Paul Shough, the president of Bemidji Aviation Services, Inc., (Bemidji Aviation) servicing Bemidji Regional Airport (KBJI), is passionate about promoting aviation to the next generation. Very often you’ll find a school touring the facility, checking out hangars, examining an aircraft’s controls in the pilot’s seat and chatting with the FBO’s employees who can speak to the "coolness" of being around aviation every day.
"You can ask a person who works in aviation when they got the bug, and most can point to a specific date, experience or event in their life that got them hooked," said Shough.
Recently a group of three kindergarten classes were resting on the pavement after a tour, enjoying the sunshine and taking in the sights and sounds of the FBO. The children watched as 20 or so mechanics worked on aircraft in the 100-foot hangar behind them. Then a huge helicopter came in and landed; a massive bird that shook the air. Quickly following it, a big propeller aircraft taxied in. The smell of burnt turbine fuel was heavy in the air. Shough wondered if a kid or two got the bug that afternoon.
Minnesota Nice with a Side of Barbeque Sauce
Paul's Father, Mark Shough, and business partner, Larry Diffley, bought the FBO in 1970 with three employees, their own Cessna 150 and three 150s already in place at Bemidji Aviation. In its almost 50-year history, the company has grown exponentially, with a strong concentration in hauling freight, a significant area of income and business growth.
Upon landing at Bemidji Aviation, pilots and passengers are greeted by a line staff member ready to make their experience as seamless and enjoyable as possible. Customers who fill up with 50 or more gallons of Phillips 66® Aviation avgas or jet fuel are treated to a complimentary bottle of Beer’s Blackdog BBQ sauce, so even the quick-turn flights can take away a taste of this local Minnesota treat.
Additional services and amenities include aircraft rental, a robust maintenance and parts department, aircraft storage, flight training and passenger and cargo charters – with 56 aircraft and 50 pilots on staff. FBO amenities include a comfortable crew lounge, quiet sleep room, free Wi-Fi, complimentary coffee and ice, crew courtesy vehicles, flight planning computer and phones available 24 hours a day.
A unique offering at Bemidji Aviation is Discovery Flights, allowing individuals to experience the pilot’s seat, and perhaps even catch the aviation bug. Led by one of Bemidji Aviation’s FAA Certified Flight Instructors, the full experience includes a ground discussion and weather briefing, hands-on preflight preparation of the aircraft, takeoff, in-flight maneuvers, landing and a post-flight debrief.
Rock Solid Supplier
"What makes a difference to us is that we have a rock solid fuel supplier of the highest caliber that has allowed us to grow," said Shough. "Even though we’re 200 miles north of Minneapolis, we still have no problem getting tanker after tanker after tanker of fuel. In the summertime aerial firefighting water bombers significantly increases our fuel demand, and even with this strain, we still have never run out of fuel."