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"FBO eyes Tallahassee airport"

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

FBO eyes Tallahassee airport
Current fixed-base operator may get competition
By Billy Bruce
The Tallahassee (FL) Democrat

If the city can make room, Tallahassee Regional Airport will get a
fixed-base operator to compete for services with the airport's lone FBO,
Flightline Group Inc.

Steven M. Leoni and his brother Jon Leoni have petitioned the city to open
Eagle Aircraft Group LLC, a fixed-base operation that will offer flight
training, aircraft maintenance and fueling services on the same flight line
currently served by Flightline Group Inc.
The Leonis say they'll submit development plans to city officials this week.

Although Flightline Group has been the only fixed-base operator, or FBO, at
the airport for some 15 years, the Leonis believe that a second FBO can
benefit everyone.

"We have a good operator on the field now (Flightline Group), but we'd like
to have two on the field," Steven Leoni said. "That would be good for
Tallahassee. Competition is always good. Think about the price of gas, for
instance, when there's only one gas station on the corner, as compared when
there's two on the corner."

"We both grew up in aviation," Jon Leoni said. "We're in real estate now, so
this would be a good diversification of our businesses. We see a lot of
opportunity at this airport."

Danny Langston, president of Flightline Group Inc., said his firm is aware
of the Leonis' plans, but suspects that his company's 25 years of doing
business at the airport has positioned it in a sturdy enough position to
withstand some competition.

"We respect that whole process," Langston said. "I've known Steve (Leoni)
for more than 20 years."

Langston did note that FBOs in the U.S. have become fewer and fewer -
dropping from 10,000 in the 1980s to 3,000 today - because of the
instability on the aviation market. He noted a recent FAA projection that
Tallahassee's airport market would grow at a minimal pace for the next few

Still, Langston voiced confidence in Flightline's capacity to survive.

"We started our third generation of Langstons making a living here, and
we're confident we'll be able to start our fourth and fifth generations
here, too. We'll take it one day at a time," Langston said.

First, the Leonis will have to persuade the city to slightly rearrange plans
for some airport space being granted to Flightline Group for its proposed
Compass Pointe development. City FBO requirements charge that an FBO
applicant must use at least a minimum of 5 acres, Steven Leoni said.

A component of the Compass Pointe plan calls for Flightline Group to
demolish the old hangar now used for FedEx planes so a new brand-name hotel
can be built nearby. But the Leonis want to keep and use the old FedEx
hangar as part of their FBO, Steven Leoni said.

"We're plenty willing to compromise. We just want to be treated fairly," he
said. "Our airport is one of the best-kept secrets and resources in our
community. The opportunities for growth are immense."

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