Officials with two companies that offered to provide ground services at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport said they were amazed that airport officials chose to negotiate a contract with a relatively unknown company with little if any experience in that field.
But the president of the company poised to be awarded a 15-year contract today to provide ground services such as fueling aircraft, maintenance and repair and flight school, said his company has a wealth of experienced personnel and will be providing the airport with quality services.
The airport board in April requested proposals and qualifications for a new fixed base operator (FBO) given that a 10-year contract with Saker Aviation was set to expire on Aug. 31. The airport received five proposals and in July voted to negotiate a contract with Aviation Technologies.
The board is set to vote on the award of an FBO contract at today’s meeting.
The airport board on Wednesday denied The Times Leader’s request to review the proposals, citing an exception to the Right to Know Law. Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association attorney Melissa Melewsky said the documents are public records, saying the exception does not apply.
Two of the companies submitting proposals provided information from the proposals and comment at The Times Leader’s request.
“We were quite shocked because we never heard of (Aviation Technologies). When we did a web search, it appears they are a charter services broker company,” said Todd Smith, general manager of Volo Aviation, which submitted a proposal. “It would have been an easier pill to swallow had we lost out to another known FBO services provider.”
Mike Horan, president of Taughannock, who also submitted a proposal, said that “out of all the players, there were definitely much more qualified vendors.”
Horan said the bidding process itself was unusual, in that, for example, the airport requested a provision that the FBO give a minimum of 50 percent of any fuel bonus the FBO receives to the airport. “Typically, fuel suppliers don’t guarantee monetary kickbacks to airports,” he said.
Smith said Volo offered $1 million in capital investment at the airport over 15 years if given the contract, and he heard Aviation Technologies offered only the minimum that the airport was seeking: $150,000.
Reached at the airport on Wednesday, Aviation Technologies President James Gallagher said his company has primarily been a charter services provider, but has also provided many other types of services at different airports across the country.
He said his brother, who is chief financial officer of the company, was the president of Tech Aviation — the company awarded the FBO contract 10 years ago. Saker bought out Tech Aviation two years later.
Gallagher also said that his company will be providing significant capital investment at the airport, including a new high-tail hangar that could cost in the neighborhood of $3 million to attract “large-tier corporations” to do business at the airport.