FBO Profile: Maguire Aviation

 - November 30, 2007, 9:50 AM

Up-and-coming FBO company Maguire Aviation is now the largest leaseholder at Van Nuys Airport in Southern California, having bought the former Million Air FBO in early October. Maguire purchased Petersen Aviation on the south side of the airport a year earlier and recently added the former Disney (Air Shamrock) hangar on the west side of the airport.

The reason for buying the Million Air and Disney facilities, said Maguire Aviation Group president Alec Maguire, is to be able to offer transient services and facilities for companies that want their own hangars. Before adding the new facilities, he said, “We couldn’t accommodate that.”

Maguire Aviation at Van Nuys now consists of two main facilities, on the north and south side, in addition to the recently added Disney property on the west side. Maguire North will become a corporate aviation campus, according to Maguire, “with very little transient business.” Million Air owner Harold Lee had been planning a major upgrade of his facilities when he sold the company to Maguire, and Maguire is going ahead with the plans with some minor variations. Maguire North will include 300,000 sq ft of hangars, office space and ramp area.

Maguire considered retaining the Million Air franchise but finally decided that he wanted to keep the Maguire name. “We worked hard at branding Maguire,” he said. Maguire hired nearly all of the former Million Air employees.

Transients Welcome
The old Petersen FBO on the south side will remain Maguire Aviation, the public face of the company where transient traffic is encouraged. Petersen Aviation wasn’t overly welcoming toward transient visitors and couldn’t offer hangar space to local operators, focusing instead on its own charter/management business.

When Maguire first arrived at the FBO, he tackled that issue head-on. “The first pitch I made in introducing myself to employees was ‘Ladies and gents, we’re not running a country club any more and you don’t need to be anyone special to come here and enjoy our services.’ That stigma is something that we’ve been working our hardest to get rid of, because it had this country-club, old-boys attitude that we really didn’t want to be associated with.”

In developing the Maguire North campus, the focus is on companies that want to base their aircraft at Van Nuys without a lot of transient traffic movements. Tenants will be able to specify many aspects of the new hangar and office construction to suit their needs, according to Maguire.

“I think this market is unique,” he said. “Demand is always going to be extremely high here. It’s the busiest corporate general aviation airport on the planet.” One of the constraints on general aviation airports in Southern California is that they have no room to grow, and local problems might cause even more reduction in available facilities for business jets. “Santa Monica is about to be cut in half by the city,” he said, “and turmoil around it has really started to drive traffic in our direction.” (Neighbors near Santa Monica continue to fight to have the airport’s jet operations curtailed.)

While Maguire North is being built, the company is refurbishing the distinctive California-mission-style former Petersen facility. The $2 million project will retain the facility’s original flavor, but Maguire is adding new services such as Disney Institute-trained concierges and valet parking.

Another new feature is a security system that tenants can use to monitor their aircraft from any type of Web-enabled device, including cellphones. It lets them have real-time coverage of what’s going on, Maguire said, “and keeps us constantly audited and in check.” If a customer viewing his aircraft sees, say, a Maguire employee doing something questionable or a potential security problem, he can bring it up to management. “It’s a great management tool for us,” he said.

Maguire plans to offer the 30,000-sq-ft Disney facility to operators of large jets such as Boeing BBJs or Airbus ACJs or a company with a large business jet fleet. The property includes a reinforced ramp, underground utilities, a huge hangar and elegantly outfitted offices, passenger lounges and gourmet kitchens. “It looks like the inside of a Four Seasons [hotel],” said Maguire.

In building widespread real estate coverage at Van Nuys, Maguire Aviation is aiming to capture a large share of the market on the airport and build a business model that it can take to other airports. “Maguire’s interest is to be at key airports and build, develop and operate premier high-end FBO operations,” said Maguire. “I think there is demand for it. We look forward to getting Van Nuys done as quickly as possible, then growing in other significant markets in the country.”