One company that is certainly familiar to long-time LABACE visitors is the U.S. FBO and maintenance provider Banyan Air Service (Booth 3011), having exhibited at the show for the past 14 years. Located in South Florida at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), the company noticed the traffic it was attracting from Latin American business aircraft operators and made the decision to attend LABACE to enhance and expand those relationships in the region. The decision turned out to be a wise one. While many U.S. service providers suffered during the global economic downturn, Banyan thrived due to its continued Latin American business. The company eventually earned maintenance approvals from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Venezuela, and it expects to renew its Colombia authorization by the time of the show.
“Latin America was 70 percent of our business at one time,” said Ed Bracero, the company’s director of technical sales and support for the region, adding that circumstances have changed since then. “Now I would say it's more like 35 to 40 percent of the business.” While U.S. traffic has continued to rebound, he credits the drop off in Latin American traffic to the political instability facing key business aviation markets in the region. “Venezuela, which was one of our stronger areas of business, has diminished considerably due to the problems they are going through right now,” he explained. “Brazil was the other strong market we had, and they’ve dropped considerably because of their economic turmoils right now and the issues they are having with their politicians and government officials there.”
He added that he has seen Brazilian aircraft arrive at Banyan’s Florida facility as they are being imported and sold to buyers in the U.S. or Europe. “This business is cyclical,” said Bracero. “Even though there is a downturn in the economy, it’s going to pick up again, and we just want to let the operators know that we’re still there for them.”
Yet there are bright spots in the region. “Argentina, which was a little bit behind the curve, is now moving up considerably,” noted Bracero. “We get quite a few Argentine operators, and their economy is becoming stronger since they elected their new president.” While Chile is also seeing a strengthening economy, Bracero noted that due to the relatively low number of larger business aircraft in the country, the flight of several thousand miles tends to limit their Banyan visits to those involving its expertise in major maintenance events, such as a Chilean King Air that is currently undergoing engine and avionics upgrades.
“In Latin America, you have to have a personal connection with [potential customers] before they give you their business,” said Bracero. “You have to go down there and get to know them and become friendly.” To help with that, Banyan’s staff is multilingual, eliminating miscommunication, particularly in technical areas, and discrepancies.
Few FBOs embrace the term “full-service.” but Banyan has established its own aviation ecosystem at FXE. Occupying 100 acres, the facility, which is nearing its fourth decade in existence, offers virtually any service an aircraft operator might require, if not from Banyan itself, then from its tenant companies.
The Avfuel-branded location offers a 14,525-sq-ft terminal with a balmy Key West flair, highlighted by one of the world’s largest pilot shops at more than 5,000 sq ft and including a Gulfstream G-II cockpit. Other amenities are a customer lounge with an 800-gallon saltwater aquarium, business center with wireless printers, three conference rooms (the largest seating up to 25 people), pilot’s lounge/snooze room, flight planning, a newly-added duty-free shop, indoor customer car parking, customer mailboxes, a coffee/snack bar and across the ramp, the full-service Jet Café.
Yet, possibly the most impressive statistic about the location, which is home to more than 450 aircraft, approximately one-third of which are turbine-powered, is the more than a millionsq ft of aircraft storage and office space under Banyan management. Over the past year, Banyan, which is open 24/7 and has a staff of 180 employees, added another 20,000 sq ft of hangar space to support its large aircraft charter and aeromedical customers. Plans call for the groundbreaking on a massive expansion project in the future, consisting of eight additional 20,000-sq-ft hangars and associated office space, plus a satellite terminal to support the based tenants of the new complex.