Quality FBOs are still a rare sight in Africa but there is a small but growing list of exceptions, one of which is Fireblade Aviation at Johannesburg’s O.R.Tambo International Airport. The FBO was established as an Oppenheimer family-owned company in 2014, offering a new well-equipped luxury FBO with large hangar and various aircraft charter and support services as well.
“The project was developed by father and son, Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer,” the company told AIN. “The Oppenheimer family has a long history with aviation dating back to 1936.”
Fireblade claims to have “a state-of-the-art campus equipped with a primary passenger and crew facility along with two large hangars that will answer the wants of just about any corporate aircraft or international trip support companies.” This year, Fireblade added customs, immigration, and quarantine capabilities, after a long wait for authorization by the South African authorities, and it is now on the private and corporate aviation map for world travelers, according to Johnny Laing, director of operations.
Fireblade offers a dedicated private apron, private fueling facilities, hangarage, and tailored services such as catering, prayer facilities, and luxury spa services. “A seven-star VlP terminal is on offer with small nuances like day rooms, el fresco kitchen offerings, an exercise room, private staterooms, and boardrooms,” said the company.
Laing noted that Fireblade is far more than an FBO, offering a fleet of charter aircraft that includes two Pilatus PC-12NGs, a Bombardier Challenger 350 and Global 6000, and a Leonardo AWl39 and AW119.
“A new and enhanced addition to the transport fleet will be added towards the latter part of 2019,” said Laing. The facility recently hosted a corporate Boeing 767, illustrating to Middle East customers, who often operate such large aircraft, that Fireblade is more than capable of handling large aircraft and VVIP travelers.
Laing said that since opening in 2014, more than 14,000 aircraft movements have successfully been processed through Fireblade’s facilities, of which more than 800 have been “high-profile international guests.”
“These facilities are making a considerable economic contribution to establishing South Africa as a premier business and leisure destination and provide ease of access to many tourist destinations in South Africa and further into the African content,” said Bjorn Ischner, general manager of Fireblade Aviation.
On October 30 the Oppenheimer family had to fiercely defend Fireblade at a briefing to the South African parliament’s home affairs committee, which was disrupted by parties who misconceived Fireblade as a facility only for the Oppenheimer family. Jonathan Oppenheimer said his family’s use only accounted for 5 percent of movements.
Last year Fireblade won a High Court battle against a government minister who had for two years not honored an agreement for CIQ to be allowed at its facility. The 150 million Rand ($10 million) facility is built on land leased from aerospace company Denel.