We’ll Always Have 2007 ...

After more than a decade of robust growth, business aviation puts on the brakes


Ziegler says opportunity remains in the U.S. market, particularly for his company on the West Coast, an obvious hole in its network. “We think there’s still opportunities in the U.S. for FBO acquisitions and for aircraft management,” he says. He cites Salt Lake City, where the company remains on track to build a Midcoast maintenance/repair/overhaul facility.

Regarding FBO values and the acquisition arena, robust in recent times, officials speculate that new opportunities could arise, while others may reconsider their strategies and exit the aviation service sector.

“This is not a good time to sell,” comments Van Allen at Signature. “Is there a potential for a fire sale? I think there could be, especially if FBOs have over-extended themselves or if there are too many competitors on the field — some airports have irresponsibly allowed that to happen on their airfield. “

Van Allen also says this is a time when industry will discover whether or not the high multiples paid in some recent FBO acquisitions were justified. “There’s a great deal of speculation on values,” he says.

Adds Ziegler, “The situation may rationalize some of that.” He says that should some fixed base operators choose to sell, his company is in a good position because it still is interested in growth through acquisition. “We see it as an opportunity for us,” he says. “General Dynamics doesn’t want to slow our growth.”

Emphasis on safety
At the show, NBAA’s Bolen opened the event with a statement emphasizing internationalism within the business aviation community. “Yesterday I listened to a press conference of one of the major manufacturers who said two years ago, 70 percent of their orders were from the United States; this year, that number is reversed, 30 percent of their orders came from the U.S., 70 percent were international,” says Bolen.

In order to reflect the growing internationalism of business aviation, NBAA chose the president of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez, as the event’s keynote speaker.

“It’s a great pleasure for me...,” said Kobeh, “to take part in the world’s largest and most important annual gathering of the business aviation community.”

“With over 25,000 turbine aircraft operated by over 17,000 companies in an expanding market, [NBAA members] represent a significant proportion of aircraft movements and activities worldwide,” relates Kobeh.

Kobeh focused on the industry’s most challenging issues including: safety, security, congestion management, and environmental responsibility. Safety, he stresses, is priority one for ICAO. While favoring technical and operational improvements, Kobeh says industry can move in a more holistic manner, taking into account economic, social, and geopolitical realities.

GASP, ICAO’s Global Aviation Safety Plan, is a performance-based approach which focuses on resources and activities that provide the highest return for increasing safety. Kobeh relates that GASP is the organization’s overall strategy for improving aviation safety.

“GASP reflects a remarkable level of cooperation with all major stakeholders, by incorporating in the document the Global Aviation Safety Roadmap, developed by the air transport industry in cooperation with ICAO,” says Kobeh.

Kobeh also commends the leadership position taken by the business aviation community in the development and implementation of Safety Management Systems (SMS).

“SMS represents the best way of responding to the need for results-based supervision of personnel and functions with a relatively small workforce,” says Kobeh.

In the security sector, business aviation has been active in the ICAO Aviation Security Panel, says Kobeh. “It is by working together that we will find ways and means of providing secure air transport in an intelligent and practical way,” Kobeh says.

Regarding airspace and airport congestion that can lead to access restrictions for business aviation, Kobeh says that one way to address the issue is through the development and implementation of an interoperable and seamless global air traffic management system. “A system that applies to all users, during all phases of flight, and that meets agreed levels of safety, provides for optimum economic operations, is environmentally sustainable, and meets national security requirements,” he says.

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