.
My dream aviation job: What I am doing now. General Manager of an FBO for a great company and living and working in a great city that puts me where I like to spend my free time - outdoors. I get the best of all worlds. Working in and managing business, being around aircraft and aviation, working with a great team of people and being close to the mountains.
What to Expect at Your Destination
FBOs have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by introducing new protocols that minimize infection risks.
Business aircraft travel is ramping up again, and FBOs are modifying their procedures to help ensure the safety of crew members, passengers and their own employees during the pandemic.
How are FBOs adapting to COVID-19 while maintaining a high level of service? What can you expect at your next destination? We talked with representatives from six organizations, ranging in size from companies with a few domestic locations to those with worldwide networks.
The first step in keeping FBO customers and employees safe and healthy was to perform risk assessments and then develop mitigation measures to address each specific risk in a reasonable manner.
“We identified the risks and implemented safety measures to mitigate them and limit potential exposure,” said TAC Air Chief Operating Officer Joe Gibney. “Our first step was approaching all cleanliness and safety guidelines through our regular, rigorous standards. Then we set up a team focus to make sure we met the NBAA and CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines.”
A Variety of New Procedures
One of the most noticeable procedural changes at FBOs is how transactions are conducted. Most operators surveyed have installed plexiglass barriers at customer service desks. Others have implemented contactless ordering and payment options through apps or other payment methods.
“We’ve taken extra measures from behind the transaction counters to be as touch-free as possible and diligent in our cleaning when it’s not.” - BOB SCHICK Director of Operations, TAC Air
Many FBOs also have implemented new policies regarding baggage handling, with line service people typically asking flight crews if they would like assistance, instead of automatically loading or unloading baggage.
Most FBOs surveyed also have changed their practices for handling third-party catering, as well as ice, coffee and refreshment services. Don’t expect to see cookies or popcorn in the FBO lobby. Individually packaged items might be provided instead. Coffee service might also be different. At most FBOs, ice and third-party catering are only handled by gloved personnel. At TAC Air and some other FBOs, catering is sealed with a sticker that is similar to tamperproof tape.
FBOs have implemented special policies for air ambulance aircraft or those carrying presumed positive passengers. Ideally, the pilot should notify the FBO prior to the aircraft’s arrival. FBO personnel will not interact directly with passengers and will communicate with crews only remotely via radio or other means. FBO personnel will also don appropriate personal protective equipment prior to servicing the aircraft.
Ground Transportation Policies Vary
Ground transportation procedures vary by location. While most FBOs continue to provide ramp-side delivery of personal or rental cars, if permitted by the airport, others have temporary halted this service.
Some passengers now prefer to sit in their own personal vehicle prior to departing from their home airport, rather than waiting in an FBO lobby. Geoff Heck of Signature Flight Support says his staff is prepared to accommodate that preference.
Tony Marlow, president of aviation operations and business development at Cooke & Castle, says the company’s Honolulu location encourages passengers and crew to avoid coming into the FBO by providing sanitized ground transportation on the ramp to minimize exposure at the facility. The FBO is NATA Safety 1st Clean certified, but nonetheless the company is discouraging unnecessary contact points. “We are encouraging a streamlined, cleaner arrival and departure process,” said Marlow.
Those FBOs that are providing ramp-side vehicle delivery are disinfecting surfaces such as steering wheels, knobs and door handles after a user has driven the vehicle. Most FBOs have continued valet parking services with similar sanitization procedures in place.
“TAC Air is using safety green ‘sanitized and clean’ stickers on door handles of shuttle vans and courtesy vehicles to indicate the vehicle has been disinfected between uses,” said Schick.
Emphasis on Personnel Hygiene, Sanitization
All FBOs surveyed shared a significantly increased focus on cleaning and disinfecting of common areas of their facilities, including lobbies, restrooms and offices. These areas are being cleaned more frequently and thoroughly several times daily.
“Customers can still expect great service, just tailored to fit safety protocols for both customers and employees, including increased cleanings and sanitation throughout the day, as well as hand sanitizers available throughout the FBOs,” said Glenn Rivenbark, general manager of Wilson Air Center Chattanooga.
Ross Aviation, which has connections to the hotel business, looked to that industry for guidance when implementing its sanitization, laundering and other procedures.
FBO personnel are encouraged to wash their hands frequently and stay home if they are feeling sick. Some FBOs, including Ross Aviation, are using infrared thermometers to take employee temperatures prior to each shift. Many FBOs have implemented remote work options for employees able to work at home and staggered shifts or separated workspaces for those who must work at the FBO.
FBOs are either requiring or encouraging their employees to wear masks or face coverings, in accordance with state requirements, typically when they are within six feet of another individual. Cy Farmer, Ross Aviation’s COO, said his company has issued “pan-dana” face coverings to all employees. But you won’t necessarily see ramp personnel wearing masks if the individual is fueling an aircraft far from other people.
Communicate and Collaborate
Collaboration – within an FBO organization and with industry partners and customers – is the key to successfully mitigating the risk of COVID-19 at ground facilities.
Perhaps one of the most significant impacts of the novel coronavirus has been the challenge of maintaining personal connections and networks during the pandemic, says Scott Harrold, president of consultancy SKYAviation International. Therefore, he and other experts recommend that aircraft operators and FBOs work closely with other industry partners, including aviation service providers and NBAA, to ensure a reasonable and effective approach to COVID-19 risk mitigation that will enable the industry to continue to provide outstanding customer service.
“Signature Flight Support took a collaborative approach between safety, operations and human resources to come up with a COVID playbook,” said Heck. “Consistency is the key.”