Business aviation services provider Ocean Sky has come along way since its humble beginnings in 2003 as an aircraft broker.

Over the last six years the London-based company has added to its portfolio aircraft charter and management services - for which its operates a growing fleet of business jets - maintenance repair and overhaul, completions and aircraft handling through its expanding jet centre network that already boasts UK bases in Prestwick, Scotland, Manchester and most recently at London Luton airport, where it competes with fellow business aviation companies Harrods Aviation and Signature Flight Support.

"We have huge ambitions for Ocean Sky," says Stephen Grimes, chief executive of Ocean Sky's jet centre business. "We have an aggressive plan to have between 10 and 12 fixed-base operations in Europe within the next two to three years with Paris Le Bourget and Nice in France, Shannon and Dublin in Ireland, Milan in Italy, Munich in Germany, Olbia in Sardinia and Zurich in Switzerland the key locations of interest," he adds. Grimes, a former chief executive of Harrods Aviation, admits that these locations are "highly prized and sought after", but is undaunted by the challenge. "There is tremendous asset value in these locations as they are all attracting a great deal of business aircraft traffic," he says.

 Stephen Grimes Ocean Sky
 © Ocean Sky

Ocean Sky, which is owned by Luxembourg-based trust fund Ocean Group International, is keen to offer an array of services for its customers at its jet centres "where it makes sense to do so. For example we offer MRO at Manchester, but not at Prestwick, and we will examine each location on its merits," says Grimes, who as a 14-year veteran of the business aviation industry was appointed earlier this year to run Ocean Sky's jet centre arm. "It has already been a very busy few months with the formation of the Luton jet centre a priority for me," he says.

Ocean Sky's Luton base opened in April and Grimes and his team are now ramping up their marketing activity for the facility, which is about 50km (31 miles) from central London in a building formerly occupied by Harrods Aviation - before it moved to the other side of the airfield - and the ramp area formerly used by Silverjet's all-premium Boeing 767 fleet before it suspended operations last year.

"Luton is a vibrant airport and one of the busiest in the London area with around 21,500 business aircraft movements recorded last year. It is vital that we have a base here," say Grimes. He adds that the facility is in a "prime spot as the apron area is very close to the runway, reducing the likelihood of congestion or interference from commercial traffic - common at the airport during peak times."

Although Luton became a slot-controlled airport 18 months ago, Grimes says this has had little impact on business aircraft movements. "It can be difficult to get a slot at peak times, but very often our customers want to travel outside these times and there are few problems," he says. The airport's 24/7 opening hour policy is a key attraction for both customers and operators alike "as fellow business aircraft airports in the London areas such as Biggin Hill, Farnborough and Northolt operate under strict curfews".

Ocean Sky lounge
 © Ocean Sky

A key obstacle at Luton, Grimes admits, is the time-consuming immigration procedures. Passengers' passports have to be presented at the main terminal, which can add a significant chunk of time to their overall journey. "Passengers spend a lot of money to fly to their destination quickly and don't expect to get held up at the airport to get their passport checked," he says. Ocean Sky is now in discussion with the UK border agency to base immigration officers at its terminal before the end of June.

The company also plans to offer handling, parking and line maintenance "on Bombardier and Dassault types initially, but we are looking at opportunities to develop a full maintenance capability with a hangar at some stage", says Grimes. "The pinch point at Luton is concrete - there simply isn't enough of it to accommodate the demands of all the airport's residents."

Ocean Sky earlier this year made its first foray into the aircraft completions business with the acquisition of Manchester-based aircraft interior refurbishment firm Dean Aircraft Interiors. Grimes says Ocean Sky will continue to look at the completions business and will consider either setting one up from scratch or buying one in the right location.

"As well as Europe we are also looking closely at the Middle Eastern market with a view to establishing bases in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Dubai within the next five years. We plan to build a chain of jet centres but our focus is not on quantity, but quality," says Grimes.

Source: Flight Daily News