Jet Aviation, the wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics, continues to enhance its operations in the U.S. and elsewhere worldwide as a way to retain and attract market share in the FBO sector.

“We are continually asked to up our game,” says David Paddock, senior vice president and general manager of regional operations, USA. “Customers expect us to make new investments in our facilities and improve our service levels.”

Remaining inert is not an option: “We want to continue to grow our network, particularly at those locations where we have capacity restrictions,” Paddock says. “We also continue to look for more real estate development projects to broaden our capacity footprint.”

Jet Aviation’s $250 million recent acquisition of Hawker Pacific, a provider of civil MRO, fleet and FBO services, expands its footprint in the Asia-Pacific region. With Hawker Pacific, Jet Aviation adds seven FBOs, 14 MROs and over 400,000 sq. ft. of hangar space. The buy also established its presence in China. More than 800 employees joined Jet Aviation.

Work at facilities on both U.S. coasts and in the middle of the country continues. Construction of a new 122,000-sq.-ft. facility in Van Nuys, California, has begun. The new FBO will have a 42,000-sq.-ft. hangar plus 10,000 sq. ft. for offices. Another hangar will be built for Gulfstream operations. Completion is slated for summer 2019.

At its Teterboro, New Jersey center, Jet Aviation has begun construction of a 40,000-sq.-ft. hangar replete with tenant offices. The hangar will accommodate larger business aircraft. The project should be completed by summer 2019.

In Dallas, the first floor of Jet Aviation’s FBO will be completely remodeled and its Bedford, Massachusetts, facility was redesigned. The two-story, 30,000-sq.-ft. Bedford facility has two lounge areas, plus two showers and a rest area for pilots. A 40,000-sq.-ft. hangar capable of housing Gulfstream G650 and Global 7000 aircraft is on-site.

Jet Aviation is one of the larger FBO chains, with 30 locations worldwide. Signature Flight Support, which has 205 locations globally, and Atlantic Aviation, which manages 70 FBOs, are first and second.

But unlike some FBOs, Jet Aviation is more than a gas station. To provide perspective, Paddock broke down the overall business in three parts. One third of the company’s business is VIP business aircraft completions; another third is MRO; and the rest includes the myriad of services the FBO provides, including fueling. Which, for the U.S. FBOs, remains the primary source of revenue.

The company’s aircraft management fleet, charter, staffing businesses and FBOs continue to grow, said Paddock. The only downsizing occurred at St. Louis, which had been the second-largest site for aircraft completions. Completions are currently performed only at the company’s site in Basel, Switzerland.

Transparent fuel and services pricing, while not a direct threat to business aviation, remains a concern, Paddock says. AOPA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, lobbied strenuously for transparency and reasonable fuel prices at federally funded airports after receiving numerous complaints regarding rising fuel costs, ramp fees, parking fees and handling fees. In late 2017, FAA issued guidance for pilots, FBOs and airport sponsors on transparent pricing of the various services.

Jet Aviation is out front on the need for FBOs to adopt SMS and IS-BAH best practices for business aviation ground handlers.

Risk avoidance methodologies and SMS systems “are keys to our success,” said Paddock.

In September 2018, Jet Aviation San Juan became the first FBO in Puerto Rico to qualify for Stage 1 IS-BAH registration. San Juan now joins the eight U.S.-based Jet Aviation FBOs and the 13 in EMEA (Continental Europe) and Asia that have achieved IS-BAH certification.

SMS and IS-BAH are seen as pro-business as well as a safety initiative. SMS can save FBOs 10% to 20% per year in personal injuries, aircraft damage and other events, said Paddock.

At NBAA-BACE, Jet Aviation will unveil its new FBO mobile app, a tool to ease Jet Aviation customer transactions. The idea, says Paddock, is to get customers to order and pay for services on a mobile device. The mobile app can help notify the FBO in regard to customer’s needs in advance and ensure that the FBO is staffed properly at the time of the customers’ arrival.

“We are seeing a generational shift in the use of mobile apps to streamline various transactions,” Paddock says. “Our customers are young and prefer tech,” he says, over paper transactions.