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ILM Lands A Second General Aviation Services Provider

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted May 7, 2020
The Wilmington International Airport is getting a second fixed-base operator.

The New Hanover County Airport Authority approved at its Wednesday meeting a lease agreement with Marathon FBO Partners LLC to develop a new fixed-base operator on airport property, according to Gary Broughton, ILM's deputy director.

At the same meeting, the due diligence period was extended for the potential development of a gas station and convenience store near the airport.

Marathon Partners' lease begins on June 1. The company will have a year from the start of the lease to build the project, Broughton said.

Marathon Partners, based in Marathon, Florida, was one of two companies that responded to ILM's request for proposals for a second FBO.

The final lease agreement is for 6.3 airside acres, to develop a 5,200-square-foot FBO, with two aircraft hangars and a fuel farm. The initial annual rent is $92,650, according to airport documents. 

Marathon Partners will be doing business as Aero Center Wilmington, 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.

Modern Aviation Wilmington, formerly known as Air Wilmington, has been on the field at ILM since 1975 and is currently the only FBO on ILM's property.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry did not slow down approvals for the project and finalizing agreements with Marathon Partners, Broughton said, adding “unlike the commercial aviation business, they (the company) sees the general aviation business making a quicker recovery.”

Having two FBOs at ILM will give customers a choice, he said.

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

“There will be competition now, so the general and corporate aviation community will have two different companies on the field to choose from … and as a result, we’re hoping that there will be additional general aviation brought to the airport because we have two companies,” Broughton said.

“The desire is always there for competition,” he added.

That competition means more options for private pilots and corporate aviation, Broughton said, for either those in the area or transient planes visiting the field for fuel and other general aviation services.

Plans for the actual build have not yet been submitted. But any plans for the FBO’s construction will be required to meet approvals and follow architectural guidelines, he said.

Also on Wednesday, the authority approved an extension of a sublease agreement with Circle K Stores Inc., prolonging the due diligence period for the potential project to Aug. 6. The extension was requested due to COVID-19 impacts.

The firm is looking to develop a gas station and convenience store at the corner of 23rd Street and Airport Boulevard, said Carol LeTellier, ILM's business development director. The development is being eyed for more than 2 acres.

The due diligence period is for the firm to continue to evaluate the site, the financial aspects of building, and other things to be sure it is feasible to continue the project, she said. A decision to build has not yet been finalized.

The development "will be for the general public and certainly ILM travelers etc., once due diligence period is completed and they confirm their decision to build," LeTellier said.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect the correct business name for Marathon FBO Partners LLC.
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