By S. Clayton Moore
Business is booming at Panorama Flight Service. The acclaimed fixed based operation, located at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y., is seeing a big boost in fuel sales. New renovations and superb customer service are generating a good reputation across the region.
“It’s wonderful,” says President Gene Condreras.
Condreras is continuing the personal attention to detail instilled by his grandfather, Ted Healy Sr., who started Panorama Flight Service nearly 50 years ago. The company’s recent efforts are paying off. Condreras reports that jet fuel sales are way up.
“Since April, our sales have gone up 120 percent,” Condreras reported.
Sales for this year are up nearly 35 percent over the previous year. Condreras gives partial credit to the company’s association with Chevron, which just signed a three-year extension on their fuel agreement with Panorama.
The company’s most conservative estimates show that 2005 fuel sales will total more than two million gallons. Condreras attributes the increase to a number of factors, including national recognition in 2005 FBO surveys, a good customer service reputation and an extensive advertising and marketing effort.
While the company has preferred status with CitationShares and Sentient Jet, Condreras said that over 90 percent of his total jet fuel sales are to transient customers. The membership programs total less than 50 percent of Panorama’s total transient fuel sales.
Panorama recently completed an extensive improvement to its facilities. Condreras had planned an earlier renovation to the new 21-acre facility, which was built in 2002, but was forced to divert funds into additional security measures following 9/11.
“We were forced to divert about $150,000 into security,” Condreras explained. “In the same way the world changed after that day, we had to change our business to meet these new demands.”
The industry has begun to recover. Panorama found its sales rising significantly in 2005. Condreras and his team have finally been able to make the improvements they’ve been planning for years.
“We’ve been able to build up our client base and have a little money to work with,” he said. “We’re reinvesting those funds back into projects that should’ve been finished years ago. Constantly being able to obtain feedback from our clientele about what they’d like to see as far as upgrades and improvements has been very helpful.”
The improvements include a redesigned lobby and a newly expanded passenger lounge, featuring satellite television, complimentary coffee and snacks and an Internet access station. The adjoining rooms now comfortably seat 32 people. Condreras has also built a new pilot’s lounge with two SWI WX briefing stations, eight La-Z-Boy recliners, a satellite television with a DVD player and a Crystal Rock water cooler.
A new crew quiet room has five recliners with four reading lamps. The FBO has also added a lit front door canopy, which extends to the curb for sheltered passenger loading and unloading. Very recently, the facility also extended its wireless Internet service to crews and passengers.
Condreras estimates that the improvements cost about $40,000. Despite all the high technology, though, one of the most popular amenities at Panorama Flight Service is its famous cheesecake, delivered twice a week for the enjoyment of both crew and passengers.
“We feed you like there’s no tomorrow,” Condreras laughed. “My Italian grandmother, God rest her soul, always said the best way to say thank you to people was to feed them.”
Condreras often hears from early-morning pilots who really appreciate the small breakfasts and snacks provided by Condreras and his staff. That level of personal attention has added to the impact of the renovations.
“It’s a constant effort to give the customers the things that make them happy,” Condreras explained. “I feel an important component in providing exceptional customer service is to be a good listener and see what’s important to the people that come to us. We focus in on whatever is important to them and provide them with those amenities. It’s not difficult, and it’s the main thing we kept in mind as we built this facility.”
Condreras’ grandfather founded the company in 1959 as Panorama Air Tours, a sightseeing service with just one single-engine aircraft. The company acquired a dual-engine plane in 1964, and evolved into an on-demand charter service in 1966. Panorama opened Hangar F in 1981, significantly expanding the company’s services. He’s continuing that tradition with the company’s new services.
Under his leadership, Panorama has become one of the most respected FBOs in the country. In last year’s Pro Pilot PRASE survey, Panorama was rated number one FBO in the White Plains area and finished 34th in the nation.
In addition to its extensive fuel program, Panorama also offers maintenance and a flight school, and operates a robust charter program. The facility houses three Lear 60s, a Challenger 600 and a King Air 200, operating as Part 135 charter aircraft. In addition, the company rents, sells and manages aircraft, and rents hangars and T-hangars on its large campus.
Condreras is also leading the industry with his recent appointment to the board of directors of the Corporate Aircraft Association.
“I’m honored that they think highly enough of me to select me for the board,” Condreras said. The organization now consists of 295 flight departments operating more than 1,000 aircraft across the country.
In White Plains, Panorama’s customers include commuters and tourists, as well as the cream of New York society. Ivana Trump and Joan Collins are regular visitors to Panorama. During this interview, Condreras welcomed Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates, the owners of the famed Chip Ganassi NASCAR racing team.
“A real ‘Who’s Who’ utilizes this facility,” he said.
Panorama is also the preferred FBO for CitationShares, Sentient Jet and the Corporate Aircraft Association at Westchester County Airport. Though visited by lofty customers, the real stars of Panorama’s show are its 60 employees.
“The most common reaction that I get from people who come here for the first time is that they can’t believe how nice everybody is,” Condreras said. “From the guy who greets you on the flight line to the customer service representatives, everybody treats you like you’re at home.”
He’s been very satisfied with customers’ reactions to recent changes.
“Our customers are very pleased with the remodel,” Condreras said. “They’ve seen their suggestions come to fruition.”
For more information about Panorama Flight Service, visit [http://www.flypfs.com].