Nestled near the intersection of Palatine Road and Milwaukee Avenue just northwest of Chicago sits Hawthorne Global Aviation Services’ newly built FBO. Hawthorne’s new facility is the third FBO serving Chicago Executive Airport (formerly named Palwaukee after the intersection of the two roads). The project has been in the works for several years and now occupies the real estate where Priester Aviation and American Flyers once called home.
The lead consultant on the project was David Brinson of Avian Solutions, LLC. There existed several design goals he and the president of Hawthorne Aviation, Steven Levesque, and General Manager, David Annin, aimed to achieve. Mr. Brinson stated they needed “something unique in the industry and wanted to avoid an institutional look.” In addition, they wanted to “achieve ultimate value for the money spent.” Finally, and most importantly, the project was to remain “on time and on budget.” With the project now compete, Mr. Brinson was happy to admit they achieved all three goals.
A unique design offering full functionality is key and the finished structure and the approximate five acres of apron space live up to their expectations of building a first class facility. The facility consists of a 30,000 square foot hangar with airside access granted by a 28-foot high bottom-rolling door. Measuring 150 by 200 feet, the hangar is large enough to fit today’s ultra-long-range business jets including the Global Express, the Embraer Legacy, and the newly minted Gulfstream 650.
The hangar offers accessories that should have been standard on hangars decades ago. Upon entering the hangar, you are greeted with a flood of natural light through windows at various levels on the east and south walls and the westerly facing hangar door. The windows in the hangar door are at eye level and provide a near panoramic view of the apron and airport activity. Natural light is supplemented by rows of highly efficient T-8 fluorescents. Power receptacles for aircraft ground power are conveniently located at multiple locations both within the hangar and outside along the building’s exterior.
Hangar heat is provided by multiple rows of gas-fired, ceiling mounted radiant heat tubes that help heat the objects and floors within the hangar and not the air, which expedites reheat times after door events in the dead of winter. During the rest of the year, airflow through the hangar is guaranteed through a system of automated, louvered intake panels coupled with several exhaust fans as even with a hangar door completely open, airflow within any hangar can become stagnate under certain circumstances.
A brand new, state of the art fuel farm located in the very southeast corner of the airport services the FBO. It features a capacity of 30,000 gallons of Jet-A that is distributed through a new fleet of Garsite fuel trucks. The airport code regulates that all fuel tanks be installed underground. Illinois Oil Marketing Equipment of Peoria, Illinois supplied the fuel farm.
The entire campus sits upon eight acres of land of which five are dedicated to the apron. It is the largest ramp of all three FBOs that service the airport. Construction of the ramp, taxiways and associated service roads to the fuel farm were built upon a combination of virgin land and existing improvements. Integrating the various land elements proved to be the most difficult part of the project as it required a tremendous number of trucks to get the soil substrate to its desired specification for paving and water management. Although this was the project’s most difficult challenge, it was overcome with plenty of foresight.
Upon entering the FBO from either the landside or airside doors, one is greeted with an unrestricted, open floor plan with vast views and high ceilings. Locally sourced artwork adorns the walls and complements the facility’s warm and inviting interior design of dark wood trim and tiled flooring. Conference rooms, crew rest quarters, and flight planning rooms are all outfitted with networked computers. The 10-person conference room boasts a flat panel display that can be mirrored to any tablet, computer, or smartphone device wirelessly.
Other convenience items include a complimentary coffee bar and beverage center for crew and passengers. A networked sound system by Sonos provides audio throughout the facility. Each room’s volume and input source can be controlled independently creating a unique experience throughout the entire facility. Other tech savvy and energy efficient features include lighting throughout the facility that are on timers and other sensors that help reduce electrical use when rooms are not occupied.
In addition to furnishings provided for transient crew and passengers, other parts of the building were designed for additional tenants who might want to rent office and hangar space on a long-term basis. Each office can be managed individually and a second coffee and beverage station is on hand for the exclusive use by its tenants.
The overall project took place over a two-year timeline. Zoning and permitting began and then earth started being moved in May of 2013. The doors opened March of this year with an open house that took place in May. During construction, Brinson pointed out that even with this winter’s severe weather, the timing was perfect as they were able to get the exterior finished and closed up before the heavy snow and frigid temperatures hit. This allowed them to finish the interior with no weather related delays.
Improving the land and erecting a facility is the easy part. The most difficult phase in any project could easily be the bureaucratic stages of planning, permitting, and inspection. Chicago Executive Airport (or Palwaukee for those of you, like myself, that won’t let the name go) is actually administered by two municipalities, Prospect Heights and Wheeling. For this project, Brinson said that all planning, permitting and inspection took place under Prospect Heights’ jurisdiction and that “The world has become a lot more complicated and sophisticated.” With that being said, Brinson stated that the project “could not have been easier” as Prospect Heights “went out of their way” to support us.
One final note… On the outside of the building as one walks in from the parking lot, one will see an old airport beacon mounted on a brick foundation. This is the airport’s original beacon and the bricks were salvaged from the Priester Aviation hangar. It is not only a piece of art but it also acts as a tribute to the airport’s history and the Priester family that founded the airport.
Facts and Figures
- Design Build Firm: Chapple Design Build
- Consultant: David Brinson of Avian Solutions, LLC
- Construction Timeline: May 2013 – March 2014
- Location: Chicago Executive Airport, KPWK (Formerly known as Palwaukee)
- Total Campus: 8 acres
- Apron Size: 5 acres
- Hangar Dimensions
- 30,000 square feet
- 150’ x 200’
- 28’ door height
- Door Manufacturer
- Norco Manufacturing
- Fuel Farm and Distribution
- 30,000 gallon underground tank
- Garsite Fuel Trucks
About Avian Solutions, LLC
David Brinson is the founder and CEO of Avian Solutions, LLC. Avian Solutions LLC specializes in consulting services offered to FBO and corporate flight facility design and construction. He offers concierge services for remodel and complete Green Field projects. To date, Mr. Brinson has consulted on over 1.5 million square feet of hangar and office space with a diverse background in aviation that includes charter pilot, aircraft sales/distribution manager for Piper and Westwind Aircraft for Hawthorne and Atlantic Aviation, and sales manager at Air BP. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.aviansol.com.