Private air travelers rely heavily on fixed-based operators (FBOs) for fuel, maintenance, and other essential services required. But did you know that many FBOs can also help people who need medical flights? In this article, we’ll explore how FBOs work with medical flight operators to ensure all patients get the care they need when traveling by plane.
What Is an FBO?
An FBO is a service center for aircraft that focuses on serving private planes. It may be a private enterprise, airport, or local municipality subsidiary. Since they are separate entities, FBOs are usually located a short distance from the main terminal at major airports.
There are an estimated 5,200 FBOs in the US, including independents and chain operations. Most fixed-base operators own at least one or several aircraft, ranging from helicopters and turbo-props to heavy jets and airliners. FBOs provide vital airport and community access and a continuous, safe aviation fuel supply.
FBOs Are a Hub for Medical Travel
FBOs are an essential component of medical flights. Operating from an FBO ensures patients receive quick and more efficient transportation to an appropriate hospital or medical treatment facility than a commercial flight. In addition, there are no long security lines at an FBO serving private planes. Another advantage is limiting exposure for patients with a high risk of developing complications.
The range of amenities available for passengers will vary and depend on airport size and traffic. Overall, the amenities provide convenience for travelers and flight crews.
Smaller, less busy airports might offer only basic amenities. Meanwhile, larger airports with more traffic might provide a broader range of services and amenities, including restroom facilities, waiting rooms, and communications services. Additional amenities at larger airports might include restaurants, ground transportation, concierge services, in-flight catering, accommodations, lounges, and showers.
“Byerly Aviation, our local FBO in Peoria, Illinois, even provides a steady supply of cookies, popcorn, and ice tea to travelers,” says Lindsey Kerr, Executive Director of LifeLine Pilots. “These small gestures make flying in private airplanes more soothing for people coping with complex medical concerns.”
Fast Boarding and Check-In Process
FBO clients can skip the usual security and check-in procedures, including the long lines found with commercial flying. Often the only requirement is to show your ID to a pilot or flight crew member.
Refueling is crucial and one of the main advantages of FBOs. Many FBOs have several fuel options available.
FBOs also offer various aircraft services, including cleaning and repairs. In addition, many FBOs employ professional mechanics that are ready to service your plane appropriately. Of course, not all FBOs will offer these varying amenities, but the majority of the larger ones do.
Fixed base operators often offer parking services to pilots to ensure they can stay and relax when needed. Parking fees and various other fees may apply.
Frequently, FBOs make significant contributions to medical travel. For example, Signature Flight Support at Rochester International Airport waives all airport fees and offers fuel discounts for medical travel pilots. They also coordinate hotel reservations and ground transportation services if requested.
The discounts offered by FBOs are essential to volunteer pilot organizations like LifeLine Pilots. Volunteer pilots donate their time, expertise, the use of their aircraft, and all of the expenses necessary to ensure that a sick passenger can receive limitless flights to access care, regardless of the distance from home.
“FBOs are essential to our medical and humanitarian flights,” says Kerr. “Our pilots donate millions of dollars annually to fly passengers to medical care. The discounted fuel and waived fees allow pilots to fly even more!”
Help Us Ensure Everyone Can Access Medical Care
LifeLine Pilots receives no government funding. Instead, volunteer pilots support LifeLine Pilots by giving millions in donated flight time and planes ($1.6 million last year alone!).
The flights serve people who need medical travel and humanitarian assistance. For example, LifeLine Pilots flies people to be with dying or terminally ill loved ones. The organization also provides transportation services for families to stay at a Ronald McDonald House to visit sick children receiving treatments and works with refugee organizations to offer relocation services for survivors of domestic abuse or human trafficking.
LifeLine Pilots is able to make these flights available to people in need through the generosity of individuals, businesses —like FBOs — and foundations. There are so many ways you can help. Your cash or crypto contribution, donations from shopping at AmazonSmile, or even your time as a volunteer can ensure that a person gets the healthcare they need.