What is an FBO in General Aviation?

Jet Aviation FBO in Bozeman, MT
Charter pilots and other general aviation pilots make frequent use of FBOs like this one in Bozeman, Montana. Safety cones and chocks are at the ready for marshallers to direct aircraft as a fuel truck is parked nearby to top off tanks. Inside, pilots, crew, and passengers can rest, refresh, and recharge while the aircraft is being refueled.

What does FBO stand for?

What is the meaning of FBO in general aviation? FBO is an acronym for fixed-base operator. A simple definition for FBO is a commercial business that offers aviation services at airports and airfields.

Airports grant the authority for these organizations to do business on airport grounds. FBOs provide numerous services to pilots, passengers, and crew. FBOs sell fuel. The also offer hangar space, tie-downs, and parking for aircraft. Many provide MRO services and offer flight training. FBOs provide restroom facilities and usually have some type of food service available, even if it’s just in vending machines. Many have pilot lounges and provide weather briefings. Some keep cars on hand to loan to pilots and/or passengers. They may also facilitate car rentals.

In short, FBOs try to anticipate and accommodate the needs of everyone who walks through their doors. Each company is unique, although some may be part of a larger group, such as Signature Aviation or Million Air.

What does an FBO do at an airport?

10 Essential FBO Services Every Pilot Should Know About:

What services do FBOs offer pilots? In addition to ground service for pilots, you’ll find many essential pilot services at FBOs. Here are the 10 key FBO services that every pilot should know about:

1. Fuel Services

  • Refueling: Providing both Jet-A and Avgas (100LL) fuel.
  • Fuel Additives: Have additives available to improve fuel performance or meet specific regulatory requirements.

2. Ground Handling

  • Towing and Parking: Assistance with moving aircraft and providing parking space.
  • Marshallers: Staff to safely guide aircraft on the ground, place and/or remove chocks during parking, etc.

3. Hangar Services

  • Overnight Storage: Hangar space for overnight or longer-term storage.
  • Transient Hangar Space: Temporary hangar options for visiting aircraft. Even if you’re only there for a few hours, if hail is predicted, you’ll want your equipment in a hangar.

4. Maintenance and Repair

  • Aircraft Maintenance: Routine and preventive maintenance services.
  • Repairs: On-site minor repairs and/or coordination of major repairs.
  • Avionics Services: Maintenance and upgrades for aircraft avionics systems.

5. Passenger and Crew Services

  • Lounge Areas: Comfortable waiting areas for passengers and crew.
  • Rest Facilities: Restrooms, showers, and even sleep rooms for crew rest.
  • Transportation: Rental cars, shuttle services, or crew cars for local transport.
  • Concierge Services: Assistance with hotel bookings, car rentrals, catering, and other personal services.

6. Flight Support Services

  • Flight Planning: Assistance with flight planning, including weather briefings and NOTAMs.
  • Communication Services: Access to telephones, fax machines, and internet.
  • Computer Facilities: Workstations for flight planning and communications.

7. Security Services

  • Aircraft Security: Secure areas for aircraft parking and hangar storage.
  • Passenger Screening: Security screening services as required by TSA.

8. Ramp Services

  • Ground Power Units (GPUs): Electrical power for aircraft on the ground.
  • Lavatory and Water Services: Lavatory servicing and potable water supply for the aircraft.
  • De-icing: Aircraft de-icing services in cold weather.

9. Catering and Amenities

  • Catering Services: Arrangements for in-flight meals and refreshments.
  • Pilot Supplies: Availability of charts, headsets, and other aviation supplies.
  • Pilot Shop: Retail shop offering aviation-related merchandise and supplies.

10. Administrative Services

  • Customs and Immigration: Assistance with customs and immigration for international flights.
  • Billing Services: Handling of payments and invoices for services rendered.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensuring adherence to local and international aviation regulations.

Not all FBOs offer every single service listed here. However, they are known to go above and beyond in anticipating needs and providing resources.

The interior of Jet Aviation FBO
FBOs like Jet Aviation in Bozeman, Montana offer clean, safe, and comfortable facilities for pilots, crew, and passengers. Need a luggage rack? No problem. Snacks? Right down the hallway!

The Pilot’s Guide to Navigating FBOs

How pilots use FBO services depends on every flight. A quick stop typically requires fewer services. A longer layover may offer an opportunity to have some maintenance done. Sometimes, a pilot just needs fuel or a bathroom break. Understanding FBO operations for pilots is essential. For that reason, a pilot’s checklist for FBOs is a useful tool. Here is an example of a pilot’s FBO checklist:


1. Contact FBO

  • Confirm availability of required services.
  • Arrange for any special requirements (e.g., maintenance, hangar space).
  • Notify FBO of ETA and specific needs (fuel type, catering, etc.).

2. Flight Planning

  • Ensure flight plan includes FBO location.
  • Verify weather conditions and NOTAMs for the destination.
  • Prepare necessary documents for customs and immigration (if applicable).


3. Ground Handling

  • Follow marshallers’ instructions upon landing.
  • Confirm parking or hangar location.
  • Verify fuel requirements and order refueling if necessary.

4. Ramp Services

  • Request GPU, if needed.
  • Arrange for lavatory and potable water services.
  • Check availability of de-icing services, if applicable.

5. Passenger and Crew Services

  • Direct passengers to the lounge or waiting area.
  • Confirm transportation arrangements (rental car, shuttle, crew car).
  • Check rest facilities for crew (showers, restrooms, sleep rooms).


6. Maintenance and Repair

  • Coordinate any required maintenance or repairs with FBO staff.
  • Ensure any avionics or specific equipment checks are performed.

7. Flight Support Services

  • Use FBO’s flight planning resources (computers, internet, weather briefings).
  • Verify updated flight plan and confirm all necessary documents are ready.

8. Catering and Supplies

  • Order and check catering services for the next flight.
  • Purchase or restock pilot supplies and charts.


9. Final Checks

  • Verify refueling is complete and check fuel quality.
  • Ensure all maintenance tasks are finished and documented.
  • Confirm that aircraft cleaning (interior/exterior) is done.

10. Security and Documentation

  • Ensure all security measures are in place for aircraft.
  • Complete customs and immigration procedures, if necessary.
  • Settle any outstanding invoices and payments with FBO.

11. Ground Handling and Clearance

  • Request pushback or towing if required.
  • Confirm ground clearance and taxi instructions with ATC.
  • Perform final walk-around inspection of the aircraft.

12. Communication

  • Brief passengers on departure procedures.
  • Coordinate with FBO for any last-minute needs or changes.

By following this checklist, pilots can be sure to make the most of the services offered by FBOs. This ensures a smooth and efficient turnaround for their flights.

Irving Oil FBO in Labrador
In sunshine or rain, Irving Oil FBO staff are on hand to refuel this King Air B200 in Labrador, Canada.

Fueling Services: What Pilots Need to Know

The best FBOs for fueling probably depend on where you are and where you’re going. In other words, there may not be a lot of options, especially in remote areas. AirNav maintains up to date FBO fuel prices for pilots, which is very helpful since you can search by zip code or airport. Fuel types at FBOs and airports typically include 100LL (low lead) avgas and/or Jet-A fuel.

Flight Planning Assistance at FBOs

FBO flight planning tools typically include access to computers for weather services. Pilots receive weather briefing at FBOs to support their flight planning the safest routes.

Westjet Air Center FBO
Westjet Air Center at Rapid City Regional Airport provides services to people flying in to see Mount Rushmore.

Maintenance Services at FBOs: A Pilot’s Overview

Although the government does not oversee FBOs per se, the FAA does regulate some activities, such as flight training, air taxi, and authorization or repair stations at FBOs. FBO maintenance for pilots can include a wide range of activities. However, quick aircraft repairs at FBOs are common as line services. These range from oxygen refills to catering. Hangar services for pilots are also a common service.

Yingling Aviation FBO
Yingling Aviation is a full service FBO in Wichita, Kansas where pilots can stow their aircraft in hangars, receive MRO services, and more.

Handling and Storage Options for Pilots at FBOs

Pilots rely on aircraft storage at FBOs for a variety of reasons. Hangars provide aircraft protection, and FBOs can offer long-term and short-term hangar storage. Some pilots prefer to pay to leave their aircraft on the ramp out in the elements. However, when there is potential for severe weather, a hangar is best. FBO hangar fees vary based on size, location, and demand. Prices range from several hundred dollars to several thousand.

How FBOs Support Pilot Training and Certifications

Besides selling fuel, FBOs support flight schools in a variety of ways. A smaller flight school may not have its own maintenance department, so they use the MRO services at the FBO. It is common to find FBOs with pilot schools. FBOs also often provide piston and turboprop aircraft charters as well as aircraft rentals.

Westjet Aviation Center FBO Interior
Pilots, crew, and passengers can relax at Westjet Aviation Center in Rapid City, South Dakota.

FBO Services and Pilot Amenities: Beyond the Basics

You just flew a charter from DAB to OKC and need to stretch. While your passengers Uber to town to eat at Sherry’s Diner, you make use of the FBO amenities for crew. Pilot lounges at FBOs beat any first class airport lounge. Rest facilities for pilots are downright thoughtful. Restrooms don’t just have the standard soap and towel. No, you’ll find shaving equipment, shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and mouthwash, and just about anything your creature comfort self desires! Coffee, tea, sodas, and water are on hand, and you’ll often find freshly baked cookies or freshly popped popcorn. Make yourself at home!

Safety Protocols at FBOs: Ensuring Safe Operations for Pilots

Safety standards at FBOs are serious business. Emergency procedures at FBOs are standard operating procedure. Staff members review and update safety protocols regularly. Pilot safety at FBOs is the number one service provided.

Welcome to Goose Bay FBO
It might be raining outside, but pilots know a cozy FBO and friendly service await them inside Irving Oil in Goose Bay, Labrador. Wipe your feet, grab a hot coffee, and let the fueling to the Irving crew!

Building Strong Relationships with FBO Staff

Just as your passengers are tipping the servers down at Sherry’s Diner, you’re likely to tip your FBO staff. Working with FBO personnel is part of the pilot’s job. Communicating with FBOs begins long before you walk through the door. You probably called them well in advance of your fight (see checklist above!) and confirmed everything from their hours to fuel prices. Depending on the services provided, a $5, $10, or $20-dollar bill may be offered. These people take care of you. Do your best to take care of them.

The Role of Technology in Enhancing FBO Services for Pilots

As technology becomes more sophisticated, so do FBO tech tools for pilots. Digital platforms for pilot services include software to support FBO services, such as Aviation Manuals and MyFBO. There are even innovative FBO solutions for flight crew. Tech changes almost daily, and FBOs make it a priority to keep up with changing technology.

Subway Wichita Airport Hangar View
Just down the hallway at Yingling Aviation’s FBO, pilots will find a Subway restaurant with excellent views of the hangar and ramp.

Why Pilots Prefer Certain FBOs: Criteria for Making the Choice

Whether a city, county, regional, or even international FBO, choosing the right FBO for your flight is important. What pilots want from an FBO depends on so many criteria, such as the type of trip, passengers, etc. FltPlan maintains a list of all U.S. FBOs. The top FBOs for pilots changes each year. The 2024 AIN FBO survey invited pilots to rank the best FBOs. The five favorite FBOs as determined by pilots were:

  • 1. Pentastar Aviation KPTK
  • 2. American Aero KFTW
  • 3. Sheltair KTPA
  • 4. Galaxy FBO KADS
  • 5. Henriksen Jet Center KTME

You’ll see every type of pilot at FBOs – recreational, military, charter, and even the occasional airline pilot taking his personal plane out for a spin. FBOs help ensure that flights are safe, efficient, and comfortable, making FBOs a critical component of general aviation infrastructure. No matter which one is your favorite, rest assured they are working hard to meet your needs.

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