Government flying services specialist FR Aviation of the UK hopes to expand into South-East Asia and Australasia through its A$62 million ($40.6 million) purchase of National Jet Systems (NJS). But it says it has no plans to divest itself of Adelaide-based NJS' civil operations.

National Jets Italia, British Airways' planned Italian regional operation, is a private venture headed by NJS managing director Warren Seymour and is not included in the deal.

Cobham subsidiary FRA, which has a minor presence in South-East Asia, believes NJS is well placed to win government flying and training contracts in the region. NJS has experience in the market, operating 13 aircraft on customs duties as Surveillance Australia.

FRA managing director Geoff Roe becomes NJS chairman, with Seymour and his co-managing director Adele Lloyd remaining as non-executive directors. The purchase should close by 1 February, subject to regulatory approval.

FRA specialises in government services and high-speed target and electronic warfare (EW)"aggressor" flying. It is also a partner in the UK tri-service Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS).

Cobham chief executive Gordon Page says the NJS purchase gives his group "critical mass" in Australia, which is considering a DHFS-style school and is reviewing high-speed target and EW training requirements. Asian nations, including Malaysia and Singapore, are also reviewing similar needs.

NJS' civil business centres on operations for Australian flag carrier Qantas, using 12 British Aerospace 146 regional jets, plus three 146 freighters operated for Australian Air Express. NJS also operates resource industry contracts, provides crew, testing and maintenance for Vision Systems' Laser Airborne Depth Sounding (LADS) survey aircraft, and leases an Avro RJ70 to Air Niugini.

FRA says civil work is a strong revenue generator for NJS, and will be kept within the company. It adds that the business will probably retain its name.

Source: Flight International