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Glacier Jet Center has strong summer in midst of pandemic

Five months ago, Mike Talbot, general manager of Glacier Jet Center, didn’t know what the future would hold for him and the FBO he’s called home for 14 years. Like many other fixed-base operators – and companies around the world – business came to a screeching halt.

Glacier Jet Center at Glacier Park International Airport (KGPI) in Kalispell, Montana typically services 18-20 commercial flights per day, but that number was down to single digits due to the COVID-19-induced lockdowns.

Talbot and his team were forced to reduce staff, minimize business operating hours and cut all controllable costs.

Then almost suddenly, traffic picked up. Pre-pandemic, the destination was already becoming a hot spot. Once travel restrictions eased, private aviators began flocking to Northwest Montana and Glacier National Park again.

“By late June we started to see the private traffic turn on by the droves. We went from rock bottom with no traffic, not knowing what tomorrow would bring, to one of our best July and August cycles ever, with the private aviation traffic,” said Talbot.

A quick shift in operations

Glacier Jet Center handles all commercial airline fueling at KGPI, which services Delta, United, American, Alaska and Allegiant. In a normal year, the predictable schedules of the commercial airlines help the FBO forecast revenue and plan accordingly.

The rapid increase in private traffic caused the FBO to quickly shift in order to meet demand.

They’ve been able to remain nimble by employing a group of diverse employees that are trained in multiple aspects of the business. The staff of less than 50 has proven to roll up their sleeves and “get it done.”

“The ability of our staff to jump in and help out when needed has been critical. We’re adaptable and willing to work efficiently. Everybody is working together to get it done,” said Talbot. “We are the first and last impression of Flathead valley. I take that responsibility very seriously, and the entire team is held accountable to uphold that reputation.”

Perhaps that ethos is working. The operation was ranked as a top FBO in the Rocky Mountain region in the 2020 AIN FBO Survey.

Reliable partners help in uncertain times

Glacier Jet Center is a Phillips 66® branded FBO, serviced by CityServiceValcon, which is a marketer of Phillips 66 fuel. Talbot joined the network after long-time trusted partner, Dev Sharma, aviation business director joined CityServiceValcon. Glacier Jet Center found great value through its business partnership with CityServiceValcon and Phillips 66.

“Business is all about relationships. We have built a trusted business relationship with Dev and appreciate him for his integrity, knowledge, support and availability 24/7,” said Talbot. “Then to sweeten the move to CityServiceValcon, the ability to have supply off the pipeline in Missoula is a major benefit that Phillips 66 provided. It cuts transportation cost and time in half. In the summer months, we have on average 20-plus flights per day on the commercial airline side, plus all the general aviation traffic. We don’t need to have any distractions on fuel supply and quality control.”

Glacier Jet Center offers flight training, charter services and aircraft maintenance on all aircraft types whether it’s an oil change on a C-172 or troubleshooting a FADEC with a laptop.

All crew are NATA Safety 1st trained, and the FBO participates in Phillips 66 Contract Fuel and WingPoints® Rewards.