FBO Profile: XN Air
If you have flown into Spokane International Airport (GEG) in Washington State, it’s hard not to notice “the Cube,” a strikingly modern glass-clad structure that houses XN Air, currently the only FBO on the field. Built in 2007, the 6,300-sq-ft building is part of the complex purchased by Ross Aviation early in 2011, which also included former FBO rival Spokane Airways. Ross merged the two–then competitors–into one operation under the XN Air brand.
Ross’s modus operandi is to acquire an FBO and leave its name and management intact to preserve continuity for the location’s customers. That strategy worked well for general manager John Chastek, who has been at the airport since 1988. At that time, there were two struggling FBOs: Flightcraft and Spokane Airways, and the latter eventually bought out the former. XN Air began at GEG in the early 2000s first as an avionics shop, and then adding full FBO services as it began to build modern facilities, including the Cube, as it is fondly referred to by staffers. In a virtual replay of the late 1980s, both FBOs at the small-market airport suffered when the economic downturn hit in late 2008. Locked in a struggle for survival, they scrimped to reduce overhead, until Ross bought both businesses, allowing the newly consolidated facility to focus on restoring its service levels. “It had been a fiercely competitive market and a lot of resources were drained in trying to maintain market share and stay in business,” Chastek told AIN. “We have a little more latitude and a lot of support to provide the best possible customer service and attention to detail.”
In addition to inheriting Chastek in its Spokane Airways purchase, Ross also received the airport’s commercial airline fueling contract. XN Air now handles all fueling at GEG, drawing from the airport-managed 850,000-gallon capacity tank farm. The Avfuel-branded dealer operates an extensive fleet of jet-A refuelers (two 10,000-gallon-capacity trucks, two 8,000-gallon tankers, four 5,000-gallon tankers and three 3,000-gallon tankers) and a pair of 750-gallon avgas trucks. According to Chastek, avgas now represents 10 percent of the FBO’s fuel sales, half the total from just a few years ago. “It’s a small market by FBO standards and is not quite up to the 2007 levels, so we’re still in a recovery mode,” he said.
Used as a bomber training base during World War II, Spokane International Airport (known then as Geiger Field) can handle virtually any aircraft on its 11,000-foot-plus main runway and 8,200-foot secondary runway. The current XN Air complex occupies more than six acres on the airfield, including more than 50,000 sq ft of hangar space, which is home to several turbine aircraft, among them a helicopter and a Learjet 60. Since Ross purchased the facility, several of the older hangars–which can house aircraft up to the size of a Bombardier Global–have been upgraded with new siding and the addition of updated electrical and sprinkler systems. The location has ample room for expansion, something Chastek said is being monitored closely. “We’ve got our finger on the pulse of the need for storage hangars over the next several years,” he said, noting that occupancy levels currently fluctuate from 100 percent in the winter to approximately 70 percent in the summer.
The location has a staff of approximately 50 people, most of whom have five to ten years’ experience in the aviation service industry, and is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., with after-hours callout service available. The FBO, which sees approximately 10 flights a day, specializes in quick turns for aircraft heading up and down the west coast, to and from Alaska and Canada. The airport has a dedicated U.S. Customs facility for arriving aircraft, and to expedite matters, XN Air’s NATA Safety 1st-trained line staff can provide aircraft servicing right on the customs ramp.
Those passengers who choose to enter “the Cube” will find a passenger lounge, concierge services, A/V-equipped 10-seat conference room, available business services, complimentary Wi-Fi and satellite tv, onsite car rental, and a small gift shop featuring local foods. Among its offerings, XN Air offers onsite catering through its partnership with Hangar 77 Bistro, which leases a kitchen in the facility. According to Chastek, it can fulfill virtually any passenger meal request given enough notice, and also provides lunch service at its restaurant. Crew amenities at the location include a pilot lounge, snooze room, showers, laundry service, flight-planning room and crew cars. The FBO has negotiated with many hotels in the Spokane area to provide significant discounts. A shuttle service to the commercial terminal is also available for crew swaps.
Aircraft Solutions, a new company at the airport, offers aircraft sales, charter and management, Part 145 maintenance, avionics, aircraft upholstery and detailing services. These services were previously provided by the FBOs before the Ross acquisition.