Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group is one of the oldest and most respected names in aerospace through its long history, consisting primarily of military work. While it has been involved in business aviation for many years, and has 40 years’ experience in performing MRO work on Cessna Citations, the group is now dramatically expanding its footprint in the sector.
Through the newly created Marshall Aerospace Services (MAS) division, led by managing director Steve Jones, the group has added new capabilities to its portfolio. It now offers a full spectrum of services for business aviation from buying, through support and operation, to selling: “We are an end-to-end provider in the business aviation sector,” asserted James Dillon-Godfray, MAS v-p business development. “We take all the hassle of owning a business aircraft away from the individual or corporation.”
In just a short time initial growth has been spectacular. Revenues have grown from £15 million in 2012/13 to £60 million this year, and the goal is to continue this rate of growth over the next few years.
Increased revenues from MAS are part of a group strategy to aim ultimately for more than 50 percent of its business to come from nonmilitary streams. Civil/business aviation is already up to 25 percent from 18 percent in just a year, with the focus on becoming more service-orientated.
“We’ve gone from an entity that has ‘been in business aviation’ for a long time, mainly in Citation MRO, and now we’re in the top five business aviation organizations in Europe,” remarked Dillon-Godfray. “And that has happened in a year.”
Marshall’s reputation has been built on its engineering capabilities, and while major conversion work lies outside the remit of MAS, the ability of the group to undertake such work has considerable synergy with the business aviation world. The company has experience of green completions, having already performed such work on six Bombardier Globals and has undertaken head-of-state VVIP conversions.
“It’s a marketplace where there are a lot of opportunities,” Dillon-Godfray explained. “Many of the other players are full, and we have the space.” As the group owns Cambridge Airport, and has extensive workshop and hangarage facilities available, it can easily accommodate urgent jobs. “We’ve got the elbow room here to be more flexible at short notice,” he added.
Marshall’s facilities can accommodate aircraft up to Boeing 747 size, and indeed a 747 is scheduled to arrive at the Cambridge facility for a VVIP conversion later this year. Marshall (Booth 1019) has in-house cabinetry and trim workshops, and from its military work the company also has the expertise to install special requirements such as defensive countermeasures. Additional facilities are also due to open in the next two years, including a new paintshop for widebody aircraft that is due to begin operation later this year.
Marshall Cambridge has been the traditional location for MRO work but last September MAS acquired the 100,000-sq-ft Hawker Beechcraft facility at Broughton, Cheshire. As the spiritual “home” of the HS125/Hawker jet family, Broughton brings with it 50 years of experience in supporting the family, as well as Beechcraft aircraft such as the popular King Air.
From both Broughton and Cambridge facilities, MAS provides MRO support as an authorized service center for Beechcraft, Cessna and Hawker aircraft throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. A range of services is undertaken, including major repairs thanks to the retention of the original jigs. Broughton is also an ASC for the Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney engines that power Hawker and Beechcraft aircraft.
A key feature of Broughton is its design capability, which has seen the center create a range of STCs for business aircraft. Recently the center designed a Garmin 1000 flight deck refit for the King Air 200, and then sold the STC back to Beechcraft. At the same time, the facility is able to apply major upgrades designed by the OEM, such as Hawker’s 800XPR update.
MAS is looking to extend its MRO work to other OEMs beyond the Cessna, Hawker and Beechcraft stables, with Broughton opening a new state-of-the-art paintshop that can handle aircraft up to the Falcon 2000 in size. The center offers a unique design capability for special-mission conversions for smaller aircraft.
Meanwhile, Marshall is also extending its MRO support to the Bombardier Global range, initially offered to the wider retail market. Its long-standing Citation MRO business has expanded, including support for the NetJets fleet. An increase in Citation activity has necessitated a move to a 60,000-sq-ft workshop, double the size of that used previously. For nearly a year MAS has also operated 24-hour AOG support for Cessna and Hawker types in Europe.
One of the first steps to building Marshall’s business aviation portfolio was the acquisition of Oxford-based charter/management company FlairJet. Marshall Executive Aviation already had a Citation 550 and 560 available for charter, while FlairJet had a Phenom 100, with another added last November. The Phenoms operate from Bari, Italy, and Oxford.
By July 2013 the four aircraft were operating together under FlairJet’s worldwide AOC, and a renewed accent on commercial operations has already brought rewards for the two Citations, which are based at Luton Airport, north of London. Compared with 2012 figures, usage in 2013 was up 65 percent for the 550 Bravo and 58 percent for the 650 XLS.
Recent developments for the fleet include the approval of P-Rnav operations for the Citation XLS and Phenom 100, allowing those aircraft to operate into Amsterdam, as well as to take advantage of favorable arrival and departure routings. Moreover, the Citation XLS has been granted MNPS (minimum navigation performance specification) approval, allowing it to fly oceanic at over 28,000 feet. This has eased operations to Iceland.
FlairJet is to introduce a Phenom 300 to the fleet this year. The division offers acceptance and delivery services for this type of aircraft, and with around 30 processed so far has more experience in this field than anyone outside the U.S. Furthermore, FlairJet has instigated a training program for the Phenom 300 in partnership with NetJets as the latter rolls out its fleet, which could total 125 aircraft if all options are exercised.
While FlairJet has advanced under Marshall’s guidance, it needs to grow considerably to pry customers away from other customers, who often follow their personal acquaintances when chartering aircraft or placing them for management. “We need to break through the ‘club’ mentality of some customers, and the perception that we are a small company,” Marshall’s Steve Jones told AIN. “Having four aircraft is no use to us. We have to get to 20. If we can’t get there in two years we’ll probably have to get out of it,” he admitted. To achieve its aim MAS is looking at both taking on more aircraft under management, and also at acquisitions.
According to Jones, FlairJet also “suffers from only having small aircraft.” To that end, FlairJet is seeking to add larger and longer-range aircraft to its portfolio, particularly with the ability to offer transoceanic capability.
Another sector in which Marshall has grown considerably in recent times is aircraft sales and brokerage. This is divided into two areas: new aircraft and pre-owned, and both have shown promising results.
JETability is the brand name of the MAS’s used aircraft business, which brokers sales and also guides customers through the buying process. The business started in November 2012 and in its first year notched up 10 sales. This year the business has already placed a Cessna CJ2+, AgustaWestland A109E Power and an Airbus Helicopters AS355N. The company hopes that a Hawker 850XP sold in late 2013 could provide the springboard into the larger-aircraft market.
In terms of new sales MAS is now the exclusive sales distributor for Beechcraft aircraft in the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia–and since last October three King Airs have been sold. MAS has five full-time sales staff at Cambridge, and a similar number at a newly opened office in Oslo, Norway.
Overall, MAS is cautiously optimistic about the revival of business aviation in Europe. “The market seems to be looking up, its more ‘buzzy,’” said Dillon-Godfray, “but the uptake is slow.”
“There is also some housekeeping going on,” added Jones. “The less profitable businesses are folding–they either don’t have the cash for reinvestment, or they’re holding on too long. We’re regularly getting approaches from companies asking us to buy them.”