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To most non-U.S. pilots who have little or no experience flying in the U.S., the concept of a FBO is not very well understood.

What exactly is a FBO and what are the services that it can provide? I've heard that they can refuel your plane, move it to a hangar, clean it, provide preflight planning facilities, etc.

Is there a charge for these services (I guess so) and if so, what can be expected? I've also seen many airports with multiple FBOs. How does that work?

All I know is that FBO stands for "Fixed Base Operator".

This may seem like a very stupid question but in Europe there's no such thing. If you need fuel you either taxi to the pump and fill up or call up the fuel provider (if you're lucky because they usually only serve private jets).

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A Fixed Base Operator (FBO) is an entity - usually a commercial company - which provides "aviation services" at an airport. One of the main services they provide is fueling, either full service or a self service pump. They don't all provide both 100LL and JetA, but most do.

Larger ones provide other services, such as catering, lavatory service, pre-flight briefing computers and wifi access, ground power units, and tie down or hangar space for parking. Charges vary from place to place, most large FBOs will charge a fee for aircraft parking, but sometimes waive a day or so of that if you purchase fuel. They can often assist in arranging ground transport or hotels as well.

Most are open hours like 7AM - 8PM, but that varies as well. Most self-service pumps can be used 24 hours a day.

Some have a "crew car" available to borrow for a short trip to get lunch or run an errand, though calling ahead to check on that is important.

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    $\begingroup$ What if there are multiple FBOs? Can you just pick one and taxi to their ramp after landing? The whole concept just feels rather alien to me :-) $\endgroup$ – Philippe Leybaert Dec 23 '13 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ @PhilippeLeybaert Generally if you have a preference for a specific FBO that's the one you'll go to - at a controlled field you would tell ground which FBO you're going to, and at uncontrolled fields you'd taxi over as normal. (Often the preference for one FBO over another is based on how much fuel is going to cost, or if you're making a trip for a vacation somewhere and you've made tiedown arrangements. Many FBOs will also help arrange car rentals for you if you're making a vacation trip.) $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jan 8 '14 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ It is very useful to chose your FBO during your flight planning or even earlier based on recommendations, special offers or personal preference. You can find the FBOs wich are available at your destination via skyvector or airnav.com. I preferre airnav.com if I'm going to an airport / FBO for the first time, because they offer a airport diagram on wich the FBOs are shown. It's very helpful to know which way you need to taxi in advance, other than asking your self on final wich way you need to vacate the runway - honestly: you can trust me man, I'm talking out of experience ;D $\endgroup$ – Falk Jan 9 '14 at 3:09
  • $\begingroup$ Calling in advance is well recommended. Some FBOs tend to be more upscale oriented, and eschew small GA aircraft. Some cater to small GA aircraft and are ill equipped to handle the needs of bizjets. A phone call also can resolve tiedown and hangering questions. Most FBOs try to cater to a wide range of customers, and will not only have fuel and human amenities but also maintenance, oxygen service, APU carts, etc. When flying for work, I tend to gravitate towards 24hr FBOs. $\endgroup$ – mongo Apr 29 '17 at 12:20

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