Business aviation is still on a roller-coaster ride that could lead to feast or famine, according to Flying Group chief executive Bernard van Milders. “The crisis is not over, fuel prices are high and there could even be a double-dip recession, but [on the other hand] we could see ten-percent growth,” he told AIN.
Whatever this year may bring to the Belgium business aviation services group, there is no doubting the growth it has enjoyed since it was formed 20 years ago. Since 1991, Flying Group’s fleet has grown from just a single aircraft to 28 as of the end of April, with this number set to rise to 31 next month. In addition to aircraft management and charter, the company also provides maintenance–as an approved Cessna Citation service center–and various consultancy services.
The aircraft are mainly based at its Antwerp headquarters, where it acquired the main airport building and adjacent hangar last year. It also has bases at Cannes in the south of France, at Luxembourg and at Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Like much of the industry, Flying Group (Stand 282) took a sudden hit in business in the second half of 2008, which was followed by further decline in revenues of around 25 percent in 2009. But last year saw gradual recovery, with the company winning new aircraft management clients in markets such as Russia, Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe.
Flying Group’s fleet is very diverse, spanning the Cessna Citation Mustang light jet to the Dassault Falcon 7X at the top end. In between is a mix of Cessna Citation CJ2s, Bravos, CJ3s, Excels, Sovereigns, Xs and XLS+s, as well as a Falcon 20F-5 and various examples of the 900 family. Next month, it is due to receive its fourth Falcon 7X, along with a 900EX and 2000LX.
Two years after selling the Flying Group FBO at Paris Le Bourget Airport to the Dubai-based JetEx Flight Support group, van Milders has no regrets that he opted to walk away from this highly competitive handling market. “The financial crisis was only part of the reason for the sale, which fitted into our ambition to concentrate on our basic activity operating private and business aircraft and the opportunity arose to sell something that was never a core business for us,” he explained to AIN. “FBO activity in Paris is not good for independent companies, only for chains.” He added that the sale generated new cash that strengthened investment and the operator continued to expand its fleet.