Everywhere there’s general aviation, there’s usually a fixed base operator (FBO). Such FBOs operate in airports of all sizes and serve private and business jets, along with other aircraft such as turboprops and even helicopters.
FBO facilities often include lounges for passengers to wait in comfort for their flights, and even rest quarters for aircraft crew. Its critical services range from aircraft ground handling, including fueling and flight line services, to providing ramp and hangar space.
“We can always reinvent the future, we can always learn, we can always stretch ourselves and improve.”
In the rapidly developing FBO market – and the dynamic general aviation sector – Atlantic Aviation has emerged as an industry leader, acquiring and now operating more than 100 FBOs at airports across the United States and the Caribbean.
But even with this remarkable growth, CEO Jeff Foland sees continuing opportunities for Atlantic Aviation to expand its geographical footprint, introduce advanced technologies and improve on all aspects of the business – including its commitment to safety and renowned customer service.
“There’s still considerable opportunity to grow and optimize the footprint of our network,” Foland tells The CEO Magazine. “There are also markets where we currently exist, which we can grow further through the creation of new facilities and services.”
Founded in 1927, Atlantic Aviation has provided critical infrastructure to the aviation sector for nearly a century.
The Plano, Texas-based company expanded rapidly under former CEO Lou Pepper, who led Atlantic Aviation for three decades. He described the company as being “local everywhere” – these words, he explained, were not a mere slogan but rather reflected the culture and tastes of its local communities.
It’s reflected in the FBO facilities, including those designed by JRMA Architects Engineers, which specializes in aviation design and has been a long-time Atlantic Aviation partner.
Foland joined Atlantic Aviation as CEO in August 2023, having previously held executive positions in the travel industry with United Airlines and Hertz, and served as CEO for off-airport parking company The Parking Spot.
On assuming the reins of the fast-growing Atlantic Aviation, he says he’s enthused by the opportunity to lead Atlantic Aviation into its next phase of growth. But while he describes the company as “thriving”, he says he also sees room for advancement.
“We can always reinvent the future, we can always learn, we can always stretch ourselves and improve,” Foland says.
Adding value for Atlantic Aviation’s stakeholders continues to be his passion. “What really motivates me is creating value – real, meaningful and durable value,” Foland explains. “Establishing a work environment that constantly challenges itself and the status quo, always seeks more and, importantly, is a lot of fun as well.”
Throughout his interview with The CEO Magazine, Foland speaks emphatically of “advancing the state-of-the-art”, which is a commitment to implementing cutting-edge technology, providing top-notch customer service at FBO locations and recommitting to the company’s culture of safety. A key partner in this regard is technology firm Asinpa, which has powered Atlantic Aviation’s digital transformation and supported the team’s acquisitions and commercial initiatives.
“We can advance the state-of-the-art of our commercial activities, revenue management operations and digital mobile application. It’s really the collection of those things that have and will allow us to successfully grow,” he says. “It’s the ability to synchronize those efforts to drive considerable value as we go forward.”
“What really motivates me is creating value – real, meaningful and durable value.”
Advancing the state-of-the-art means advancing all core operating practices of the company, too. Foland offers a long list of operating practices to advance, such as improving and measuring service quality, constantly enhancing safety, more precise and real-time forecasting, finding efficiencies and growing revenue management sophistication.
Foland also sees opportunities for growth that go beyond operating FBOs. “It’s not just about adding a new FBO facility in a market,” he says. “We manage a rather expansive set of real estate across our portfolio in these 105 locations, and the challenge is finding ways to use our real estate to support various other aviation-related businesses.
“In one possibility, we plan to support the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) space.” According to Foland, it’s a sector that’s burgeoning and yet currently doesn’t exist at scale. “Another venture we could explore is for customers taking commercial flights to be able to access Atlantic Aviation lounges in the future, then be transported to their flights,” he adds.
“There are a number of categories like that where there are interesting opportunities, just ways to creatively use our real estate and support various other aviation business endeavors,” he says, “But we just have to make sure it’s done in smart, scalable ways that create value for the consuming public and for our company and our investors.”
Part of creating a thriving company is fomenting a winning culture, according to Foland. “Winning means building a stronger company. It’s a key ingredient for any strong culture and the way to ensure that you win is to continue to push forward, remain confident and be proud of the past, yet it’s equally pressing to advance all of our operating capabilities,” he explains.
“It is so much easier, so much better to take care of each other in an environment that’s constantly winning.”
“Leadership to me means staying confident, having a plan and articulating that plan. It means always being curious, always learning, never quite being satisfied.”
This winning culture extends to leadership, which for Foland is defined as articulating a plan and a vision, being transparent about it and getting others excited about it, too.
“Leadership to me means staying confident, having a plan and articulating that plan. It means always being curious, always learning, never quite being satisfied. You obviously have to treat people with great respect. They deserve it, they have earned it. Certainly, that’s the case here,” Foland says.
“I’ve generally found that when you have a well-founded and fact-based plan, you’re transparent and work with others to not only develop the plan but set the chart and course forward, people get really engaged, and that’s where you tend to get the best results.”