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ILM Seeks Proposals For Another Aviation Services Provider

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Aug 19, 2019
The Wilmington International Airport is again issuing a request for proposals to bring in another aviation services provider to the airport.

No proposals had been submitted as of Monday in response to the RFP for another fixed-base operator (FBO) on airport property, which was issued in early August, said Gary Broughton, deputy airport director at ILM.

This is the third time the airport has issued such a request over the past several years. ILM issued a request for proposals for another FBO in 2016 and again in 2017. Those solicitations, however, were not successful, Broughton said. 

"Our airport authority decided if there's interest out there, we need to know about it. So we issued this RFP, once again, to see if we get any folks who are willing to put in a proposal," Broughton said. 

A  fixed-base operator, or FBO, is a business granted the right to operate at an airport and provide aeronautical services such as storing airplanes, fueling and aircraft maintenance. Currently, Air Wilmington is the only FBO on airport property. It has been a longtime provider of services at the airport for more than 40 years, Broughton said.

New York-based Modern Aviation acquired Air Wilmington from previous owner Bill Cherry, whose family had been longtime owners of the FBO, in early 2018. Air Wilmington provides fueling, hangar storage and MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) services.

The purpose for the RFP is to foster competition with the existing FBO at ILM and choose one qualified applicant to build and operate FBO facilities and services, according to the RFP.

There have been two FBO operations at ILM's airfield historically, but one ceased operations in 2014, leaving only Air Wilmington, according to airport documents. Along with Air Wilmington, there is a current SASO, or Specialized Aviation Service Operations, called SeaHawk Aviation, operating on the airfield and providing aircraft maintenance and flight instruction.

In total, ILM has 103 private-and corporate-based aircraft on the field, including those at Air Wilmington, SeaHawk Aviation and private hangars, Broughton said. Corporate aircraft at Air Wilmington include businesses such as PPD, Live Oak Bank and Corning Inc.

Another FBO on ILM's property means more operations on-site and, more operations bring in more business," Broughton said.

“If we get more pilots willing to base their aircraft here, that’s tax value for the county," he added. "If we get transient pilots … that’s more fuel sales, which is good basically for the consumer and for the FBO.”

ILM has 13 acres on four different parcels that could be used for the possible construction of an FBO, Broughton said.

According to the RFP, proposals should include maintaining services within the 13 acres, as well as constructing new facilities on site, including at a minimum, a 5,200 square feet of general aviation terminal, 10,000 square feet of aircraft hangar storage, an 8,000 square-foot aircraft maintenance hangar and an above-ground fuel farm.

The New Hanover County Airport Authority "reserves the right to reject any or all proposals; to waive minor irregularities in the RFP process or in the responses thereto; to re-advertise this RFP; to postpone or cancel this process; and to change or modify the RFP schedule at any time," stated the RFP.

The deadline for proposals is Dec. 2.

ILM is slated to issue another call for proposals Tuesday for the final contract of its terminal expansion and renovation project, Broughton said. 

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners adopted a budget ordinance at its meeting last week to loan the airport up to $20 million for the project. The loan will help award a contract for the work, Julie Wilsey, airport director, told county commissioners at the meeting.
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