Wilson Air Center’s business is picking up, signaling that the economic recovery in this segment of business aviation continues. “All four of our bases are having the best performing year since the recession,” said VP Dave Ivey. “We are having an upbeat year.”

Wilson Air-Memphis, which comes in fourth place among the Wilson properties, typically, is first in growth and fuel sales this year. Average fuel sales at all bases combined is up roughly between 7% and 10%, with Wilson Air-Memphis up 20%, said Ivey.

Arrival of “new wealth” in Memphis accounts for part of the FBO’s upgraded status. Nearly 20 new business aircraft have been sold to operators in the city over the last 18 months and transit traffic and charter business is also up, said Ivey.

The “Delta Factor” is given as a principle reason why Wilson-Memphis is hot. After Delta acquired Northwest Airlines in October 2008 it closed a number of its hubs, including Memphis, which forced passengers to travel out of Atlanta. That situation didn’t sit well with business executives, who needed more convenient and timesaving travel. The lack of available commercial services spawned renewed interest in business aircraft.

Wilson Air-Memphis has been opportunistic toward growth. When regional Pinnacle Airlines went bankrupt a few years ago and moved its Memphis headquarters to Minneapolis, it left 32,000 sq. ft. of hangar and office space, which Wilson immediately leased and refurbished.

Wilson Air-Houston is having an off year due mainly to the depressed oil and gas business, said Ivey. Other FBOs at William P. Hobby Airport also reported a downturn in business and cite a drop in the energy sector as the principal reason. Nevertheless, Wilson’s Houston facility soldiers on with the completion of an all-new Gulfstream G650 hangar, built specifically for a single tenant. However, construction plans for a new executive terminal and ramp at have been “put on hold” until the FAA completes its construction study. Ivey expects restart of the project sometime in 2016 and could include additional hangars.

Meanwhile, Wilson Air-Chattanooga remains the sole FBO at Chattanooga International Airport. There, Wilson integrates its operations with those of TAC Air, which the airport authority bought over a year ago. “We’ve honored all the TAC Air leases,” said Ivey. “The prices have not gone up,” as some industry experts speculated following the purchase.

In a related development which is likely to benefit Wilson Air-Chattanooga, West Star Aviation, a leading MRO serving business aircraft, announced plans in August to open a new facility on the airport. It will include a 20,424-sq.-ft. heated hangar with 28-ft.-high doors. The center will house administrative offices, engineering, avionics, cabinetry and an upholstery shop as well as storage for aircraft parts. An additional 15-acre site adjacent to the facility is also slated for expansion.

West Star COO Rodger Renaud said the expansion would allow it “to better serve East Coast corporate aviation flight departments.” It represents the first step in a five-year plan that calls for additional growth in the Chattanooga area, he added. The company plans to hire between 175-225 positions at its Chattanooga MRO. Wilson Air Center is at Booth C8532, West Star is at Booth N4421.