You might say that aviation is in Reed Pigman’s blood. His family once owned a supplemental-carrier airline, and he started Texas Jet, one of several FBOs at Fort Worth Meacham International Airport, in 1978 after selling off a flight school in Oklahoma so he could move back to his hometown of Fort Worth. He began with two hangars and today, nearly four decades later, that number has grown to 23, totaling 450,000 sq ft of aircraft storage space for the latest big business jets, all situated on a leasehold of 32 acres.
While other service providers have taken the knock-it-down-and-build-anew route on their terminals, Texas Jet has maintained its original 7,000-sq-ft terminal, kept up to date by care and constant upgrades. Among its features are a comfortable lobby with double-height ceiling, a private snooze room, and a pair of conference rooms (one with six seats and one with 14), a koi pond and a self-serve ice cream freezer. The facility has two separate crew lounges to meet pilots' needs: The cinema has a 70-inch-screen TV, while Oasis is a quiet room, where the inhabitants of a pair of large tropical aquariums lull guests to sleep. Refuel, a well equipped snack room, offers munchies, and across the adjoining 28,000-sq-ft hangar, Lift, the facility’s recently refurbished fitness center, provides gym quality equipment, along with showers complete with towels and toiletries. Onsite car rental is provided by GoRentals, which occupies a desk in the lobby, but other national brands are available as well. The FBO has 14 crew cars, enough to require a dedicated staff member to care for them. The company encourages crewmembers to keep the cars overnight if necessary.
Valet parking is another popular service, with customers' cars washed before being parked out of the scorching Texas sun in one of two garages, which can hold a combined 40 vehicles.
Busy GA Facility
The complex is home to 45 turbine-powered aircraft ranging from a TBM 850 to a GIV, and the company recently completed a 30,000-sq-ft hangar for a tenant. The company has half a million square feet of storage space, and it isn't enough, Pigman said. “We do a pretty good job of keeping it filled,” he told AIN. “I think when the oil crash happened and we lost a handful of customers, we went from probably 105-percent occupancy to 95 percent occupancy.”
The Phillips-66 branded FBO, which is open 24/7 every day of the year, claims 60 percent of the business at the GA-only airport, which Pigman equates to 10,000 fueling operations a year, or 3.5 million gallons of fuel flowage. The facility owns four separate fuel farms, accumulated over the years, and can store 120,000 gallons of jet-A and 20,000 gallons of avgas, not counting fuel held on two 5,000-gallon, two 3,000-gallon and one 2,200-gallon jet fuel tankers, and a pair of 1,200-gallon avgas trucks, all equipped with wireless fuel pump data transmission, for which the company was one of the first adopters a decade ago. “We’re to the point where the bugs are out of it,” said Pigman. “It took several years, but it sure simplifies and expedites things at the front desk.”
The company has been Stage One certified under IBAC’s SMS-based International Standard for Business Aviation Handling for the past year. It prefers that its new line service technicians have at least six months of experience before they join the company, where they are then put through the NATA Safety 1st Professional line service course, as well as in-house training. Even then, they remain under constant supervision. “We don’t turn them loose by themselves for 60 days, because they don’t have Texas Jet towing experience,” explained Pigman. “They’re not going to do it necessarily the way we want to do it.”
The customer service staff is led by Holly Hopkins, who has earned recognition from customers in AIN’s annual FBO Survey for years. “We train all of our ladies and gentlemen to anticipate our customers' needs,” noted Pigman. “We try our best to find people who have a desire to serve others, because we have found that it is almost impossible to teach that.” As an example, he mentioned one occasion when the staff learned it was a departing passenger’s birthday. The CSR called ahead to the destination FBO, which greeted the flight with a large birthday sign and a bottle of wine. “She was blown away, and it made both our FBOs look good,” said Pigman, who added that each flight leaves with a taste of Texas in the form of parcels of the FBO's proprietary chili mix and steak rub.
Meacham International, which has a 7,500-foot main runway, began as a civil airport in 1925. Once a bustling commercial hub, it was relegated to reliever status with the opening of Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) in the early 1970s, and has been a dedicated GA airport since 1998. In the past, on-demand U.S. Customs service was provided by agents based out of DFW, but the City of Fort Worth is currently building a new staffed-customs facility at Meacham, which is expected to be completed by early fall.