The big keep getting bigger, as consolidation, renovation and expansion continue among fixed-base operators (FBOs). For the bigger FBO chains at least, business appears to be getting better, although the expansion of manufacturer-owned service-centre networks poses a challenge.

Cessna Aircraft now operates eight US Citation service centres, with a ninth to become operational at San Antonio, Texas, in mid-1996. These handle 40% of the 2,200-strong Citation business-jet fleet. The company is exploring a joint venture to establish an existing European site as a Citation service hub, having abandoned plans for a company-owned centre.

Bombardier acquired four Learjet service centres from AMR Combs in 1994, and has established Bombardier Aviation Services, a chain of seven factory-owned sites, including one in Germany, providing Challenger and Learjet service.

Raytheon Aircraft expanded its United Beechcraft FBO chain to 18 with the January addition of the Hawker business-jet completion and service centre at Little Rock, Arkansas. Raytheon also added its first overseas site with the decision to establish Chester in the UK as a company-owned Hawker service centre, to remain after Hawker assembly is moved to the USA in 1997.

Signature Flight Support has the largest independent chain, with 35 flight-support operations (FSOs) across the USA. A renovation programme is under way, and Signature's prototype "FSO of the future" opened at Hartford, Connecticut, in December 1994.

A new FSO, modeled on Hartford, will open at Las Vegas in August, replacing the site leveled to make way for runway improvements. Louisville, Kentucky's airport authority is building an FBO modeled on Hartford, to replace the Signature FSO razed to make room for a new runway, but has yet to decide who will operate the new site.

AMR Combs opened a new FBO in February at Denver International Airport, Colorado, to replace its Stapleton Airport operation, and an eleventh US site is under construction at San Francisco. In 1994, the company formed a joint venture with Mexico's SACSA to operate new sites at Toluca, Mexico City's business airport, and Los Cabos as AMR Combs FBOs.

Garrett Aviation Services, which was created in July 1994 by the purchase of the general-aviation hangar operations of AlliedSignal, has acquired the Van Nuys, California-based Jet Center, and now operates five US sites. Sabreliner acquired Midcoast Aviation in 1994, and now has five centres in the central USA. Stevens Aviation has also been acquiring and now has seven US sites.

Canada's Innotech/Execaire Aviation says that it, too, is on the acquisition trail. The company operates nine North American sites, but has had to shelve plans to develop two FBOs in Russia in a venture with Aeroflot. The company cites difficulties in securing leases for the land required.

Internationally, Mexico and the Middle East are areas of increasing activity. TAESA has opened what it claims is the largest FBO in Latin America at Toluca, with a helicopter shuttle to Mexico City. Arabian Aircraft Services opened a new FBO at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in January, and is co-operating with Switzerland's Zimex Aviation. Bahrain-based Gulf Aeronautical Services opened for business earlier this year.

Jet Aviation, the largest international business aviation service company with nine sites in Europe, four in the USA and two in Saudi Arabia, opened up a sixth centre in Germany, at Cologne/Bonn, in June.

Source: Flight International