It is a simple question that we hear often. What do you do once you get to your destination airport? In many cases you will be visiting a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) rather than going through a passenger terminal.

Here are 5 things you can do to make the most of your FBO experience and ways you can be a courteous member of the flying community:

Call ahead: Just about every worry or stress point about your upcoming trip can be answered with a simple phone call to the FBO you are planning on using. They can give you info on rental cars, hotels in the area (they might have a special rate with one) or even tips on where to get a quick bite to eat if you are just passing through the area. More importantly, they can give you details about fuel services; are they self serve or full service; operating hours, hangar availability or info on tie downs. Here are some important questions to ask:

  • Ask about all things you are going to have to pay for. FBOs may have a slew of charges including ramp fees, landing fees, and handing fees. Often, these may be waived with a fuel purchase. Are their rates different on the weekends? We have seen some FBOs charge more on weekends than on weekdays.
  • Crew cars: If you’re just popping in for a quick stop but want to get a bite to eat, there may be a free “crew car” that you can use for a time. If they are slow they might even let you take it overnight at no cost. Don’t take advantage of them though. Return the car with either a full tank of gas or at least replace whatever you used.
  • Hangar or tie downs: If you’re staying overnight and there is a chance of bad weather, can they squeeze you in the hangar? If you’re flying something small (any Cessna or Piper piston single) they might even put you in the hangar for free.

Don’t hog the fuel farm: if you are using a self serve fuel pump, only keep your airplane in the fueling area for as long as you are fueling. Once you’re done, push, pull or taxi your airplane to an appropriate parking spot. The next plane coming in behind you might be on a tight schedule and shouldn’t have to wait for you to finish using the restroom so they can gas up.

Pay attention to your prop blast: Countless curse words have been lobbed at pilots that mindlessly blast people, other airplanes and an open hangar with their prop wash. More than just a nuisance, blowing sand and dust can be dangerous for bystanders and airplanes alike. When taxiing in, starting your engine or taxiing out, make sure to keep an eye on what is behind you and be as courteous as possible.

Learn hand signals: Some FBO may have ramp agents that will guide you to a parking spot. Since you can’t hear them they will be using hand signals to turn right, left, stop and maybe even cut the engine. While they may seem self explanatory, you should review these hand signals if you have never encountered them before.

Run up: At PVD and OWD, we know where to do our preflight engine run ups. Don’t assume that every airport has a similar spot. Ask the FBO where pilots perform their engine run ups. Don’t assume anything and certainly don’t do a run up on their ramp, in your parking spot unless they tell you that is what they prefer.

Let us know if you have any tips, tricks or hacks for navigating FBOs.

Remember, being kind and gracious is always the best way to get the services you need.