FBO Profile: Volo Aviation
Airplanes have been landing at what is now Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport (BDR) in Stratford, Conn., since newfangled flying machines were in their infancy. The airport was the site of the first airshow in the U.S. in 1911, and has changed names several times before its current title was adopted in 1972. At one point it was served by several airlines, but that ended in 1999, when the last carrier left.
Today, the airport is a general aviation-only facility, served by three FBOs, the newest of which is Volo Aviation, a five-acre facility that set up shop in 2010 on the site of the former airline terminal when it was leveled to make way for the new terminal/hangar structure. The new building marked the first investment in the airport in 40 years, according to Volo COO Kyle Slover. Volo, which operates four FBOs in the eastern U.S., established its corporate headquarters at the BDR facility, which has a 1,500-sq-ft FBO terminal lobby and 4,000 sq ft of office and tenant space. The lobby is connected to a 35,000 sq ft heated hangar, capable of sheltering aircraft up to a G650. The structure, which has a clear-span opening width of 220 feet, is fully occupied with aircraft such as a Global Express and Challenger 300, G450 and GIV, a Falcon 2000 and a pair of Falcon 900s, and an AW109. Volo is planning to construct another 60,000 sq ft of hangar space. The company has already obtained the proper permits and zoning approval, but is waiting on additional tenant commitments before it breaks ground on the new structure. Transient aircraft, meanwhile, find ample parking on the 170,000 sq feet of ramp space. Next to the hangar, Volo constructed a new operations building, including its contract tower, for the airport.
The facility, which serves local corporate flight departments and Connecticut-based financial services companies, has a staff of 23 and operates from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. After-hours callout service is available 24/7. Though BDR is not officially an international airport, with prior arrangement its FBOs can support international arrivals through the U.S. customs office in the Port of Bridgeport. Due to recent sequester budget cuts, however, that service is available only on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The FBO pumps approximately 700,000 gallons of Shell fuel a year. Its three refuelers (a pair of 5,000-gallon jet-A tankers and a 1,000-gallon avgas truck) shuttle fuel from the FBO’s 30,000-gallon fuel farm. Among its amenities, the facility offers a pilot lounge, flight-planning area with weather service, a quiet/snooze room, an eight-person A/V-equipped conference room, Wi-Fi service throughout, airplane-side pickup and drop off, and a catering kitchen for final preparation of meals. One of its most popular services is its complimentary car detailing: passengers or pilots who leave their cars at the FBO will find them cleaned and waxed upon their return.
Volo offers maintenance service, with its in-house staff trained on Gulfstreams, Hawkers, Learjets and Falcons. It can perform service up to major airframe inspections. For avionics work, Duncan Aviation operates a satellite facility at the FBO. Volo recently installed an extensive fall-arrest system below the ceiling of the hangar, which is intended to prevent injuries if technicians fall off aircraft. Volo also provides charter service through its own Part 135 certificate and is Wyvern and Argus Platinum rated, and has achieved IS-BAO Stage II certification. Currently, the company has the GIV and one of the Falcon 900s under management.
The airport’s 4,700-foot-long runway was one of the factors that ended its commercial service, as carriers could not bring large aircraft in, which they said cut into their profitability.
“I think historically a lot of people with the airplanes that they were operating weren’t very comfortable,” Slover said, adding that the aircraft that appear in his hangar suggest that these days runway length is not as much an issue for large business aircraft. “All those operators are comfortable operating large aircraft out of here. With the new efficiencies you find in aircraft, we’re not talking 7,000 feet of runway to get a GII in here anymore.”
While the north end of Runway 24/06 had long consisted of a fence that bordered a local road, that will soon change as the airport, the City of Bridgeport (which owns it), the town of Stratford (where it is located) and the FAA–after years of negotiations–have finally reached a deal whereby the road will be relocated to install a safety overrun. “That’s a huge relief for us because obviously we’ve made a major investment in this airport,” Slover told AIN, noting that sequestration cuts raised doubts that the project would actually happen. “Using AIP funds we’ll have a brand-new runway here in a couple of years with a new EMAS, new lighting, the whole thing, and then we should see more interest in this airport.” That interest will be fueled by the recent trends the company had noted in its plans to establish a base at BDR. “We take a look at the demographics and where the money is going,” Slover noted. “Money has been coming up from the Stamford area for the last 20 or 30 years toward New Haven; this airport just sits right on the outer edge of that.”