Business aviation service providers were bucking the concerns of the broader business aviation industry at the show by announcing plans to expand their global portfolios of fixed-base operations in preparation for the market rebound.

Signature Flight Support's chief executive Michael Scheeringa says the Orlando-headquartered market leader will expand "significantly" its FBO network in "first world cities" through acquisitions, joint ventures and licensing arrangements with local operators.

"We are keen to have a global focus and have conducted research on our customers, competitors and the geopolitical challenges to establish a template of what we are going to build towards over the next 10 years," Scheeringa said at NBAA.

The 15-year-old company, which is owned by BBA Aviation of the UK, already has a pool of 102 FBOs - 57 in the USA, 25 in Europe, 19 in South America, which it operates under a joint venture partnership with Brazilian company Lider, and one in South Africa. "Despite the large number of FBOs in our chain, this only represents 7% of the global market," said Scheeringa. "We have barely scratched the surface."

Signature's ambitious plans were shared by VVIP business aviation services provider X Jet, which is seeking to extend its brands of seven-star FBOs across the globe, with the USA, Europe and the USA its immediate focus.

X Jet founder and president Josh Stewart said at the show that it will break ground early next year on two new "aviation campuses" at Paris Le Bourget and Abu Dhabi's Al Bateen airport. The facilities will mirror the company's members-only facility in Denver, Colorado - which is also being expanded - where 13 aircraft owners pay a one-off fee for dedicated hangarage, handling and lounge access.

"This business model has been a huge success," said Stewart. "We opened this facility two years ago to cater to aircraft owners rather than pilots and to remove the dependence on fuel sales for profit. With the seven-star business model we have revolutionised private aviation and turned the traditional FBO model upside down."

The Le Bourget and Al Bateen facilities will give X Jet a foothold in the European and Middle Eastern markets, respectively, where expansion is spearheaded by X Jet partners and investors James Cole and Ali Al Naqbi.

"We will offer at both facilities X Jet World club membership for up to 25 members each as well as FBO services for transitional passengers," said Stewart. Meanwhile, UK business aviation services provider Ocean Sky said at the show that it would add at least nine FBOs next year to its portfolio of European based operations and is seeking to carve a slice of the Middle East and US markets.

Source: Flight International