Even as interest in business aircraft grows following the September 11 terrorist attacks, some corporate flight departments continue to face closure. Among them is that of FMC Corp., a 117-year-old, highly diversified Chicago-based company that has operated a fleet of business aircraft for more than 50 years.
The company sold its Falcon 50 two years ago, reducing the flight department fleet to a single Challenger 604, three pilots, two mechanics and an office manager. With the determination earlier this year to split FMC into two distinct and separate companies–FMC Chemical in Philadelphia and FMC Technologies in Houston–a decision was also reached to sell the 604 and close the Palwaukee Municipal Airport-based Part 91 flight department.
Neither of the new companies, each valued at about $2 billion, felt an immediate need for a corporate airplane, said a source, and it made no sense to try to share a single airplane, considering the diverse interests and geographic separation of FMC Chemical and FMC Technologies.
The split is expected to be finalized on January 1. Until then, executives at both companies have con- sidered alternatives to a corporate flight department, including acquisition of a fractional share, but a decision remains perhaps a year away.
In the meantime, FMC Corp. continues to make use of its Challenger but expects to finalize a sale of the business jet by the end of the year, “possibly as early as October.” Before the decision to close the flight department, the company Challenger was averaging close to 600 flight hours annually.
FMC’s business interests include agricultural products, industrial and specialty chemicals, energy systems, food systems and airport systems. The new FMC Technologies will include among its divisions the airport systems business, which includes ground power units, de-icing systems and passenger stairs.