American Aero makes history with SEAL Patriot Award

Command Master Chief Stephen Matulewicz, U.S. Navy (Retired), presents the Navy SEAL Foundation’s 2023 NSF Patriot Award to American Aero General Manager Angela Thurmond and Vice President Bob Agostino.

American Aero FTW is no stranger to awards. However, the Fort Worth fixed-base operator (FBO) experienced something new recently when it made military history.

American Aero was awarded the 2023 Patriot Award by the Navy SEAL Foundation (NSF) – the first time this award has been presented in Texas.

It also is the highest civilian honor given by the NSF and recognizes years of financial contributions and support. The honor was part of the NSF’s inaugural Dallas Evening of Tribute benefit/fundraising dinner on April 27, showcasing the foundation’s many forms of support, including the Naval Special Warfare community.

A special highlight of the evening was the recognition of the courage and sacrifices made by military warriors and their families.

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Since it was founded in 2012, American Aero has donated more than $170,000 to NSF.

When American Aero FTW was established in 2012, founder Robert M. Bass and Vice President Bob Agostino sought a meaningful way for the FBO to give back in order to distinguish itself from other private aviation terminals and demonstrate leadership in the industry. The NSF was selected for ongoing giving because it provides exceptional support to the best of the best in military service and is a strong financial steward that delivers invaluable resources to Naval Special Warfare operators and their families. 

 “The Navy SEAL Foundation provides invaluable resources to warriors and their families, and we are proud to play a small role in supporting these American patriots who risk their lives to ensure our nation’s peace and prosperity,” Agostino said. “American Aero is humbled by this recognition. We selected the Navy SEAL Foundation to support the best of the best in military service.”

In 2017, the foundation began allocating American Aero’s contributions toward aviation-related scholarships with the goal of helping active duty and veteran SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen realize their dream of flying. In that time, NSF has provided 86 scholarships and grants totaling nearly $300,000 to fund pilot training and certifications.  

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“We are thrilled to share our passion for aviation and help active duty and veteran SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) realize their dream of flying,” Agostino said. “For those who have benefited from the scholarship fund and earned a pilot certification, we welcome them to the world of aviation and hope to serve them someday.”

The scholarship fund allows active duty and veteran SEALs to pursue educational programs for certifications such as FAA Rotary Wing Pilot Commercial Add-on, Rotorcraft-Helicopter Private Pilot, and Commercial Pilot Aviation Instrument Rating certifications. American Aero’s annual donations to support the program are funded by a portion of fuel sales.

“I was over the moon when I checked my email and saw I was awarded $4,000 for the NSF scholarship!” exclaimed a recipient. “Since medically retiring, I have been utilizing VA benefits to go to college and attend flight school as I work toward a new aviation career.

“Getting a job in aviation is all about how much flight time you have, and flight school only provides about a third of the time needed before you can apply for a good job. The funds provided will cover a significant amount of flight time and training, which will get me that much closer to getting paid for flying bigger, faster airplanes.”

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The names of the SEALs could not be released publicly.

Robin King, NSF chief executive officer, said the scholarship is especially popular with a generation of warriors nearing retirement.

“Thank you to American Aero, and especially American Aero’s loyal patrons, for supporting our transitioning warriors with this incredible aviation scholarship initiative,” King said. “By helping transitioning NSW members as they work to enter the aviation industry, American Aero’s investment benefits not only the individual but the family, community, and our nation at large. We look forward to continuing our partnership and assisting more transitioning SEALs as they continue their careers in the civilian sector.”

The scholarships also help address the nationwide pilot shortage. Pilots are getting harder to find, particularly those who are ATP (Airline Transportation Pilot) rated.

Among other barriers, earning a pilot certification can be an expensive proposition. The Navy SEAL Foundation scholarship allows talented, driven individuals who have served in the military to get the training they need to help fill those gaps in private and commercial aviation.

American Aero FTW officials note that at any given time, nearly one-third of the FBO’s line service team is comprised of reservists or retired military personnel. Operating out of Fort Worth’s Meacham International Airport, American Aero also holds the exclusive Defense Logistics Agency contract to serve all military and government flights into and out of Meacham.

While the relationship with NSF is currently based on financial support, American Aero is looking into other opportunities to support the organization and the community it serves.

American Aero FTW is quite familiar with helping communities. Since 2012, the FBO has hosted a toy drive to raise funds and collect thousands of children’s gifts and bicycles for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program and also made significant donations to the local food bank and other organizations.

The 2023 NSF Patriot Award comes on the heels of news that American Aero is once again ranked the No. 1 FBO in Texas and one of the best FBOs in the world in the recently released 2023 Aviation International News (AIN) Reader Survey.

“American Aero is leading the industry in creating an exceptional customer experience by design. That has been our mission from Day 1,” Agostino said. “We continually push the envelope to deliver exceptional ground handling and customer service. That will always set us apart.”

The survey includes more than 4,800 FBOs worldwide. The rankings are based on actual customer reviews of an FBO’s facility, service and amenities.

Agostino was also recently honored with the 2023 Business Aviation Meritorious Service Award from the Flight Safety Foundation, an international nonprofit.

“Whether you’re flying a Gulfstream jet, a Piper Cub, or a military cargo plane, we will do everything we can to make sure you have an extraordinary experience,” said Angela Thurmond, American Aero FTW General Manager.