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General Aviation Services Business Hiring Ahead Of Busy Season

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted May 7, 2021
One of Modern Aviation Wilmington's hangars on the airfield of the Wilmington International Airport. (Photo courtesy of Modern Aviation)
Modern Aviation Wilmington is in hiring mode for its upcoming busy season.

The local fixed-base operator (FBO) has openings for six new hires, including three leadership positions with the company, according to Richard Formo, general manager of Modern Aviation Wilmington.

Modern Aviation (lobby pictured at right), formerly Air Wilmington, at 1817 Aviation Drive has been on the airfield of the Wilmington International Airport for more than four decades. 

The company has about 100,000 square feet of hangar availability and a 7,000-square-foot FBO facility, he said.

"This time of year has traditionally had increased traffic that mostly can be contributed to tourism," Formo said of the upcoming peak season.

An FBO provides general aviation services, such as fuel, hangaring and aircraft maintenance.

At Modern Aviation, there are a range of services, including fueling, hangar and office rental, ground handling, aircraft parking, maintenance and avionics, as well as an on-site customs facility.

On top of building its leadership team, the company is also bringing on more mechanics to fulfill services needs, Formo said.

The challenge, however, has been finding the talent required for the open positions, he said.

“The only hiccup in our hiring has been the number of experienced candidates that we’re getting for these positions has been low in comparison to our traditional turnout for those type of positions. That’s not uncommon in the market from what I am hearing,” Formo said.

The FBO also added its avionics department last fall, he said.

“The newer model aircraft are becoming more and more reliant on what we in the industry call ‘avionics,’ which just is a broad term really for anything electronic. So we have people that are focusing more on those electronic components and how they integrate into the mechanical components. They are more of a specialized group,” Formo said.

Avionics departments are becoming more prevalent in the FBO industry, he said.

"We saw a need with our customers to provide avionics services and upgrades; more and more of them were asking for this as their aircraft are so reliant on avionics systems. And so we felt that because there was a need, we would help our customers fulfill that need by bringing on an avionics manager, which we did last year.

“And any A&Ps [airframe and powerplant mechanics] that we are going to hire moving forward will have either avionics experience or we will help to train them in avionics to be multi-functional moving forward so that we are a more well-rounded shop," Formo said.

The service has been widely used since it was added last year, including its custom work within the department. It’s even drawing in business from outside FBO markets, he said.

“We've seen a tremendous amount of people. And I believe it’s made a big impact on our customers. We're starting to get customers that used to take their aircraft to other avionics shops on the East Coast, and now they're starting to come to us,":he said. "And that's wonderful that the word has spread from not only this airport but the surrounding ones as well.”

Modern Aviation is also expanding its partnerships within the community.

Recently, the company has teamed up with Cape Fear Community College to open Modern Aviation's facility to the college's upcoming A&P mechanics program, he said. The company is also looking at adding hires from the future program.

The company is  considering future needs by expanding its footprint, he said, adding that the timing of such a project has yet to be determined.

“We've identified three areas on our current leasehold where we could develop additional facilities,” he said. “We do have expansion opportunities.”

That expansion plan could pan out in the future, especially as ILM adds another FBO. The airport's second FBO, Aero Center Wilmington, is expected to be operational later this year, adding options for private aircraft, ILM officials have said.

“We will match the market, whatever that is,” Formo said. “We're constantly looking to bring new businesses to the region as are the business development groups around town. We're partnering with them continuously to ensure that we are helping in any way we can to attract new business and be a part of new businesses both large and small coming into our area.

"We will certainly continue to do that and be a good partner and steward to the community and the growing local economy."

Formo added, “As far as the new FBO is concerned, I believe they will establish their own customer base and I wish them the best of luck in doing so. We will maintain our customer base and continue to grow and expand with the growing needs in aviation here as the market dictates.”
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