Industry News

Sturgell nominated to be faa administrator
In October, the Bush Administration nominated acting FAA Administrator Robert A. Sturgell to take over the post full-time for a five-year term, succeeding Marion Blakey, who completed her term in September. Aviation groups in Washington generally supported the nomination, although it was uncertain at press time how long it would take the U.S. Senate to act on it.

Sturgell is a former military and airline pilot, having served as a flight operations supervisor at United Airlines, and worked with Blakey when she was the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

FAA suspends ami charter certificate; then sentient buys it
Expressing concerns about foreign ownership and operational control issues, the Federal Aviation Administration in October suspended the FAR Part 135 operating certificate of AMI Jet Charter, which has close ties to TAG Aviation USA.

FAA reportedly cited some 40 instances of incomplete paperwork related to flight logs, maintenance activity, and crew documentation. It was also reported that the agency was concerned about ownership — AMI is 49 percent owned by TAG, based in Switzerland, and foreign companies are ineligible to operate an air carrier in the U.S.

The National Air Transportation Association, which has been focusing heavily with its charter members on operational control issues, criticized the FAA action and called AMR Jet Charter a “first-rate operator.”

Subsequently, Sentient Flight Group, which was formed earlier this year with the merger of Sentient Jet, Inc. and Jet Direct, announced plans to acquire both AMI Jet Charter and TAG Aviation USA. That announcement came on the heels of Sentient’s acquisition of the Hawker Beechcraft aircraft management and charter unit.

Equity group agrees to buy flight options
The Miami-based private equity firm H.I.G. Capital has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Flight Options LLC, a fractional ownership provider based in Cleveland, from Raytheon for an undisclosed purchase price.

Flight Options has been attempting to rebound from significant losses in recent times, with Raytheon reporting an operating loss of some $96 million for the third quarter of FY2007. The unit recorded an operating loss of $10 million in the third quarter of 2006.

H.I.G. Capital’s other aviation interests include Rotorcraft Leasing Company, Amerijet International, and Gemini Air Cargo. The deal is expected to be finalized by year-end, according to Raytheon.

Briefings ...

ACI—Airports Council Int’l, at its annual meeting in Buenos Aires, calls for a series of environmental commitments for the world’s airports to further environmental programs and encourage carbon-neutral airports.

ADLER GROUP, INC.—a commercial real estate firm, unveils plans for the Airside International Business Park at Opa-Locka Airport. The company plans to invest more than $200 million in new commercial space, hangars, office, industrial, and retail structures, a hotel, and parking.

ALLEGHENY COUNTY (PA) AIRPORT AUTHORITY—responds to cuts by US Airways at Pittsburgh Int’l Airport by closing up to 27 of its 75 available gates to cut costs, saving $1 million, and increasing landing fees 33 percent.

AVCARD—is acquired by World Fuel Services Corp. of Miami for a purchase price of some $55 million.

COLLIN COUNTY REGIONAL AIRPORT—in McKinney, TX closes its runway and taxiway to improve stormwater drainage and put in a 12-inch concrete runway overlay. The $7 million project is expected to be complete by Nov. 29.

DNATA—an airport services provider in the Middle East, acquires Jet Aviation Handling AG, the airport handling division of Swiss-based Jet Aviation Group.

DFW INT’L AIRPORT—kicks off a multi-million dollar global marketing campaign in Argentina.

FIRSTLINE TRANSPORTATION SECURITY—an SMS Holdings company, is approved by TSA for airport security screening at Gallup Municipal Airport and the Roswell Industrial Air Center in New Mexico under the Screening Partnership Program (SPP).

GAMA—General Aviation Manufacturers Assn. reports that third quarter numbers for general aviation shipments and billings rose 1.7 percent to 2,909 units, with billings for new airplanes rising to $15.1 billion. Shipments of piston-engine airplanes dropped to 1,857 units, down from 1,975 airplanes last year. Turboprop shipments increased 14.5 percent, growing from 256 airplanes in 2006 to 293 units this year. Business jets were up, with shipments totaling 759 units, a 20.9 percent increase.

HMS HOST CORP.—is awarded a lease extension at the Kahului Airport in Maui through 2013, and will introduce four new dining venues including Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill, a new island style café developed in partnership with local Maui resident Sammy Hagar.
• HMSHost Corporation also opens a youth-run gourmet coffee shop, Training Grounds, at Oakland Int’l Airport.

HUDSON GROUP—is awarded two retail concessions contracts by the Vancouver Airport Authority (YVR) to bring national brands and authentic local concepts to the airport’s Domestic Terminal and Transborder areas.

PANAMA CITY (FL)—initiates the construction phase of its new state-of-the-art international airport on a 4,000-acre site donated by The St. Joe Company.

THE PARADIES SHOPS—wins a contract extension at Sarasota Bradenton Int’l Airport to operate three new stores through 2022, adding a CNBC Sarasota Bradenton, a Gulf Coast TravelMart, and a PGA TOUR Shop.

PORT AUTHORITY OF NY & NJ—officially takes over control of Stewart Int’l Airport in Newburgh.

RALEIGH DURHAM INT’L—is reportedly a finalist for the expansion and/or relocation of NetJets, which has major operations in Columbus, OH and New Jersey.

U.S. DOT—awards some $9 million in grants to 26 communities to promote local air services via the Small Community Air Service Development Program.

VAN NUYS (CA) AIRPORT—plans construction of a ‘propellerpark’ for light GA aircraft on a 39-acre site.