Creativity and a conservative business model drive evolution of Tri-City Aviation

During times of uncertainty, one thing is sure. Tri-City Aviation in scenic northeast Tennessee can – and will – adapt to the changing needs of general aviation. Under the leadership of Owner and Manager Pam Phillips, the lone FBO at Tri-Cities Regional Airport (KTRI), which celebrated its golden anniversary last year, has proven that creative, yet conservative business practices can help a business survive in the grimmest circumstances.

That’s the philosophy instilled by Pam’s father and founder of Tri-City Aviation, Don Carter, who retired 20 years ago.

“We’ve always operated conservatively. It’s how Dad was successful, and it’s how the business has survived at the different times the economy has tanked. One of those times is right now,” said Pam, who grew up in the FBO and worked alongside her father for several years before taking the helm.

To Pam, operating conservatively means focusing on the quality service that builds strong customer relationships, while providing all the amenities and red carpet treatment that keep pilots coming back – except for the Mercedes courtesy cars and fancy pilot gifts. By operating conservatively, the FBO has the means to get creative, meet today’s challenges and remain profitable.

 “We have the ability to re-invent the FBO after the pandemic,” says Pam. “We don’t know how – or in what form – the business will come back, but we have the ability to rethink the FBO and to make the investments in order to do that. For now, we’re going to sit back, see how the environment changes, and then position ourselves to meet the needs that we identify.”

This wouldn’t be the first time the FBO has adjusted offerings to meet the needs of their customers. In fact, it’s something Pam constantly evaluates. As the former bookkeeper and accountant under her father’s leadership, she became well-versed with the financials of operating the FBO. That expertise helps her examine what their customers can support in terms of hangars and fuel and allows her to cater the offerings to the needs of the community.

Outside of her experience in accounting, Pam’s taken it upon herself to learn every aspect of the business, which is the only place she’s ever worked. She had a job in the maintenance shop for three years, and she even became a licensed pilot, despite having no desire to actually command the pilot’s seat. It’s her knowledge of everything from the accounting side, to the day-to-day operations, to the pilots’ individual needs, that helps spur the creativity needed to evolve the business and remain a positive force in the community.

Tri-City Aviation is a Phillips 66® branded FBO, which serves Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol, and surrounding areas in northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia. Facilities consist of approximately 97,000 square feet of hangar space, 10,000 square feet of administrative area including corporate aviation offices, and over 520,000 square feet of apron area.

The FBO offers Phillips 66 Contract Fuel and has recently achieved the NATA Safety 1st Clean designation.

For more information about Tri-City Aviation, visit tricityaviation.com.