Ocean Sky explores field as new FBOs shape up in Spain

 - October 28, 2010, 7:58 AM

Ocean Sky has its three new Spanish FBOs up and running in Ibiza, Menorca and Valencia and is planning to add more facilities in Spain. Meanwhile, the Italian element of the expansion plans it unveiled at the Ebace show in May has been delayed, but the company still hopes to open an FBO at an undisclosed airport in Italy next year.

The UK-based business aviation services group acquired the FBOs on the Mediterranean islands of Ibiza and Minorca and at Valencia on the mainland in May through its acquisition of Spain’s Aviation Handling Assistance. Since then it has completed a renovation of the facilities, which now share Ocean Sky branding, and it has retrained staff with a view to ensuring continuity of service through its growing network.

Ocean Sky CEO Stephen Grimes told AIN that it is actively engaged in discussions about a possible partnership with another company in one or two other locations. “Spain is quiet and has been hit quite badly [by the economic downturn], but this brings opportunities to consolidate,” he said, referring to serious problems in what is one of Europe’s weakest economies.

“When Ocean Sky took over the three [Spanish] FBOs, they were not being run efficiently or marketing themselves well outside Spain,” added marketing director Natalie Raper. “We have now built them on our UK model and they are fully joined up with the network.” The new FBOs are now benefiting from receiving traffic generated by Ocean Sky’s aircraft charter and management activities.

Also in May, Ocean Sky acquired Open Sky Italy, which is being run by Rossano De Luca as the UK group’s Italian subsidiary, concentrating for the time being on charter brokering and aircraft management. However, Ocean Sky walked away from a letter of intent-backed deal to buy an FBO called Euroloa in Bologna because it was not happy with the terms being offered. Grimes insisted that, despite significant local obstacles in terms of bureaucracy, Italy remains a key part of Ocean Sky’s growth strategy and it will pursue other opportunities there, including the anticipated FBO acquisition at “a major international airport in early 2011.
“[This] has been an exciting year,” said Grimes. “We have grown and expanded and made progress, but we have also been dealing with legacy issues from previous owners. There have been some things to correct, which has taken some management attention, but it has increased the understanding and support from shareholders, who have a strong commitment as we have been building a stable platform,” he added. Ocean Sky is owned by Belgian businessman Jean-Francois Cordemans and a Luxembourg-based investment fund.

In recent weeks Ocean Sky appointed Capt. Don Sigournay as its new director of flight operations. Other recent appointments include Lenny Gray to head its new aircraft interiors business; Gareth Cadwell as general manager for charter; and Richard Stock to run the aircraft management division.

Earlier in the year the company had expected to expand its managed fleet from 30 aircraft to 40, but it is now on track to end up with just under 50.
It has also been building its maintenance business at London Luton Airport, where it recently bought a hangar from Monarch Airlines.

In addition, it is working with Bombardier to have Luton designated an approved service center for the Canadian airframer, to match the capability it has at its Manchester base.

The company is also set to open a new sales office in Dubai.