In 1936, Elliott Aviation—then Elliott Flying Service—was just an airport hangar and grass airstrip in DeWitt, Iowa, without running water or electricity. With just one 300-gallon fuel truck, founder Herb Elliott traded flying lessons for other needs including a well and a pump.
Now headquartered in Moline, Illinois, the FBO features four additional locations across the U.S including Atlanta, Minneapolis, Dallas and Des Moines.
“It was in 1961 when our headquarters were moved to Moline from Davenport, Iowa,” said Jason Marshall, Elliott Aviation’s Moline FBO services manager. “At first, it was more of a mom-and-pop shop, but by the 1980s, the FBO had grown significantly, featuring several buildings and maintenance services.”
As the FBO’s biggest facility location in terms of flights, airplanes and maintenance capabilities, Moline boasts a team of nearly 180 and provides a plethora of services from avionic upgrades to structural modifications.
“We are very well established, with an 11,000-foot runway, control tower, 24-hour snow removal, and a full-service MRO,” Marshall said. “Elliott Aviation is up there with the best of the best when it comes to customer service.”
Marshall’s interest in the aviation industry began when he was young and yearned to become a pilot.
“I always thought airplanes were interesting,” Marshall said. “You get to see the world in a completely unique way, both literally and figuratively.”
By the time Marshall entered college, he began to consider alternative routes within the industry and later received a degree in aviation management and unmanned systems from Indiana State University.
“I realized there was much more to the aviation industry than just piloting, and I wanted to explore more of the STEM side,” Marshall said. “I have met so many interesting people and done some amazing things, and much of this is due to my history here at Elliott.”
In 2020, the FBO was sold to an investment company. Despite the change, Marshall says the Moline location has retained its small-town, friendly atmosphere.
“Today, it still feels like a family-owned business,” Marshall said. “We are a close-knit team that serves several small companies who are repeat customers thanks to our welcoming environment.”
Much of Elliott Aviation’s customer base comes from local businesses, although the FBO sees a fair amount of charter travel come through—especially for regional events.
“We receive golfers for the John Deere Classic tournament every summer, military traffic year-round from the nearby arsenal, and aviation enthusiasts for the Quad City Airshow that happens every July,” Marshall said.
The FBO is also known for its community initiatives which focus on bringing more talent to the aviation industry.
“We co-host a Women in Aviation Day where we bring in local vendors and recruiters who in return bring airplanes,” Marshall said. “It not only sheds light on the women in aviation today, but it also draws in women interested in joining the field.”
Local schools also partner with Elliott Aviation, with field trip groups for younger students and apprenticeship programs for high schoolers.
“The apprenticeship program allows high schoolers to take courses and have the opportunity to receive training,” Marshall said. “We believe it is a part of our duty to educate our young people in the community and show them everything the aviation industry can offer.”
Like many FBOs, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed business but Marshall notes that sales are almost at pre-pandemic numbers and credits Elliott Aviation’s size, depth of expertise and service capabilities for this comeback.
“We haven’t had much of a need to expand when it comes to space and offerings too much in the last year as we already exceed in both those areas,” Marshall said. “We are, of course, always looking for new business but are fortunate to have a dedicated team and five highly developed locations that draw in new customers every year.”
Marshall notes a smoothly-ran FBO requires exceptional fuel service, which Phillips 66 has provided Elliot Aviation with since 2013.
“It’s been a two-sided relationship with Phillips 66 since I started working at Elliott Aviation,” Marshall said. “Phillips 66 is always here when we need things; whether it’s extra fuel or additional resources for special events, their customer service is stellar.”
Ultimately, Marshall emphasizes that the size of Moline has not stopped Elliott Aviation’s headquarters from being a highly efficient and experienced FBO.
“We thrive on our exceptional customer service,” Marshall said. “As one of the largest FBOs in the nation, we are proud to see our team preserve our values as a once small town and family owned FBO.”