You Can't Park Here
Flying|March 2018

MAINTAINING AIRPORT ACCESS FOR GENERAL AVIATION

Martha King
After we shut the old Navajo down and started looking around to see where to go after we got out, a man ran up to the pilot side of the airplane. I opened the little side window and expectantly bent an ear, only to hear him say, “You can’t park here!” “Where can we park?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he said, “but you can’t park here!”

It was not unusual for this trip. On our monthlong tour of Australian airports, we were discovering that most don’t have FBOs the way nearly every airport in the United States does. FBOs are the wonderful legacy of the roving barnstormers who settled down for a more stable life and became “fixed base operators.”

Without businesses focused on taking care of the needs of general aviation, GA pilots are on their own and airport operations are focused on what is known in Australia as “regular public transport,” or airline operations. This leaves GA pilots without access to terminal buildings or restroom facilities and all the other amenities that come with an FBO. We were forced to find our own parking, often in the grass, snag a roaming fuel truck when it wasn’t serving an airliner, figure out how to get our luggage out of the gate and procure our own ground transportation.

We were in Australia to share the details of the U.S. system with Australian pilots. When we described arriving at airports with competing FBOs offering free steaks and wine, and an attractive young woman from each waving flags to lure us in, Australian pilots were in disbelief. One in the front row exclaimed to another, “BS, that just can’t be true.”

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