With a population of just over 40,000, the town of Bentonville might not be considered a tourist attraction or even a final destination for many travelers. However, the tenth-largest city in Arkansas welcomes approximately 14,000 visitors every June for Walmart's annual shareholder's meeting. The world's largest retailer maintains headquarters in Bentonville, and every summer the 8,800 foot runway at Regional Jet Center heats up with Walmart employees coming in from all over the world on 737s and 757s. Folks at the Phillips 66 Aviation branded FBO fondly refer to this hectic time as "Walmart Week."
General Manager Tim Thompson has been with the Regional Jet Center for the past 15 years. He and the other 30 employees enjoy their "million dollar view," working in a field they love and servicing aircraft 24 hours a day at the premiere FBO in Mid-America.
Facility Upgrades on the Horizon
Owned by the Crain family since 2001, the FBO offers every convenience for pilots and travelers, including a passenger and crew lounge that is currently undergoing renovations. Under Shirley Crain's watchful eye, the facility boasts an updated front desk, plush new furniture and a fresh coat of paint for its interior.
"The updated lounge will include a specific space dedicated for the military employees who fly through, so they can have an updated space to conduct their planning," said Thompson. Regional Jet Center has held a military contract since 2002. The facility handles refueling for military trainers, cross-country flights, NASA-bound aircraft and helicopters.
Something very unique to Regional Jet Center is that fact that they own their fuel trucks and handle daily transportation. Regional Jet Center has three trucks, which each holds 8,000 gallons. On a typical day, two trucks will travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma to haul three to four loads.
"Having our own employees and trucks handle our facility's fuel transportation allows us to have better quality control," said Thompson. "Since the airport opened in 1998, we've been branded Phillips 66. There's an unmatched level of dependability, and they have one of the best fuel supply systems. They've always been able to get us great fuel at a great price, plus our customers use and love the WingPoints® Rewards program."
Hangars and Houses
Another draw to Bentonville that brings in regular out-of-towners is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Walmart heiress, Alice Walton, built the more than 200,000-square-foot museum from scratch in a rocky ravine in the Ozarks. Opened in 2011, the Walton Family Foundation put $1.2 billion into Crystal Bridges, and Walmart's $20 million sponsorship means admission is free. The museum holds an art collection worth upwards of $500 million. Another attraction soon to be revealed to the public in November 2015 is Frank Lloyd Wright's Bachman-Wilson House.
While the house is now located a short distance from the museum's south entrance, it previously was stored piece by piece in a hangar owned by Walton at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
"It's not every day that a house of any kind, especially one designed by a world-renowned architect, is stored here at the airport," said Thompson.
Whether traveling to Arkansas for tourist attractions like the Bachman-Wilson House and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, or to conduct business, Phillips 66 branded FBO Regional Jet Center and its friendly staff stands ready to welcome you and your aircraft to Bentonville.
For more information about Regional Jet Center, visit regionaljetcenter.com.