Pandemic won’t curtail bright future for Oracle Aviation
Within the last five years, Oracle Aviation – the sole FBO at Millard Airport (KMLE) in Omaha, Nebraska – has enhanced its offerings and grown the business tremendously. It sounds cliché to say the FBO is well-positioned to “weather the storm” of the COVID-19 pandemic, but due to the growth and diversification of the business over the last five years, this FBO predicts a strong recovery.
The FBO was purchased by Bob Negus, who learned to fly at the KMLE airfield, and his wife in Dec. 2014. At that time, it was only a small FBO and flight school. The Neguses saw an opportunity to establish a higher level of FBO service and offerings to bring more general aviation activity to the airport.
And that, they did. The Neguses, along with General Manager Dave Poole, grew the flight school and completely revamped the fleet of aircraft, established the avionics department and Part 145 repair station, completely remodeled the facility, and installed a new fuel farm. These improvements allowed them to increase the staff by 233%, triple fuel sales, increase tenants by more than 1,000%, and completely fill the 135 T-hangers on the field, for which they now have a waiting list.
Although the last few months have been challenging for Oracle Aviation, like it has for every other business, it’s those advancements that will help the FBO recover quickly.
For starters, the flight school has contributed to fuel sales during the pandemic, since they’ve been able to continue operating at a reduced capacity. The FBO has been conducting strict cleaning and disinfecting procedures, which the University of Nebraska Medical Center has approved. Oracle has a partnership with the University of Nebraska Omaha’s (UNO) Aviation Institute, the largest flight school in Nebraska, which resumed training at the FBO in June.
The school, which has an impressive fleet of 16 planes, attracts aspiring pilots of all ages, from 16-year-old high school students to retirees. Pilots can earn any rating. Oracle is a FAA Approved Part 61 Pilot Training School for Private Pilot students, a FAA approved Part 141 Training School for Instrument and Commercial students, and a TSA Approved Flight School for non-US flight students. Additionally, the proximity to Offutt Air Force Base makes it convenient for current and former military personnel to continue their education.
The number of students training at Oracle Aviation can range throughout the year, but when UNO classes are in session, it’s normal to have over 100 students at Oracle.
“We’re incredibly proud of the flight school, and we love having the students around,” said Poole. “Their passion and enthusiasm for flight permeates through our operation. Oftentimes they spend more time here than is required by their training, and it allows us to establish stronger connections with future pilots who turn into life-long customers. It’s something we personally live for as aviation enthusiasts, but it also benefits our business by fueling sales.”
In addition to flight training, the FBO offers avionics and maintenance capabilities, drone services and aircraft sales. There’s also an upcoming charter partnership in the works, which Poole states would be a great benefit to the Omaha community. It could also be another factor of a successful rebound, since some analysts are predicting those who can fly privately will begin utilizing charter operations to mitigate risk and control exposure to COVID-19.
“With so many uncertainties of today, we know this for sure: our family at Oracle Aviation has been proud to safely serve our customers through this pandemic,” said Poole. “We will get through this together. ”
Oracle Aviation is a Phillips 66® branded dealer, offering full-service fueling of 100LL and Jet-A, as well as 24-hour self-service.
To learn more about Oracle Aviation, visit oracleaviation.com.