Timing is everything, especially for Terry Boer. The owner and President of newly rebranded FLYBY AIR expanded his aviation services company at Michigan’s Muskegon County Airport (KMKG) into a regional network of fixed-base operators (FBO) across the state of Michigan, not long before the arrival of COVID-19.
In but a few short years, Boer and his team purchased Tulip City Air Service at West Michigan Regional Airport (KBIV) in Holland, where they established the company’s second full-service FBO, followed by the acquisition of charter provider Air Service at Traverse City, Michigan’s Cherry Capital Airport (KTVC). And, the timing couldn’t have been better. The acquisitions diversified FLYBY AIR’s portfolio of services, enabling the company to not only survive a year marked by a global pandemic and massive lockdowns but come out of it as a better business overall.
But success wouldn’t come without its challenges. The FLYBY AIR team experienced their first hiccup early on in 2020 when they rebranded from Executive Air Travel into Vision Air Center. After learning that one of their top suppliers had trademarked the name “Vision,” the team had to act quickly—ultimately landing on the name “FLYBY AIR” as a tribute to the military, which represents approximately one-third of the company’s business.
Fueled by the victory of a new name and the adventurous spirit of the Wrights, Hughes, Earhart and Lindenbergh, FLYBY AIR was ready for a new chapter in the company’s 50-plus-year history of providing world-class services to businesses, families and those who love independence. However, nothing could have prepared them for COVID-19, nor the restrictions that would follow. Fortunately, FLYBY AIR was deemed an essential service and continued operating its FBO services, providing the freedom of on-demand travel 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Despite remaining open, however, FLYBY AIR endured a significant reduction in its charter business, largely because less people were flying during the national crisis. Restaurants, bars and business closures led to minimal flights into KMKG Airport, where many of FLYBY AIR’s customers would typically charter turnaround flights for lunch meetings with clients. Perhaps this would have been a major blow to the company prior to its expansion, but this time FLYBY AIR was prepared.
The network of FBO locations now offered a bevy of customer-centric services, including charter fleet sales and rentals, aircraft maintenance and management, full-service FBOs, a top-rated flight school and a team of dedicated employees – all of whom retained their jobs and base salaries during what Boer called “an awful, unprecedented year,” referring to the pandemic.
“Everyone stepped up and did extra,” Boer said. “If there was a silver lining, it gave us an opportunity to look at our processes and services and ask, ‘are these the best?’ We learned how to streamline everything, from accounting, billing, customer communication and how we dispatch a flight. Before, we were going so fast and furious that we didn’t have time to think about those things, but this gave us an opportunity to do that.”
While annual charter flights were down, maintenance picked up as many aircraft owners elected to upgrade their jets and airplanes during the quiet months. FLYBY Air’s flight school also saw a significant increase in business, doubling its students from 15 to 30.
As Boer looks forward to 2021, he’s excited for the future of the company. Currently, FLYBY AIR is expanding its charter flight business at KTVC Airport in Traverse City. The location will soon offer a full-service FBO with a new fuel farm, powered by Phillips 66® Aviation fuel, that’s expected to have a capacity to hold 45,00 gallons of jet fuel and 10,000 gallons of other aviation fuel.
“I love Phillips 66, it’s great,” Boer said, referring to his company’s 30-year commitment to using only Phillips 66 Aviation fuel. “I can call up anytime and get whatever I need. Everyone we’ve worked with at Phillips 66 has been outstanding. We’ve never had any problems with our aviation fuel prices, delivery, truck maintenance or anything.”
Boer expects the site to be fully operational by this April. FLYBY AIR also has plans to build a second hangar at KTVC as demand for its services increase.
“With the expansion of charter flights and fleet size, that trickles down to more aviation fuel sales, more maintenance and more hangar rent,” he said. “When we come out [of the pandemic], we’re going to be a way better company, and I thought we were a pretty good company before.”
To learn more about FLYBY Air, visit flybyair.net.