It has been a while coming, but there will soon be a new fixed-base operator at the Great Bend Municipal Airport. The City Council Monday night approved a contract with P&N Flight and Charter of Marion, Iowa, to fill the role.
“This follows a prolonged search and subsequent negotiation for a FBO to replace Centerline Aviation, whose contract had expired,” airport Manager Martin Miller said. The agreement has the endorsement of the Airport Advisory Committee.
The company will pay the city a 7 cent per gallon fuel flowage fee as well as $800 per month rent. They will also pay for all utilities, and for maintenance of the buildings and fuel service system, as well as for insurance and marketing.
This provides for a five-year contract renewable in August 2025. The package includes the hangar, space in the terminal building for the customers plus two offices and fueling facilities.
Reconstruction of the main runway at the airport, which started in April 2019, was recently completed. That cost the city about $800,000 with another $77.2 million from federal and state grants.
Although great for the airport, it caused other issues. “This was a start of a trifecta of problems,” Miller said.
“Because the runway was closed, we lost a lot of traffic for a long time,” he said. “The second thing that happened was Centerline Aviation announced in late December that they would like to terminate their contract with city,” although they stayed on board until a replacement could be found.
“The third thing is called COVID-19, which stopped a lot of traffic,” Miller said. In fact, he said, they had to stop some out-of-state planes from landing.
“We advertised for about six months for an FBO,” he said. There were numerous interested parties at first, but only four visits and only one proposal; that was P&N.
On June 25, Miller, the Airport Advisory Committee, Public Lands Director Scott Keeler and City Administrator Kendal Francis and airport users met. They evaluated the proposal and all liked what they saw.
Centerline did set the bar pretty high by building the business, he said, noting it will take some time to restore that. But, the infrastructure with the long runway replacement and fueling options will make Great Bend an attractive destination, making this job easier.
“These guys are young,” Miller said of P&N personnel. They operate in three airports and Iowa right now, and they are bringing in an airframe and powerplant mechanic to Great Bend.
In addition, they have flight instructors and offer charter services. These are out of Iowa for now, but they could expand this locally, Miller said.
“They invite the community up for all kinds of events, and they’ve grown pretty well,” he said. “So they’ve got a good track record.”
The young owners bought the company from their family. It has been around since 1983.
An FBO is an organization granted the right by an airport to operate and provide aeronautical services such as fueling, hangaring, tie-down and parking, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, and similar services.