Finally, there is considerable speculation that Shell may be considering re-entering the U.S. retail market for aviation fuel. Says one supplier, "They're a major player around the world, and the U.S. market is the largest for aviation. It would be a logical move." However, a Shell spokesperson could not confirm if the company will soon move into the U.S. aftermarket.
Major fixed base operation chains continue to expand via acquisitions, with Mercury, Signature, and Piedmont-Hawthorne all making announcements at this year's NBAA. Stevens Aviation, meanwhile, offered insights into its business focus following managerial realignment.
Mercury Air Centers, host to the ’99 static display of aircraft, announced two acquisitions that bring its number of FBOs to 17. Comments John Enticknap, recently promoted to VP/chief operating office for the Mercury Air Group, Inc., subsidiary, "We're still looking for more."
Mercury's most recent acquisitions include Million Air Tulsa and the assets of Charleston Equities Inc., which includes FBOs at Charleston (SC) International Airport and one at Charleston Executive Airport on John's Island. The company now operates 17 FBOs nationwide.
Signature Flight Support, the nation's largest FBO chain, announced an agreement to acquire the Airway Aviation Services/AirBP FBO at Dekalb-Peachtree (PDK) airport, site of this year's static display. The company had recently announced it had completed or would soon complete the sale of FBOs at Palm Springs, Hartford, CT, and Centennial Airport near Denver — all the result of the previous acquisition of the AMR Combs chain by Signature.
Signature president Bruce Van Allen says that those sales, which included FBOs where AMR and Signature had competing facilities, makes the purchase price ($170 million) of AMR more reasonable.
Van Allen emphasizes that while acquisitions are an ongoing focus, upgrading of existing facilities remains a high priority as well. To date, he says, Signature has invested some $77 million in facility upgrades and another $20 million in equipment (tugs, etc.). He says that the chain is about halfway through its systemwide renovation program, and expects most facilities to be upgraded by the end of 2000.
Meanwhile, Piedmont-Hawthorne announced it is in the process of acquiring Shell Aerocentre FBOs in Canada at Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. Dean Harton, president of Piedmont-Hawthorne, reports the move is a significant step in building a North American network of FBOs.
"We told you that we would be very aggressive with FBO acquisitions," he says.
The three operations represent the largest FBOs in Shell's network of 17 Canadian facilities.
At Stevens Aviation, chairman Tom Foley says he will stay on as day-to-day manager of the FBO chain, a position he assumed earlier this year with the departure of Kurt Herwald. Foley says he and Herwald agreed it was time for a new leader at the operations helm. Foley is majority stockholder in Stevens through his investment company, NTC Group.
Foley says the company is also courting buyers for its Denver FBO at the Jefferson County Airport, partly because of its remote location from other Stevens operations in the Southeast. The company is based at Greenville, SC.
Stevens Aviation will refocus its business toward growing maintenance and modifications services, says Foley, particularly in turboprops and light to medium jets. The company will also begin to place a greater emphasis at capturing non-Beech/Raytheon business; Stevens for years was a leading Beech dealer.
In her opening address to NBAA attendees, Jane Garvey, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, addressed safety issues, announcing that turbojet and turboprop accidents are down by 20 percent. "This is the direction we want to go," she states.
She notes that collaborating with the industry and other countries to maintain a record of achievement and raising standards are the only way to improve upon safety. "There is a need for harmonization and for the same standards in all countries," she states. Garvey announced that the FAA and JAA want to work towards one set of standards.