A stone's throw from the Missouri River and not far from the Platte River – reliable workhorses of commerce since the day fur pelts became a hot commodity – there's a mid-continent FBO (fixed base operator) that, like its host city, has long been a transportation hub for some of the nation's most recognized businesses.
If Omaha is the nation's "Gateway to the West," a nickname established 162 years ago, you might say that TAC Air at Eppley Field (KOMA) is Omaha's "Gateway to Business," with a reputation for satisfying the needs of pilots and passengers from Fortune 500 firms.
"The vast majority of traffic is here, and based here, for business," explained Mike Wilwerding, General Manager for TAC Air OMA, a Phillips 66®Aviation branded dealer. "Our FBO is the front door to Greater Omaha as these business executives fly in. We definitely want to make sure we're giving a great first impression."
For business aviation fliers traveling to a city where Top 40 radio was pioneered, TAC Air's customer service philosophy is a hit. Wilwerding's Omaha crew helped the 14-location TAC Air FBO group earn top ratings in line team promptness, efficiency and "value for the price" among large FBO chains in the 2015 Pro Pilot PRASE Survey.
"Greg Arnold, TAC Air's CEO and President, always says our goal is not to be the biggest FBO, but the best," said Wilwerding. "That's what we really try to focus on. We understand that our role is to make it easier for pilots to do their job. We try to think of customers' needs before they even ask for them."
Fur trading propelled this region into a vibrant mid-continent destination. Two centuries later, Omaha is home to America's largest railroad operator, one of the world's largest construction companies, a packaged-food giant whose products line aisles in nearly every supermarket, and the influential conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, better known as the brainchild of local investor Warren Buffet, who happens to be one the richest people in the world.
That customer base is why TAC Air OMA's general manager, line technicians and customer service representatives have made it their mission to help pilots take care of their passengers and aircraft.A Welcoming Doorstep for Global Investors
One weekend each spring, the FBO's ramps are packed with corporate jets ferrying passengers to the huge annual shareholders meeting of Berkshire Hathaway. "We've worked hard to develop a system on how to handle the traffic that weekend," said Wilwerding. "Our focus is to provide a timely response."
To keep high-finance customers and local executives flying efficiently, TAC Air recently partnered with the Omaha Airport Authority to build what is considered one of the country's premier general aviation United States Customs clearance facilities, right next to its terminal – the result of a great working relationship with the Airport.
"It's important for the local aviation community to have customs on the field," Wilwerding explained. "The community risked losing customs without a dedicated facility so we partnered with the Omaha Airport Authority to get that built."
As the largest provider of airline fueling services on Eppley Field, TAC Air OMA takes advantage of the Phillips 66 Partners-Into-Plane contract fuel program. Partners-Into-Plane Account Representatives assist in enlisting FBOs to commercial carriers and high-volume aircraft, and will soon have the ability to service corporate and charter operators. The automated, Internet-based pricing and invoicing system is designed to add convenience for both FBOs and Flight Departments.
"We have a fair amount of business going through Partners-Into-Plane and we're very happy with it," Wilwerding explained. "It's a big plus, because there's no drama and very low maintenance. You just fuel, process the order and we're done."World Series-Caliber Line Service
Each June, aircraft filled with baseball teams and fans arrive at TAC Air OMA for the College World Series.
"It's a 10- to 12-day event for our FBO and the last several years we've seen very good traffic," said Wilwerding. "It's really a fun time here in Omaha. The atmosphere on the airfield is filled with fans all excited to be here. Our FBO team has a lot of fun interacting with them."
Handling busy, large events like the College World Series and the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting demands a meticulous approach on the line, which operates 24/7, 365 days a year. TAC Air OMA's line technicians are NATA Safety 1st-certified. And the Omaha line technicians also participate in the Phillips 66 Line Service Training Class, a program that offers NATA Safety 1st training to all branded Phillips 66 FBO employees.
"Safety is paramount; towing here is always with two wing walkers," Wilwerding explained. "And no job is finished until the paper work is done."
Neely McMains, TAC Air Marketing Coordinator, added, "We have one of the best FBO staffs and management teams in the United States with a general manager, line manager and training manager who have over 43 years of collective experience."
Little things make a big difference, said Wilwerding, like having a rental car running and warmed up or cooled off when passengers arrive. "If the ramp is not extremely busy, we try to park aircraft right at front door during inclement weather," he said.
A BMW 328 awaits as one of three complimentary crew cars. That is, if crews feel compelled to leave a well-appointed pilot lounge with an inviting quiet room. Pilots and flight schedulers can also earn gift or debit cards by fueling at TAC Air OMA and using a Phillips 66 WingPoints® Rewards Card.
Quick turns are also a specialty of the FBO, said Wilwerding. "Our goal is to have that aircraft turned as soon as possible no matter what time they arrive."
If success is built from the ground up – as many of Omaha's Fortune 500 executives might attest – Wilwerding fits the bill well. He began his career at the FBO as a ground support mechanic 18 years ago, successively reaching higher levels of responsibility.
"Whether working ground support years ago or now managing the FBO, providing great customer service really comes down to response time," he said. "At TAC Air, delivering services safely and timely is ingrained in everything we do."
For more information about TAC Air OMA's award-winning ground services, visit tacair.com/tac-air-oma, or call (402) 422-6633.