AvCraft Aerospace gets new owner

 - September 26, 2006, 11:22 AM

UK Corporate Jet Services, parent company of Southampton-based executive charter operator Club328, has purchased bankrupt regional aircraft manufacturer AvCraft Aerospace. The new owner will not be resuming aircraft production, but will instead run the former property of U.S. support and completions firm AvCraft Aviation as a support organization for existing Dornier 328 operators under the name 328 Support Services.

The deal, which AvCraft Aerospace bankruptcy administrator Martin Prager announced on December 15, takes effect on January 2. The amount paid by UK Corporate Jet Services for AvCraft’s German assets has not been disclosed, and the company has not said whether any further completed or partly built airframes are included in the transaction.

The agreement supersedes a November 2005 letter of intent that the administrator had signed with Ruag Aerospace, which had also wanted to acquire AvCraft. According to Club328, the AvCraft administrator chose to sell the company to the UK firm because it was prepared to purchase more of its assets and to employ a larger number of the former manufacturer’s personnel.

From AvCraft’s headquarters at Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, 328 Support Services will repair and overhaul some 220 of the nearly 330 jets and turboprops in service worldwide, and will also provide spare parts, refurbishment and other engineering support.

The company, which is expected to employ at least two-thirds of AvCraft’s 140 remaining staff, will hold the type certificates for both the 328Jet and 328 twin turboprop. The new support operation will work alongside Club328’s sister company, Jet Engineering Technical Support (Jets), which already holds European approvals to provide base and line maintenance for 328 jets and turboprops.

Club328 Fleet Expansion

Club328 itself operates two 328s (one jet and one turboprop) and it is due to receive a new 328Jet this month. The aircraft, S/N 3220, purchased from the administrator, is one of the last aircraft AvCraft built. Club328’s CEO, Mike Farge, has said that he would like to add a fourth 328Jet to the fleet.

The AvCraft assets purchased also include two other 328Jet airframes that are almost complete, and Club328 intends to take these for its own fleet. There are three other partially complete aircraft at Oberpfaffenhofen, but these will be scrapped for parts. The new company, 328 Support Services, will soon be moving all remaining jigs and other hardware out of the main AvCraft final assembly hall and into the adjoining flight shed, in which it will work.

According to Farge, there are still more than thirty 328s parked in the U.S., and he will now be looking to help their owners remarket these aircraft. Club328 may be able to take three more of the aircraft itself.

Club328 now plans to base one or more of its charter fleet at Oberpfaffenhofen. This would allow the UK operator to be more competitive in bidding for flights in the heart of mainland Europe. The airport is located in one of Germany’s wealthiest regions.

Also last month, Club328 bought four pre-owned Premier Is from Raytheon Aircraft. Two are Premier Is and the other two are Premier IAs, all low-time models with just 50 to 100 hours logged.

Club328 was set to receive the first three aircraft before the end of last month and the fourth this month. The operator has already had six of its pilots type-rated on the Premier I and intends for the aircraft to enter service immediately.

Previously, the company had intended to standardize its fleet around the 328Jet, operating the regional airliner in 14-seat executive configuration, but AvCraft’s bankruptcy forced it to include other types. Club328 also operates two Hawker 700s and a Hawker 800, and it now wants to add a Hawker 800XP.

Anticipating the acquisition of AvCraft, Club328 and Jets held a Dornier 328 operator’s summit at their Southampton Airport base on December 9. Technical managers from operators including Solid Air, Sky Work, Medavia, Cirrus Airlines, Aero-Dienst, Excellent Air, Scot Airways and Welcome Air attended, as did AvCraft Aerospace managing director Wolfgang Walter and representatives from system suppliers such as Pratt & Whitney Canada, Honeywell and Dunlop Aerospace.

According to Club328, during the past 18 months 15 new operators, including Denmark-based Sun-Air, have introduced into service a total of 28 of the 328 jet and turboprop models. Operators can now communicate with each other through www.dornierclub.com.

During the meeting, the operators discussed issues such as difficulties in booking time in the one 328Jet simulator (which training provider CAE is due to relocate from Maastricht in the Netherlands to Brussels early this year). The operators are planning to group together to buy their own simulator to assure access to it for recurrent training. They also discussed issues relating to landing-gear overhaul and delays with parts orders.