Lyrics by Paul Willis
From new construction to renovations, there comes a time when the interior design of an FBO needs to be considered. The impressions and feel that these rooms give to customers and employees can be an overlooked factor in the success of an FBO’s operations.
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When it comes to designing the interior of an FBO, the area where the terminal is located is often a key source of inspiration, says interior designer Tammy Edmonds.
“The vernacular of each region, city, town or county really sets the tone for what’s to come,” says Edmonds. “If you land in an area you’ve never been before, you should feel like the FBO you land in is the prologue.”
Edmonds has been designing FBOs for 17 years and, through his design company Tammy Edmonds Design, has completed more than 85 FBO renovations, including private terminals in Boston, Chicago, Nashville and most recently Miami for the private aviation operator Jet Linx.
She believes a successful FBO design is one that considers the needs of travelers and pilots, groups that are “equally important users” of space.
“Everyone has distinct and unique needs. A successful FBO design meets both,” says Edmonds. “In addition to the safety and operational functions that the terminal must fulfill, I consider business aviation to be part of
the hospitality industry, not commercial. I think that makes the biggest difference.
Sophia Auroré is also an FBO interior design veteran, having worked on around 30 terminal projects over the past 10 years, many of them for US FBO operator Atlantic Aviation. For Auroré, whose company Sage Interiors is based in Reno, Nevada, the starting point of the design process is trying to understand the company’s mission statement.
“I always start with the mission statement,” explains Auroré. “I really enjoy helping my clients know who their customers are and the message they want them to leave after visiting the FBO.
“I really like it if, from the moment someone opens the door and walks in, they’re immersed in how this company wants them to feel.
“It’s more than just seeing something good, there has to be a consistent design with the brand.”
Renovation in new construction
According to Auroré, her FBO design projects can be divided into four categories. The first and most basic is replacing furniture and fixtures. The second, “a cosmetic remodel,” would involve upgrading furniture, but also renovating interior surfaces, including walls and floors.
The third type of project involves structural modifications to the building and requires the collaboration of a team of architects. The finale is building the terminal from scratch.
All of these project categories are familiar to Curt Castagna, CEO of Aeroplex, a California-based private aviation development company. Although Castagna works with interior designers, they are only part of the renovation projects he oversees.
Like Auroré, Castagna’s redesign process begins with a discussion with the client. “We sit down with the client to understand what they want and also to understand what kind of operation it will be,” he says.
One of the most important factors in a project is whether it will be part of a Part 91 or Part 135 operation – whether it will cover non-commercial or commercial private aviation operations. This really determines the overall installation requirements.
“There is a big difference between a Part 91 operation and a 135 operation,” Castagna explains. “In a 135 operation you can have 12 people on a Gulfstream who don’t know each other, whereas on a 91 operation they are usually employees of the same company. It creates a very different vibe.
“Once we have a back-of-the-napkin plan for what we’re going to do, we sit down with our building design and architecture team.”
In this second phase of planning, the Aeroplex team refines the site plan and performs an operational review to ensure it will meet the customer’s operational requirements.
Castagna says, “Over the past 10 years, as private aviation jets have gotten bigger, you have to pay close attention to ramp activity. You need a large enough area outside to accommodate the entire shed if you were to empty it, and still be able to operate.
Design choices may or may not be strongly circumscribed, depending on the client, Castagna explains. Large carriers like Flexjet and NetJets tend to design to a very specific standard. While smaller charter operators want a more individualized design.
There are common features shared by all FBO terminal designs. These include: a lounge area, often offering a view of the airfield, a conference room, a separate lounge area for pilots equipped with CCTV so that they can monitor the apron, a parking area and offices for FBO employees.
Office space should not be an afterthought in the design process. Edmonds says, “The design of the back of the house should be valued as much as the front of the house. We try to remedy this as much as possible with the budgets given to us.
“Some of the best compliments I’ve received have come from long-serving employees who came to shake my hand after completion with a new sense of pride.
“Any space upgrade will be seen as an improvement, but good design acts as a catalyst in transforming corporate culture as the beneficial effects are immediately relatable.”
In the past, offices were usually built into the footprint of the hangar itself. But with the increase in the area required for the rest of the terminal infrastructure, this becomes less feasible. Office space is now frequently built into structures that attach to the hangar.
In terms of amenities, most FBOs will have a fridge stocked with drinks and snacks, a TV and strong Wi-Fi, both for travelers passing through the terminal and, in addition in addition, for aircraft waiting on the apron.
Unlike commercial terminals, the design of FBO terminals rarely includes a space reserved for retail, because compared to commercial aviation, private aviation travelers spend much less time in the terminal, sometimes bypassing the terminal entirely. terminal space. “Depending on the type of operation, they can get out of the Uber and straight into the plane,” Castagna explains.
For this reason, Castagna sometimes warns customers against overspending on terminal interiors that might be rarely seen.
That said, with more affluent customers seeing private aviation as a hassle-free alternative to commercial travel, most FBOs now understand the value of creating a space that will leave a positive impression on the traveler. Some FBOs and private VIP terminals can be very opulent.
“When I started in FBO design, I think there were a lot of FBOs that looked more like a 7/11,” says Auroré.
“But now a lot of travelers are used to very high-end design, so I wanted my interiors to be as immersive as a Four Seasons resort, where you walk in and everything is coordinated and all the senses are immersed.”
For Auroré, the creation of this sense of luxury evolves according to the specificities of the FBO. “What’s interesting is that every customer sees luxury as something different,” she says.
However, meeting the needs of private aviation travelers does not only mean satisfying their aesthetic tastes. These customers also demand strict security and privacy on the site, Castagna says.
“All of our facilities are locked in the sense that it’s gated access,” says Castagna. “A lot of our high-end customers, especially in the LA basin where you have paparazzi, are looking for privacy.”
For this reason, there is growing interest in incorporating biometric security features into the design of FBOs. “The vision is to implement biometric access controls on the landside and airside of the facility,” he says.