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ILM In Negotiations With Second General Aviation Services Provider

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Feb 27, 2020
The Wilmington International Airport is in the process of negotiations that could bring it a second fixed-based operator.

ILM has entered into negotiations on an extended lease agreement with Marathon Partners LLC, which is doing business as Wilmington Aero Center, said Gary Broughton, ILM’s deputy director, on Thursday. The term of the lease agreement would be 30 years.

If the negotiations pan out, Wilmington Aero Center would become ILM's second fixed-base operator, or FBO, which is a business granted the right to operate at an airport and provide aeronautical services such as storing airplanes, fueling and aircraft maintenance.

Air Wilmington, which has been in business for more than 40 years, is now the only FBO on ILM's property.

Marathon Partners, based in Marathon, Florida, was one of two companies that responded to ILM's request for proposals (RFP) for a second FBO, according to airport documents. AVFlight, out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, also responded.

AVFlight did not meet the requirements of the RFP, Broughton said. 

The RFP, which had a deadline in early December, asked for proposals to include maintaining services on a 13-acre portion of airport property, which is the lease area. The requirements also included building new facilities at a minimum of 5,200 square feet in general aviation terminal space, 10,000 square feet of aircraft hangar storage and an 8,000-square-foot aircraft maintenance hangar.

The New Hanover County Airport Authority approved at its meeting this month the start of negotiations with Marathon Partners, Broughton said.

“The RFP was issued in order to generate competition,” Broughton said. “We have more than one airline and could certainly have more than one FBO to give the general aviation customers a choice.”

There were two fixed-base operators at Wilmington's airport in 2015, Aviat Mall and Air Wilmington. Aviat Mall, however, ceased operations in May 2015.

Air Wilmington was acquired in early 2018 by New York-based Modern Aviation, which purchased the aviation business from Bill Cherry, whose family had been longtime owners. The FBO provides fueling, hangar storage and MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) services.

The latest RFP was the third issued over the past several years, Broughton said. ILM issued a request for proposals for another FBO in 2016, and again in 2017, but those solicitations were not successful.

Broughton said Marathon Partners operates two FBO sites in Marathon, Florida.
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