While known primarily for its FBO network, Landmark Aviation has made great strides in its aircraft management division over the past few months. In the wake of three strategic company acquisitions, the Carlyle Group subsidiary’s managed aircraft fleet has grown 50 percent, to a total of 83 jets and turboprops nationwide, rendering it the country’s second-largest business aircraft management operator behind Executive Jet Management, according to industry data provider Argus. Approximately 50 of Landmark’s managed aircraft are also available for charter. Among the company’s most recent FBO purchases are Galvin Flying Services at Boeing in Seattle and Midlantic Jet Aviation at New Jersey’s Atlantic City International Airport, each of which came with its own air operator certificate and its own fleet of managed aircraft.
“The thing that differentiates Landmark from the rest of the [companies] buying FBOs today is that we’ve got three unique business units, bolt-on businesses to our FBOs: our MRO business and then our aircraft management and charter businesses,” said Ben Murray, president of the company’s aircraft charter and management group. “We are looking at these acquisitions to expand all three business units.” The Galvin purchase added seven aircraft (from a King Air B200 to a Falcon 2000EX), and Landmark has since added another three aircraft to its operation there. At Atlantic City, its managed fleet was augmented by a pair of King Airs, a Falcon 900EX and 50EX, and a Learjet 55 and 35.
The company also added Sterling Aviation, a charter management provider based at Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport, and its 11 business jets (a Challenger 604 and 601-3A, one super-midsize and four light Citations, a trio of midsize Hawkers and a Learjet). Sterling is located approximately half an hour from Landmark’s Chicago headquarters, and its newly added staff will not only continue to manage its own fleet but help with the rest of Landmark’s fleet as well. “They had a combination of really good people, great talent, and we felt the airplane mix they had at Sterling really added some value to us as we were expanding our charter business in the Midwest,” noted Murray.
Operating Certificates Unchanged
The result was the addition of 27 new aircraft to the company’s fleet in less than a month. “We knew we were going to grow, so when we were a 50-airplane operation we made a significant investment in our technology and continuous innovation in making sure we had the right flight operating systems,” Murray told AIN. Before each acquisition, Landmark met with the appropriate FAA regional flight standards district office (FSDO) to explain its strategy for individual companies and their aircraft. “We see real value in keeping those certificates intact and operating in the way they were before the acquisition,” said Murray, adding that the company has six different air operator certificates, each of which remains a separate entity in the eyes of the FAA. “We’ve kept all the operating businesses running as they had in the past, and we’ve consolidated HR, IT, legal, finance and then our sales and operation while keeping the operating companies in their respective regions with their respective FSDOs,” he explained.
As part of its due diligence, Landmark consulted each of the aircraft owners at each location so the company had “their buy-in on our strategy before any of these acquisitions even started,” said Murray, who noted that the aircraft involved did not miss a beat in their day-to-day operations.
In addition to the management services, the company offers fleet insurance and volume discounts on crew training and trip planning, which can have an effect on 75 percent of an owner’s operating costs. “Because of the relevance of our FBO network, we can help them with fuel and airframe maintenance, engine maintenance, crew expenses, hangar and obviously management fees,” he said. “We affect that directly, with no middleman.”