CloudNine: The Jewel of Camarillo Airport

April 15, 2019
CloudNine puts premium service forward for premium customers in the next evolution of FBOs.

It’s not often that an entirely new, groundbreaking concept like CloudNine lands at an airport, but just such a first in a series of hangar developments in the country is set to break ground at Camarillo Airport in Ventura County, California, this year. Brainchild of visionary commercial real estate developer Ron Rasak of RKR Inc., CloudNine may appear to the untrained eye the modern incarnation of an FBO. Instead, CloudNine offers “luxury hangar enclaves for the discerning aircraft owner” and perfectly complements an airport’s FBO community by providing additional fuel sales through the attraction of aircraft owners that prefer to bypass the communal hangar storage experience.

Explains Rasak, “Our theory is that owners of larger jet aircraft — if given the option — value higher levels of privacy, security and luxury than are found in community hangar storage options at most FBOs today.” That notion was embraced by the forward-thinking supervisors of Ventura County, who recently approved a 50-year land lease for the development of CloudNine at Camarillo Airport.

Originally built in 1942 by the Public Roads Administration as a landing strip for the Army Air Force and Marines, the Camarillo Airport was once the Oxnard Air Force Base until 1969 when it was deemed surplus. A dispute between Ventura County and the City of Camarillo in the mid-1970s during the handover from the Federal Government led to a shortening of the once 9,000-foot runway to its current 6,013 feet. Curiously, that shortening set the stage for CloudNine by providing land on the portion of the airport that would have been unbuildable due to its proximity to a runway protection zone or RPZ. A lengthy displaced threshold at Camarillo meant an improved safety area, and future buildable land.

In some ways, Rasak’s CloudNine is simply the logical evolution of the many disparate offerings that historically were the domain of full-service FBOs. As a primer, and before turbine business aircraft deliveries exceeded that of piston aircraft for the first time in 1981, FBOs were almost universally considered “full service,” meaning they offered a complete suite of services including fuel, flight training, aircraft charter, aircraft sales, aircraft maintenance and hangar storage, for example. To be sure, a number of independent, full-service FBOs soldier on at airports across the country and will for years to come. Yet many years ago, operating a full-service FBO was less about providing the public a diverse offering of services and more about maintaining multiple revenue streams –  ensuring the survival of the FBO species in leaner years.

As the full-service theory went, the FBO’s flight school brought a customer in the door, who in turn bought their first airplane from the sales department, which meant the new aircraft needed a home in the FBO’s hangar, which in turn resulted in fuel sales, line services and maintenance business for the FBO. Call it a create-your-own-customer model, and it worked  for years. Yet as business jets entered the scene and became more complex, the market demanded more specialized aviation service businesses – SASOs in airport parlance –  to support them. Fast forward to today and there are hundreds of FBOs that only provide fuel, line services and aircraft storage. There are likewise a number of SASOs, including specialized MRO businesses, aircraft charter companies, and as Rasak’s CloudNine has now-defined, a luxury hangar storage model.

Situated on a seven-acre parcel in the northeastern corner of Camarillo Airport, the development’s unique nature is immediately evident. For starters, it will be the first improvements to be placed on the undeveloped east side of airport, resulting in a new entrance off nearby Las Posas Road. The entrance creates an instant level of privacy and sets the stage that Rasak’s hangar development project is something special indeed. To be constructed by general contractor T.Voile, CloudNine at Camarillo is slated to offer four, 25,000-square-foot hangars, each boasting epoxy-coated floors, the latest in LED lighting, high-end security systems and 28-foot doors, which allows ample room for the largest purpose-built business jets in existence or on the drawing boards today –  such as the Gulfstream G650 or Bombardier’s newest flagship, the Global 7500. In addition, each hangar will offer up to 5,000 square feet of attached Class A office space, plus private garage entrances for aircraft owners. Said another way, if the Four Seasons offered aircraft parking, CloudNine would be the result.

In theory, such large hangars – if situated at an FBO  could hold up to three to four business jets each, each with a different owner. But that is where Rasak’s model diverges from and complements the FBO model. “One hangar, one owner. That may be a high net worth individual seeking privacy, a corporate flight department with a number of aircraft, or possibly, well-known individuals in the entertainment or sports industry. However different each may be – they have one thing in common – they’d prefer their own private hangar, not shared space, says Rasak.

By responding to a market demand that existing FBOs are unable to serve due to any number of constraints, Rasak’s CloudNine is in effect, creating new customers for FBOs as the full-service model once did, but in the most egalitarian manner possible. “It’s not that we’re anti-FBO, far from it in fact. Instead I’d say we’re FBO agnostic – it’s not our role to pick winners or losers; rather, but to provide a new base of customers for FBOs to compete for on a level playing field,” adds Rasak. As his development at Camarillo doesn’t presently include a fuel farm, Rasak’s CloudNine customers may choose any of the based FBOs to provide fuel and underwing services. “We believe the freedom to choose is also a fundamental selling point to our customers,” says Rasak.

That freedom to choose is a selling point for airports too. As CloudNine hangar developments expand across the US, airports eager for additional development but understandably desirous of protecting their FBO community will find such a SASO model compelling. That said, Rasak cautions: “Don’t expect to see hundreds of CloudNine hangars going up across the country. Like our clients, we’re very discerning. We’ve examined several airports where the model makes sense – particularly in regions that bear similarities to the Southern California market we selected for our first project.” Those features include airports with runways that can accommodate large business jets, often near other airports that are constrained by little available hangar supply, and are near to a city or Metropolitan Statistical Area with a meaningful number of high net worth individuals, large corporations, or both.

With groundbreaking approaching toward year-end, Rasak’s enthusiasm grows by the day. Only half-joking, he admits: “I came out of retirement for this – but I just couldn’t resist because it met the three rules of all our RKR developments: It has to make [financial] sense, has to add value to the local community we serve, and it has to be fun.” As if to punctuate that last rule, Rasak adds, “if we’re not having fun, we’re doing something wrong.”

Douglas Wilson is the president and founder of FBO Partners, LLC, an aviation consultancy providing business management advisory services to Fixed Base Operators (FBOs). Wilson can be reached at [email protected] 

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Douglas Wilson