London’s Stansted Airport is set to get a fourth FBO, with The Diamond Hangar scheduled to open in time for the start of the 2012 Olympic Games on July 27. The new venture is trading on the Aero Toy Store brand, and its main shareholder is Ben Shirazi, son of the U.S. aircraft sales and completions group’s founder, Morris Shirazi.
The new UK-registered company has acquired the former SR Technics maintenance facility for an undisclosed sum and has invested approximately $3 million to redevelop it to provide ground handling and aircraft maintenance services. It also intends to get into aircraft management with its own air operator certificate and will seek to exploit its connection with Aero Toy Store by marketing aircraft sales and interior refurbishment work conducted by the U.S. company’s alliance with Italian design group Pininfarina.
Diamond Hangar managing director Mike Foley said that the new FBO intends to focus on larger business aircraft and has plans to lure operators currently using other London-area airports such as Luton. “People haven’t yet realized the flexibility of Stansted,” he told AIN, arguing that it is almost the same distance from central London as Luton and that it is well placed for access to the main Olympic stadium. The new FBO has received approval for customs and immigration clearances.
The 250,000-sq-ft facility has significant ramp space, with room for a pair of Boeing 747s to park alongside each other. It is located on the opposite side of the airport from Stansted’s three established FBOs: Inflite, Harrods Aviation and Universal Aviation.
The reworked former maintenance hangar will feature five separate lounges for passenger and crew use. In addition to a handling team, the initial staff of some 35 people will include concierge service specialists and catering staff.
Foley, whose former jobs include being part of the management team at Manchester’s Northern Executive Aviation (now part of Ocean Sky), said that he and his colleagues average between 10 and 15 years’ experience in the FBO sector. Howard Winkler, who has previous experience coordinating private aviation movements at six Olympic Games around the world, has been recruited to be Diamond Hangar’s operations director for the London Olympics.
“This is the launch of a new [FBO] brand in Europe and we certainly intend to expand to other locations,” said Foley. Diamond Hangar is looking to attract specialist vendors as tenants, including a helicopter charter provider.
Diamond Hangar’s aim is to have a Part 145 maintenance operation and interior shop with JAR-21 design approval up and running by early next year. Foley said that the company will be seeking approvals for larger business aircraft, including those made by Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Dassault. It could be approved for line maintenance work by October.
Competition at Stansted could prove to be tough, with Inflite and Harrods well established for both handling and maintenance services and Universal having just upgraded its FBO there. According to Eurocontrol statistics, the average daily number of business aviation movements at Stansted in the spring of 2012 was 5.5, down 28 percent on the average traffic volume in mid-2007.