Meridian – A Fine Line
By K.White, CAMP InSight, July 2009
Among the many important navigational resources of the world is the prime meridian. This imaginary line of longitude travels from the North to South Pole connecting all locations running along it. Prior to its establishment, the location of zero degrees was a matter of discretion – in fact, as many as fourteen different locations were being identified as zero degrees longitude on various pre-ninetieth century maps. For instance, there existed the Paris Meridian and the Washington, D.C. Meridian, as well as the Madrid, Brussels, Pisa, Stockholm, Mecca, and Great Pyramid of Giza meridians, plus more. Greenwich alone had four meridians.
It wasn’t until twenty-five nations joined together at the International Meridian Conference of 1884 that this ambiguous beast was tamed. The “line” through Greenwich, England – passing through the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in east London, United Kingdom – was named the single zero degrees reference point, making navigation, communication, and “connecting” cohesive.
Meridian is no stranger to making a connection. As a family owned and operated, full-service aviation business Meridian knows the importance of connecting with people, as well as with destinations. Ken Forester, Jr., CEO, shared, “We are proud of our longevity and the fact that we are a family business that has been serving Teterboro [Teterboro Airport (TEB), Teterboro, New Jersey] for 63 years. We’re rewarded by the relationships we have with our customers, and we’re certainly proud of our employees. Together they are the key to the whole business.”
Meridian’s mission is: To be the full-service, Teterboro headquartered, private aviation services company that consistently delivers a truly extraordinary experience leaving our customers feeling welcomed, well cared for, and confident that they made a smart choice.
Just how is this accomplished? What achievements represent this mission? The answer? It boils down to a sincere effort, unparalleled dedication to the industry and to people, and an extensive set of capabilities. With grace, patience, and diligence, Meridian has positioned itself as “the line by which all others are measured.”
Meridian is distinguished as being “the longest continuously operating aviation services company in the New York Metropolitan area.” Meridian’s roots originate with founder Ken Forester, Sr. Forester’s aviation career began in 1941 at the age of eighteen when he earned his civilian pilot’s license. The following year he joined the U.S. Army Air corps (USAAF) and served as a test pilot from 1944 to 1946. While in the military, Forester flew most of America’s WWII fighter, bomber, and transport aircraft including the P-59 Aircomet (the U.S.’s first jet) and the P-80 Shooting Star (the first fighter jet used operationally by the USAAF).
In 1946, shortly after he was discharged, Forester began converting military transport aircraft for executive operation. He founded Mallard Air Service at Teterboro Airport. He went on to create General Aviation Company, which opened its doors for operation in 1958. General Aviation has since evolved to become the full-service Meridian Aviation Company of today.
In 2008, Forester was inducted to the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame in recognition of his hard work and unwavering contribution to aviation at Teterboro Airport. In January 2002, he was awarded the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic award. The FAA’s “Master Mechanic” award recognizes aviation maintenance professionals who have at least 50 years experience in the aviation maintenance industry. Forester obtained his aviation mechanic’s license during the last year of his USAAF enlistment.
Today, Meridian’s accumulated expertise is concentrated into four business units: Meridian Teterboro (FBO), Meridian Air Charter, Meridian Jet Center, and Meridian Aircraft Management. Operating to the highest of standards, Meridian focuses on private aircraft charter, management, maintenance, detailing, executive terminal services, and exquisite customer service. Meridian is ARG/US Gold Plus rated and maintains a perfect safety record. Be it charter, management, maintenance or business practice, Meridian is a class act.
Charter Meridian Air Charter is as exclusive as it is luxurious, appealing to the private traveler’s palette with aircraft that suits his/her speed, level of privacy, desire for amenities, and cost requirements. Meridian Charter knows no boundary. It has the capability to travel to any destination worldwide.
Its fleet is diverse and composed of the finest aircraft available. The following aircraft are operated by Meridian Charter under Air Carrier Certificate #IMJA053F: Citations (Excel, Excel XLS), Hawker 800’s (XP, SP), Falcons (2000/2000 EX, 900’s), Gulfstreams (IV’s, IV SP’s), a Challenger 601, and a Global.
Additional aircraft available to Meridian Charter, operated by FAR Part 135 Carriers, include Learjets (31/35 and 45, 55C, 60), Citations (CJ1, CJ2, CJ3, Bravo, III, V, VII, X), Hawkers (400XP, 700, 1000), Westwind II, Gulfstreams (G100, 200, 400, 500/550, II, III, V), Falcons (20F, 200, 50/50EX), Challenger (300, 601-3R, 604), a Premier 1, Global Express, Boeing BBJ, and an Embraer Legacy.
In addition to its Teterboro headquarters, Meridian has aircraft based throughout the country including in the states of Colorado and New York.
The charter services include, but not limited to, immediate price quotes by phone or internet, an online live chat option, flight crews that have been carefully chosen and trained recurrently in full motion simulators, and an attentive, skilled staff available 24 hours a day to help clients plan. Meridian believes that chartering aircraft should be convenient, time saving, and cost efficient.
Management Meridian’s management services are tailored to owners with the intent of simplifying ownership and promoting partnership. In all that it does, Meridian aims to create long lasting, honest relationships with its clientele. From flight standards to flight operations, maintenance management to air charter management or financial control/reporting, Meridian Aircraft Management exceeds expectation and offers an effective, cost-efficient means to operate by.
Maintenance Meridian Jet Center provides round-the-clock service – 24/7/365! Here again, staff is top-notch, well trained, and professional. In fact, Meridian’s maintenance staff has earned the FAA Diamond Award for delivering unparalleled service. It is the maintenance team’s mission to keep the aircraft “out of the hangar, on budget, and ready for dispatch.” Safety goes without saying.
This FAA-Approved full-service repair station (certificate #IMJR053F) is a Honeywell authorized line service center, Honeywell parts and exchange depot, and Bombardier warranty work center. It is certified to handle Learjets, Citations, Falcons, Challengers, Beechjets, and Gulfstreams. Furthermore, repairs on other aircraft are available upon request. Meridian Jet Center also stocks thousands of parts. From common replacements to hard-to-find parts, Meridian has it. From airframe inspection and repair to troubleshooting, Meridian does it. From avionic repair and installation to service bulletin compliance and everything in between, Meridian is skilled at it.
The maintenance staff is also skilled in the CAMP application. As the former D.O.M., Dennis O’Connell, President and GIV pilot, affirmed that CAMP lends to Meridian’s capabilities. “CAMP is an excellent tool. I know that our maintenance group is very happy with it.” He shared his satisfaction with the reporting aspects of the application and noted that “the interactive nature of the technology is great” as is the accessibility from anywhere, at anytime. O’Connell expressed complete confidence in CAMP’s product and abilities as a service provider.
Detailing Meridian Jet Center also provides a detailing service run by highly trained and certified personnel whose sole responsibility is aircraft detailing. Using only the best products available, the detailing crew meticulously attends to the Meridian fleet and extends their talents to aircraft outside the fleet.
Executive terminal services In 2006, Meridian opened the doors to its new FBO and hangar at Teterboro. The facilities – spacious, plush, and inviting – ushered in “a new chapter” for the organization, “aligning services, experience and passion for superior private aviation under one roof.” The 30,000 square foot executive terminal is state-of-the-art, with details catering to both passenger and pilot to be had in every square inch.
With wireless internet access, an executive lounge, conference rooms, convenient transportation options, and more, passenger amenities have been carefully considered. Pilots will find their needs met with complimentary crew cars, pilots’ lounge, large-screen theater, a sleep room, showers, a gym, a flight planning room, and more.
Still, the greatest asset to be found at the terminal is Meridian’s warm, friendly staff ready to greet and assist all those passing by.
Shaped and educated by its longevity, Forester suggested that perhaps the secret to success over the years simply dwells in everyday life lessons – be honest, be trustworthy, be personable, promote integrity, and do unto others. “We are a small industry and reputation is absolutely critical. You have to be honest and you have to be a good neighbor. Our clients trust us to do what’s right, to train our staff properly, to use sound equipment, and bill them fairly. This is the basis upon which we’ve grown. Ours is a word-of-mouth business; integrity is critical.”
Meridian has also been an attentive student in its life lessons, taking notes from history on the successes and failures of others in the industry. “We’ve certainly learned a lot by watching what’s happening in the industry, and from our own experiences too,” said Forester.
Whether self-taught or by observation, Meridian has come to abide by an open door policy where management is easily accessible to both staff and clients alike. “One of the most appealing points about Meridian is that you can get in touch with any manager in the company. Clients have direct access to anybody from the top down. The door is always open here,” said O’Connell.
Furthermore, he confidently described the organization as being full of “good listeners” and having “strong internal company communications.” Both very fine attributes, and “a big help” said O’Connell, when operating a multi-faceted, intricate organization such as Meridian.
Meridian’s growth through the years has been based on the belief that slow and steady wins the race. A gradual, natural progression is the answer. “Our overall philosophy is not to get ahead of ourselves,” stated O’Connell. O’Connell has had the pleasure of working his way up through the company, gaining valuable knowledge of every facet of the organization along the way, and observing first hand the advantages of natural growth in this family establishment.
Forester is confident that Meridian will continue to flourish, that there is plenty of room for growth. However, he affirmed that the company has no desire to grow faster than its team can keep up with the customer service. In fact, Meridian is renown for its ability to provide its clientele with exceptional service. Meridian holds two top-ten positions on the ProPilot “Best Customer Service Representative” survey. Additionally, Meridian Teterboro was voted #14 FBO overall on the survey, a climb of six positions above the previous year.
Meridian is exceptionally proud to acknowledge Victor Seda and Betsy Wines. Seda, Customer Service Manager, made the list for the second year in a row, presently holding spot #7. Wines, VP of Human Resources and Customer Service, has held the #1 position on the survey since 1996. Wines began her career at Meridian in 1985. Forester described her as being “a wonderful person and a great employee.” O’Connell shared, “She has a wealth of knowledge, she’s great with our clients, great with the employees. She is a very consistent person.”
An undeniable factor contributing to the success of Meridian is the involvement of the company’s owners – phenomenal, proactive, and personal. Maureen Maloney, Marketing Manager, simply explained, “Ken, our CEO, is an amazing leader and owner.” O’Connell said, “The feeling of family flows throughout the whole company. This is a great family to work for.”
Forester, Sr., at age 87, still pokes his head into the office. “He’s not the retiring type,” described Forester of his father. The elder Forester’s presence brings, without question, a great sense of pride and pleasure to the employees of Meridian. Both O’Connell and Maloney made point to acknowledge him, as did his son. He is clearly a positive influence, a dynamic presence, and instrumental to this spirit of this organization.
Among its four divisions, Meridian has nearly 200 employees – a great many have been with the company for numerous years. It seems that job seekers tend to find a home at Meridian (true for customers as well). At Meridian, people are treated with respect. Employees are able to develop and grow their talents and are given the opportunity to advance their careers. Many a team member has begun at the bottom of the ladder and climbed industriously through the ranks. O’Connell explained, “We empower our employees to make decisions. And they are responsible for their actions.”
Forester notes the company’s culture as being another reason why growth is important to the organization. “We want to grow new opportunities for our people so that they have options and can improve their professional experience.”
On the Horizon
As for the future, Forester shared that the company is always open to prospect. While Teterboro has always been the operation’s focal point, Forester said that he would consider “expanding the business [FBO and maintenance] to other geographic locations if an opportunity presented itself.” In the meantime, business is plentiful in Teterboro according to Forester.
To learn more about Meridian, visit www.MeridianTEB.com.