Activity Amid Uncertainty: Interviews, press conference reports, and news briefs from NBAA 2002

Interviews, press conference reports, and news briefs from NBAA 2002 ORLANDO – After settling for an abbreviated show in 2001, the National Business Aviation Association was determined to recapture the position of its annual convention as...

Haskins told AIRPORT BUSINESS, "Let’s face it, all the security in our business is about access to the aircraft. So we’re watching what’s going on on the ramp and allowing no undue access to aircraft."

Signature has restricted access to caterers and limousines and taxis as well, she says, moves that have been received positively by most users. "I actually had one airport write us a letter asking us to open the ramp, due to pressures by local business people. We found a secure way of doing that."

Bruce Van Allen, president of Signature parent BBA Group, says the FBO chain will continue to make news with acquisitions. He says the company has spent some $60 million on acquisitions in 2002 alone, and points out that the monies for those acquisitions came from the Signature chain rather than from the deeper pockets of parent BBA. Van Allen predicts Signature revenues to be up 2-3 percent in 2002, despite a "tough" market. In addition, he says BBA is currently in the process of developing a new brand that will bring its maintenance companies, led by Dallas Airmotive, under one global name.

Meanwhile, regarding potential obstacles to future growth, Haskins says she is concerned that major hubs fail to appreciate the importance of business aviation at their airports, though that concern has been alleviated somewhat since 9/11 because of the drop in commercial traffic. She is also concerned about some airports with Signature bases where operators are allowed to fuel aircraft on public-use ramps while having no facilities. She cites the lack of minimum standards at those airports as a cause.

Regarding the ongoing closure of Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) to general aviation, Haskins remains hopeful that officials in D.C. will change the policy. However, she is concerned that creation of a new Department of Homeland Security, which would oversee the Transporta-tion Security Administration, could ultimately sidetrack that possibility. According to Haskins, Signature has received no compensation from the federal government for its loss of business at DCA, though the airport authority has abated its rent since 9/11. The Signature DCA base has gone from 55 employees to two, with 20 laid off and the others relocated to other bases.

Says Haskins, "I do believe that [DOT] Secretary Mineta has tried to get us opened [at DCA]."

Million Air Chain Revitalized

Among the more optimistic exhibiting companies at this year’s NBAA was the Million Air Interlink franchise, with new CEO Roger Woolsey leading the charge toward a new image, with plans for expanding the network of participating FBOs in North America and even Europe.

Woolsey operated charter companies before purchasing the Million Air Houston FBO in 1999. Earlier this year, he orchestrated the deal for ownership of the franchise, Million Air Interlink, linking independent FBOs through national marketing.

Says Woolsey, "Million Air is one chain with 24 locations. We are working on one culture, one solid image, but we are 24 individual owners. Each owner has a lot of passion. There’s really a lot of power to be harnassed by aligning ourselves better.

"The passion we have is to work on our image and our consistency, and to institutionalize what we call the Million Air experience."

Woolsey says that the chain’s marketing efforts are being doubled, while at the same time the company is increasing its emphasis on training and safety. At NBAA, the company announced formation of Million Air University, dedicated to developing effective leaders and teams at the individual FBOs. Woolsey also supports the Safety 1st program sponsored by the National Air Transportation Associ-ation, and says that all franchises are now required to participate in the program which offers training and certification for line personnel.

The 35-year old Interlink owner says a renewed focus is being placed on quality control as well, with regular visits to franchise FBOs by a Million Air inspector.

Woolsey says he is changing the fee structure for franchises. Entry now costs $45,000, down from $75,000, and a fee on fuel flowage is being replaced by a percentage of revenues formula. Franchises also pay a monthly advertising fee. "We’re changing the model," says Woolsey.

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