If you have flown private charter flights before, you have most likely heard the term FBO. FBO stands for Fixed Base Operator
and refers to the private jet services at your disposal at a given airport. Depending on the airport, an FBO can range from a simple lounge in the main terminal to a full-scale facility providing a vast array of services for passengers, flight, and crew.
FBO is a term dating all the way back to the 1920s, a time when civil aviation was largely unregulated. Aircraft
were far more affordable to the average consumer back then due to the large surplus of retired military airplanes following the conclusion of World War I. Casual aviators took advantage of this, buying planes and using them for a variety of purposes such as passenger flight and air shows. These pilots, called barnstormers, would travel across the country, often landing in empty fields on the outskirts of town as opposed to airports.
All that changed in 1926, when the United States Air Commerce Act was put in place. This ushered in a new, far more regulated era of aviation. Pilots had to be licensed, maintenance standards became more stringent, and pilot training was rigorous. Soon after this, pilots and mechanics realized that these new regulations made aviation a more legitimate business opportunity. This was the birth of the Fixed Base Operator. Aviators and mechanics alike began these registered business at given addresses, setting them apart from the barnstormers of days gone by. Like all industries, aviation evolved over time and the need to establish third party organizations to handle the bustling operations became prevalent. Tasks such as refueling, security, hangar management, lounges, concierge, and so on had to be attended to.
FBOs and the private jet
industry as a whole have taken a noticeable shift since the 2008 recession. Before then, the industry was largely made up of small independent companies each running their own FBO. In recent years, consolidation has become much more common. Companies are merging and combining resources to do whatever they can to compete is this fast-moving market.