An Industry Moves On

LAS VEGAS — Following a somber event in 2010, the National Business Aviation Association’s 64th Annual Meeting & Convention rebounded strongly here this year, attracting more than 26,000 attendees, saw a return of the major airframe manufacturers to the show floor, and carried a mood of conducting business and moving on from the downturn of the past few years.

The attitude among the major fixed base operator chains is one of cautious optimism in the short term, though they see their fate tightly linked to the economy at large. Yet, several remain bullish about growing their brands through acquisitions, particularly once the dollars in the capital markets begin to loosen up.

Comments Landmark Aviation president Dan Bucaro, “Business is good, though it’s not as consistent as we might want it to be.”

Says Greg Arnold, head of the TAC Air chain, “Business activity is stable.” He adds that a positive sign for the FBO segment is the fact that “the industry as whole is not burdened with a lot of debt.”

Maria Sastre, COO of Signature Flight Support/BBA Aviation, says that the company has “outperformed the market over the past few years,” and she anticipates significant increases over the next two years. However, she remains concerned that uncertainty on Wall Street and in the general economy, and negative publicity in Washington, put a damper on business aviation. “This industry has taken an unfair amount of castigation,” he comments. “It’s an industry that is easy to malign because it is misunderstood.”

Relates Roger Woolsey, president of the Million Air group, “I am optimistic, actually. I see the wheels turning.” He adds that a particular challenge has been access to capital for infrastructure development, but says he sees signs the market may be easing. “It’s a signal to me,” he says.

On the topic of future acquisitions, officials see the FBO business as one that continues to be in an era of consolidation, which they in turn see as an opportunity to grow their brands.

Sastre at Signature says that the company seeks to double in size over the next decade. “We’ve very bullish,” she relates.

Landmark’s Bucaro says “this industry continues to be in the big stages of consolidation,” which he sees as opportunity for his company. “You’ve got to be a prudent buyer,” he says, adding that Landmark’s strategy is focused on adding locations that “fill” the chain’s network, not just adding dots on a map.

BRIEFS FROM THE SHOW ...

New Eclipse 550s are now available

Eclipse Aerospace, Inc. reports it is now taking orders for the Eclipse 550, the new twin-engine jet model in the Eclipse family. The 550 utilizes the same airframe and power plant as the EA-500 model, along with innovations in most aircraft systems designed to improve overall operations, direct operating costs, technology, comfort, and performance. Eclipse expects to produce 50 to 100 of the $2.7 million aircraft per year with deliveries beginning in 2013.

MedAire debuts hangar safety

MedAire, an International SOS company, is offers a new 1-Day Hangar Safety Awareness Course that helps maintenance personnel and crews identify common hangar hazards, increase hangar safety, and respond to an injury or medical event within the hangar.

MedAire also makes available the 3rd edition of its Manual of In-flight Medical Care, which highlights advances in medical care and treatment.

Hawker-Beechcraft gets biofuels OK

Hawker Beechcraft announces that all of its turbine-powered aircraft are approved to use biofuels. To be used in HBC aircraft, they must meet American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) turbine fuel standards.

In other news, the company breaks ground on a 48,000-sq. ft., company-owned factory service center at Monterrey, Mexico. The facility will include a 13,400-sq. ft. paint hangar and a 24,000-sq. ft. maintenance hangar.

Empty legs available at Magellan Jets

Boston-based Magellan Jets begins offering empty leg charters at reduced rates via its One-Way Leg Search Feature, and launches the first-ever app of its kind for iPhones and iPads; www.magellanjets.com.

Gulfstream expands at Westfield, MA

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. is expanding its service center at the Barnes Regional Airport in Westfield, MA, investing some $20 million to build a 100,000-sq. ft. maintenance facility adjacent to the existing 85,000-sq. ft. one. The growth is expected to result in 100 additional Gulfstream jobs.

Gulfstream also introduces its PlaneBookTM app, an electronic document management system for iPad, available now in the Apple App Store.

ATP, Piper enter agreement

Piper Aircraft Inc. and Airline Transport Professionals (ATP) reach agreement for the sale of as many as 30 Piper Seminoles with a total retail value of $18 million. ATP specializes in airline pilot training and pilot career development nationally, and flies over 10,000 hours each month to provide more than 4,000 FAA pilot certifications each year at 25 locations nationwide.

StarPort forms an alliance

Sanford, FL-based StarPort, a full-service fixed-base operator, forms a strategic alliance with Rotortech Services, Inc. to establish an avionics repair and installation shop at Rotortech Services’ helicopter service center at Palm Beach International Airport.

StarPort also announces the hiring of Bruce Van Allen as director of marketing. Previously, Van Allen held a number of senior operating executive and group level positions for BBA Aviation, plc.

StandardAero offers GA parts

StandardAero Business Aviation expands its business to include the buying and selling of parts for general aviation aircraft, including APUs, whole engines, avionics, and airframe components.

StandardAero is also expanding its network of Mobile Service Teams throughout North America, with a total of 12 planned by year end.

Cessna introduces the Latitude

Cessna Aircraft introduces the bizjet, the Citation Latitude, which is expected to enter the market in late 2015. The aircraft is priced at $14.9 million and is positioned between the Citation XLS+ and the Citation Sovereign in Cessna’s business jet offerings.

XOJet eyes Sacramento expansion

XOJet plans to open a 22,000-sq.-ft. operations center in Sacramento on the former McClellan Air Force Base that will house flight planners and schedulers, management, and customer service.

At the same time, XOJet places an order for up to 12 Hawker 800XPR aircraft. The agreement includes firm orders for seven aircraft to be deliverednext year and options for five more, for an estimatedc value of $50 million.

Honeywell sees uptick in 2012

According to Honeywell’s most recent forecast delivered at NBAA, deliveries of business jets should begin to rise again in 2012, tough the gains will be modest. The forecast sees manufacturers delivering some 600-650 aircraft in 2011, and next year’s total is projected to remain below 700.

Honeywell forecasts deliveries of 10,000 new business jets from 2011 through 2021, generating more than $230 billion in sales.

Nextant gets FAA certification

Nextant Aerospace of Cleveland receives FAA certification of its Nextant 400XT, a complete makeover of the Beechjet 400A/XP, and begins initial deliveries of the remanufactured light jets, with the first aircraft going to fractional jet provider Flight Options, which has ordered 40.

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