Another FBO Option For The Malibu Set
In the heart of California’s Ventura County just northwest of Los Angeles sits the town of Camarillo, and residents from the tiny communities of Malibu, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, and Santa Barbara have embraced the utility of its airport. “The community, the county, everyone is extremely aviation friendly,” explained Bob Oliver, CEO of Air 7, one of four FBOs on the field. “The airport goes way out of its way to do whatever it can to foster aviation and make aviation fun.”
Air 7 was established in 2013, when the company assumed control of the empty maintenance facility of former turboprop operator Avantair and converted it into a modern FBO. The name Air 7 is a nod to owner Peter Koral’s successful designer jean company 7 For All Mankind, itself a reference to his uniform number worn during his football days, first as a quarterback at UCLA and then briefly as a backup in the NFL.
It features a 5,000-square-foot, two-story terminal with a large lobby with refreshment bar and private passenger lounge, business center, and eight-seat A/V-equipped conference room. Upstairs, the Club7 lounge with a balcony overlooks the ramp and runway. For crewmembers, there is a lounge downstairs with recliners and DirectTV, a snooze room upstairs, and shower facilities. The FBO also offers onsite car rental and courtesy cars. It has 54,000 square feet of hangar space, which can accommodate the latest big business jets, and is currently home to 10 turbine-powered aircraft ranging from a G550 to a King Air 250.
The fuel farm is owned by the airport, with each provider allotted its own tanks to draw from. Air 7 has 20,000 gallons of jet-A and avgas, served by a pair of 5,000-gallon jet fuel tankers and a 1,000-gallon avgas refueler. The Shell-branded FBO pumps approximately 600,000 gallons a year. The company employs NATA’s Safety 1st training for both its line service and CSR staff.
Next door to the facility is a hangar housing one of the largest collections of World War II-vintage aircraft in the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), including one of the last flyable Japanese Zero fighters.
Customer Service Options
The facility, which has a staff of 24, is open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. with after-hours call-out available. Given its proximity to Los Angeles, the 4.4-acre location is often used as a set for movies and television shows. In addition to aircraft handling, the company provides aircraft brokerage services, charter, and management. It has three aircraft on its Part 135 charter certificate, and Oliver expects that number to triple by the end of the year. The company also provides light maintenance such as tire changes, minor avionics work, and routine 100-hour inspections in-house. Located half an hour from Malibu, the facility attracts a mix of customers that includes high-net-worth individuals, celebrities, and real-estate developers.
The airport began life during WWII as Oxnard Army Air Field (later Oxnard Air Force Base). Its original 5,000-foot runway was expanded to 10,000 feet as the field was used as an air-defense command base during the height of the Cold War—with fighter interceptors at the ready to engage any potential adversaries coming over the Pacific. It was turned over to the county in the 1970s. Today, the runway has a displaced threshold of 6,000 feet, but Oliver explained that the airport will allow long-range business jets departing with full fuel loads to back taxi up to 1,000 feet on departure.
With the problems faced by Santa Monica Airport (SMU), Camarillo has picked up some recently displaced aircraft, and unlike SMU, housing development has not yet encroached upon the agricultural fields that border the airport. “We’re very fortunate in that strawberries and cabbages don’t complain too much,” quipped Oliver.
As for customer service, each aircraft arriving at the facility, whether it's a Global or a Cessna 172, is greeted on the ramp by a CSR holding a silver tray bearing cold water, soft drinks, and mints. According to Magglos, while it may sound clichéd, the goal is to give them service that exceeds their expectations.
The company also says it goes out of its way to not “nickel and dime” its customers. “There are so many times we deliberately waive fees [such as] GPU, water, lav service, and newspapers,” said Magglos. “Getting a customer back a second time is the profit, so that’s our whole philosophy. I don’t want to step over a dollar to pick up a dime.”
As it approaches its sixth year in operation, the company’s leadership has its eyes set on growth. Oliver noted that its five-year plan calls for expansion of the brand into two or three additional locations by the end of that period.