Four key FBOs set to change hands

 - December 18, 2007, 6:00 AM

Last month, three separate major FBO deals were announced involving four heavy-traffic business-aviation locations. Atlantic Aviation will acquire two new leaseholds in California–the former Newport Jet Center at John Wayne Airport-Orange County (SNA) and the former Million Air at Palm Springs (PSP). SheltAir, which recently began operations at New York La Guardia Airport (LGA), announced it has received a “positive review of notification” from the city of Atlanta in its bid to take over the Mercury leasehold at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). And finally, Wilson Air Center, Memphis, Tenn., told AIN it has received final approval from the city council to take over the FBO at Charlotte, N.C. The second Wilson facility should be complete in three to four months.

Atlantic on the Pacific Coast
Atlantic CEO Lou Pepper said its Sydney, Australia-based parent company, Macquarie Bank, had entered into an agreement to buy the two California FBOs, which will expand the Atlantic network to 12 locations nationwide. According to the company, “Completion of the transactions is subject to certain conditions, including relevant third-party consents.”

Newport Jet Center, founded in 1992 as Sunrise Jet Center, is located just east of the departure end of 5,700-foot Runway 1L at SNA. Its competitor on the field is Signature Flight Support. Newport Jet touts its quick turns and wash/detailing services.

Million Air Palm Springs, with 8,000 sq ft of ramp space, is also located on the southeast corner of the airport, adjacent to the arrival ends of Runways 31L and 31R. The FBO features quick turns, concierge services and custom catering, among other specialized FBO offerings.

SheltAir Has Inside Track at ATL
SheltAir’s bid to add ATL to its growing network took a large step forward on October 11 during the NBAA Convention, and company officials met with the city airport authority 10 days later in Atlanta to negotiate the lease. Ed Zwirn, company COO, said the Jet Center Group (which recast its corporate identity to include the SheltAir brand name earlier this year) called the city’s positive review of notification a strong indicator that the deal would eventually come to fruition, though he admitted, “There’s still some room from the cup to the lip.” For Mercury Air Centers’ part, company president John Enticknap told AIN at the NBAA Convention, “It’s not over ’til it’s over,” though he acknowledged that the indications were that SheltAir would prevail in the negotiations. At press time, Zwirn said a tentative start-up date for SheltAir to move in could be announced before the end of last month.

Wilson To Open Second Location

Wilson Air Center was among 14 contenders for the Charlotte leasehold currently held by Signature Flight Support. Under terms of the deal, Wilson will manage the facility for the city, using Wilson employees and equipment. Airport director Jerry Orr told AIN the city will pay Wilson a flat management fee of $250,000 per year plus an incentive amount. Wilson Air Center v-p David Ivey told AIN his company would make recommendations to the city on decisions involving fuel pricing, capital investment, staffing levels and so on. “That doesn’t mean they will agree to everything we suggest,” he said, though he and Orr concur that a prime reason Charlotte chose Wilson Air Center was its solid reputation for business acumen as well as its bricks-and-mortar facility in Memphis. Ivey said the city chose Wilson Air Center–the perennial top scorer in the AIN FBO Survey–because it recognizes that the FBO is “the front door” to Charlotte. Orr agreed, saying the city was looking for the best service possible at the best price.