On your approach into Burlington International Airport (KBTV), you spy a wind turbine spinning, the sun glinting off an array of solar panels and a fleet of electric-powered ramp vehicles as one of New England's largest "green" roofs comes into view – a 79,000 square-foot facility covered in stonecrops, designed to harvest rainwater. It's the home of Heritage Aviation, perhaps known more for award-winning service than its industry-leading commitment to sustainability, one that permeates nearly every aspect of the fixed base operator.
Serving Vermont's largest metro region with 213,000 residents, Heritage Aviation is the doorstep to the stunning environment of the Green Mountains, some 40 summits that draw fans of fall foliage, hiking, fishing and snow skiing from all over the world.
"We have a beautiful facility, very well thought out in terms of its footprint on the environment," explains Tim Shea, FBO/Operations Manager for Heritage. "It's built to environmental standards that put us up there with a select few.
"Then we really push customer service to go with the building," Shea says. "We like to take care of the customer, whether they're flying a Cessna 182 or a Global Express. That's the basis of our mission, to lead with excellence by treating not only the customer right, but also the environment, our community and the health and well-being of our employees."
Heritage Aviation's approach is getting noticed. The Phillips 66® Aviation-branded dealer piles up accolades like Green Mountain resorts pulling in tourists.
Its FAA-certified repair, maintenance and avionics station is a Diamond Award for Excellence winner, the highest honor from the FAA for maintenance training and safety.
Heritage has twice been named this decade as one of the Best Places To Work in Vermont.
And in 2010, Heritage was given the coveted Vermont Award from the Aero Club of New England for leadership in IS-BAO certification, continued commitment to safety & professionalism, developing an innovative FBO and setting new standards for New England general aviation.
Hail to the chiefs
You can count the number of FBOs like Heritage Aviation on one hand, maybe just an index finger.
Electricity is generated by solar panels and a 100 kW wind turbine – one of the first ever installed at an airport.
The roof and plants on Heritage's expansive facility capture rainwater, re-used not only for irrigation, but also to clean aircraft. The vegetation growing there helps insulate the building from Vermont's temperature swings.
Inside, the hangar stays bright, sunlight illuminating all-white paint as a monitoring system adjusts artificial lights to ever-changing ambient illumination. Hot water comes from a solar-powered heater.
With a fleet of 14 zero-emissions ground vehicles, Heritage goes one step further than most private aviation facilities. An avgas refueler, four aircraft tugs, an electric cherry picker used for deicing, a lavatory cart, belt loader and water cart are all electric powered. And what would an FBO like Heritage be without customers driving away in Prius crew cars?
"We are committed to minimizing our own impact on the environment, without sacrificing the level of quality and comfort we provide to our customers," Shea explains.
Heritage Aviation's facility, one of general aviation's largest in New England, earned something very, very few hangars have: Gold LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the U.S. Green Building Council. A Gold LEED badge meets rigid benchmarks for sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and design innovation.
"The building itself is recycled," says Shea. "What originally was a 50-year-old Army National Guard hangar was stripped to its skeleton and transformed into a state-of-the-art aviation facility."
The building – with a gym, game and media rooms, business center and pilot snooze rooms – is made from stone, textiles and other eco-friendly materials from locally sourced suppliers, minimizing greenhouse gases from long-distance shipping. A Vermont Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence now hangs inside Heritage Aviation's terminal.
More than green
Autumn in New England, with its bursts of radiant colors and glowing hues spilling out over the rolling hills of Champlain Valley, is the busiest time of the year for Heritage Aviation.
"Our snow-ski industry is famous, but the resorts here bring lots of high-end traffic year-round," Shea says.
Vacationers, many from overseas, have been flying into Heritage Aviation for 25 years to take in the beauty of the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain. Heritage, explains Shea, is ideally situated as an international transitioning point for fuel or a technical stop. On-site United States Customs adds to appeal to Heritage as an international way station.
You can land at Heritage and be skiing cross-country or down the slopes of Stowe Mountain Resort or half-dozen other places in little over an hour.
In the summer, anglers hit the huge, 490 square-mile, natural lake that Burlington hugs, or dip a fly into a new, nearby mountain stream almost every day. Just beyond the city lies Mount Mansfield, Mount Philo, Camel's Hump, Black Mountain, Bald Mountain and Burnt Meadow Mountain, to name a few.
"Burlington is really an epicenter of outdoor activity," says Shea, "but it's also a college town on the water, with a good feel to it."
Downtown Burlington features a charming pedestrian marketplace with a bevy of restaurants, shops and cultural activities all within a quick flight from Boston, New York or Montreal.
"We're as proud of our community as we are of our FBO," Shea says. "For our customers, we like to take care of them and provide a very nice facility. But our responsibility to the customer doesn't end when they leave our ramp. It's our commitment to use environmentally sustainable business practices that conserve resources and reduce aviation's carbon footprint.
"Maybe that's not the most profitable way to do business, but it's the responsible way," Shea says.
For more information on Heritage Aviation, visit flyheritage.com.