Crownair Aviation: Progress through Public/Private Partnership

Partnerships between public entities and private businesses have become a driving force of economic growth in the aviation sector while
bringing much-needed investment to the nation’s aviation infrastructure. Working with public sector partners certainly presents its own set of unique challenges, but many aviation businesses find that the opportunities of public/private partnerships far outweigh the challenges. NATA member Crownair Aviation recently celebrated the
grand opening of a new facility in California—the result of years of planning and collaboration with government officials and community groups alike. 

More than a decade ago, Crownair Aviation proposed the construction of a new FBO complex to the City of San Diego. The development would house corporate hangars, office space, and a first-class FBO facility at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport (then called Montgomery Field), a general aviation reliever airport owned by the City of San Diego and located six miles from San Diego International Airport. A key component to Crownair’s proposal was securing a long-term lease that would support a viable business plan and justify significant investment. 

Working with local municipalities can be a long and drawn-out process, much more so than a simple lease negotiation. Throughout the process, Crownair collaborated and communicated with airport management, city officials, neighborhood groups, city planning groups, and even airport opposition groups. What might take mere months between private parties typically takes much longer when dealing with public entities, but the process built upon Crownair’s previous track record to strengthen the trust between the private business, public airport, and community partners. 

After six and a half years, Crownair signed a 40-year lease and entered the planning and construction phase. That process included historical, environmental, and storm water pollution prevention reviews in addition to plenty of construction hurdles along the way, but in January 2021—eleven years after the initial proposal— Crownair opened the doors to a stunning two-story, 16,500-square foot FBO and office building as well as two new aircraft hangars totaling 14,000 square feet. 

During Crownair’s construction of the FBO, the City of San Diego issued an RFP to lease a 26.2-acre parcel that had been home to the airport’s original tenant, Gibbs Flying Service. With the Gibbs family getting out of the aviation business, the airport sought a new tenant to make improvements without displacing many of the current tenants. Crownair’s subsidiary, Executive Airpark, successfully won the bid and will be making improvements on that leasehold to continue advancing the quality of infrastructure and facilities at the airport. 

Crownair’s continued investment at Montgomery Gibbs Executive Airport is the result of a successful partnership between a private enterprise and government agency. Such public/private partnerships are a key solution to creating a healthy aviation ecosystem that drives economic growth and benefits sponsors, users, and operators at airports of all sizes. 


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