News - Page 6 Aviation Articles

Landmark Aviation Signs Agreement to Acquire Ross Aviation

Image Courtesy Landmark Aviation

(Houston, TX – April 23, 2014) Landmark Aviation announced today that it signed a definitive agreement to acquire Ross Aviation, a network of fixed based operations located throughout the United States, from investment funds affiliated with Centre Partners Management LLC and management. The acquisition, which is subject to satisfaction of customary closing conditions, is expected to close during the second half of 2014.

"We are very excited about this acquisition, as the high quality Ross network is complementary to ours, and will extend the Landmark network to key U.S. airports, allowing us to better serve our customers," explains Dan Bucaro, Landmark Aviation President and CEO. "We are also looking forward to working with the various airport authorities and becoming active members in each of those communities."

Jeff Ross, CEO of Ross Aviation, said "We are excited for the many opportunities this combination will bring for Ross Aviation and its employees. We believe the transaction will further increase the value proposition for our customers, and we look forward to the combined company’s continued growth and success."

Rothschild is acting as financial advisor and Latham & Watkins LLP is serving as legal advisor to Landmark. Harris Williams & Co. is acting as financial advisor and Dechert LLP is serving as legal advisor to Ross Aviation.

About Landmark Aviation - Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Landmark Aviation operates a network of fixed base operations located throughout the U.S., and in Canada and Western Europe. The Company offers a wide range of services, including FBO, MRO, charter and management. Landmark is a portfolio company of The Carlyle Group. For more information, visit www.landmarkaviation.com.

About The Carlyle Group - The Carlyle Group (NASDAQ: CG) is a global alternative asset manager with over $189 billion of assets under management. Carlyle's purpose is to invest wisely and create value. Carlyle invests across four segments – Corporate Private Equity, Real Assets, Global Market Strategies and Fund of Funds Solutions –in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America. Carlyle has expertise in various industries, including: aerospace, defense & government services, consumer & retail, energy, financial services, healthcare, industrial, technology & business services, telecommunications & media and transportation. The Carlyle Group employs 1,500 people in 34 offices across six continents.The Carlyle Group – Website

About Ross Aviation - Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, Ross Aviation operates a network of fixed base operations located throughout the U.S. The Company provides aviation fueling, hangar and other line services to business and commercial aviation customers. Ross Aviation is a portfolio company of Centre Partners Management LLC. For more information, visit www.rossaviation.com.

About Centre Partners - Centre Partners, founded in 1986, is a leading private equity firm with a middle market focus that seeks to make acquisitions and equity investments alongside management teams who have or desire a meaningful economic stake in the future success of their businesses. Centre Partners has invested over $3 billion in more than 90 transactions in partnership with management teams. Centre Partners provides those teams with access to its unique resources, which include an extended network of experienced and proven operating executives. Additional information is available at www.centrepartners.com.

Landmark Aviation Aquiries RSS Jet Centre

Image Courtesy Landmark Aviation

Houston, TX – April 2, 2014 - Landmark Aviation has acquired RSS Jet Centre Limited, which operates FBO locations at London Luton Airport (EGGW), Manchester Airport (EGCC), and Glasgow Prestwick Airport (EGPK). The locations will be re-branded to "Landmark Aviation".

"We are excited to expand our operations into the United Kingdom," stated Dan Bucaro, President and CEO. "This acquisition increases our presence in Europe, and is representative of our commitment to the strategic growth of our network."

The FBO at Luton boasts a state-of-the-art facility, including a VIP lounge, spacious passenger lobby, coffee bar, crew amenities, and an executive conference room. The Manchester FBO offers flight planning, passenger and crew lounges, secure parking, hangar and client office space. The FBO at Prestwick is conveniently located with easy access to some of Scotland’s best golf courses, and offers a flight planning center, a VIP lounge, crew amenities, secure parking and a passenger lobby.

This acquisition brings the Landmark network to 57 locations, including eight under license, 13 of which are in Western Europe.

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Landmark Aviation operates a network of fixed base operations located throughout the U.S., Canada and Western Europe. The Company offers a wide range of services, including FBO, MRO, aircraft management & charter. Landmark is a portfolio company of the Carlyle Group. For more information, visit www.landmarkaviation.com.

Live-Streaming: The Future of Flight Tracking?

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 once again raises questions about the real-time tracking of aircraft. MH370 remains missing after controllers lost contact with it on March 8th. Authorities have assumed the Boeing 777 crashed in a remote area of the Indian Ocean.

The idea of real-time flight tracking has been discussed before, namely after Air France Flight 447 went missing and was later found in the ocean in 2007. It took investigators almost two years to recover the flight data recorder after the A330 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Afterward, the public and industry folks alike wondered how we can manage to locate missing cell phones, but not missing aircraft? Even with the addition of NextGen technology like data link and ADS-B that's on board aircraft today, it's strangely not enough to find a missing airliner.

While the search for MH370 continues, industry groups are once again revisiting the idea of a live-streaming flight recorder for airliners. While the costs associated with it aren't anything that airlines want to pay, many believe that the cost is minimal when compared to the added benefits, and that it's an obvious remedy for cases like MH370 and AF447.

The NTSB is one industry group that is still interested in the concept of live-streamed data from aircraft. According to Reuters, the NTSB plans to continue to examine potential solutions that could include real time streaming of aircraft data from the flight recorder or ACARS, or both.

What About ACARS?
Currently, many planes are equipped with data tracking services like ACARS - data link technology that uses VHF and satellite communication to gather data from sensors on the aircraft. The data is sent from air to ground at certain times during the flight, transmitting things like flight times, location and fuel usage to air traffic controllers and dispatchers. The ACARS system on MH370 was disabled in flight, but satellites were still able to "ping" the aircraft about once per hour.

Why Can't We Stream Flight Recorder Data?
The short answer is that we can. The technology is there, according to this New York Times article. The cost, however, is prohibitive. And the logistical demands associated with thousands of airliners transmitting real-time data all day aren't there yet. And according to the New York Times article, the infrastructure required for constant live-streaming from thousands of airliners would be huge.

To become equipped for live-streaming, airlines would pay $50,000- 100,000 per airplane, according to some sources, and an additional cost for the service might range from $5-10 per minute. In an already cash-strapped industry, airlines just aren't going to pay that much if they don't have to.

Future Technology
The conversation doesn't end there, though. At least one supplier, Flyht Aerospace Solutions, Ltd., is already able to stream black box data in an emergency.

Flyht claims that while live-streaming technology on airline flights is an investment, there is also a cost-benefit involved. Security isn't the only topic at hand here: Live-streaming of data can alert airlines of maintenance issues immediately, instead of hearing about it after the flight lands or minutes or hours after the event. It also allows for better monitoring of new procedures and the system can record data for future safety and cost analysis. Operators would be able to implement improvements and safety measures with this kind of access to data.

And of course, in the wake of MH370, a more secure system of tracking airliners would be a welcome one. Live-streaming of aircraft data could ensure that an aircraft never disappears again (as long as the system can't be easily disabled or manipulated from the cockpit.)

What's your opinion? Should future airline flight data be live-streamed?

Business Aviation & NextGen, Part II: Upgrade, Sell, or Do Nothing?


Image: Creative Commons/SempreVoldano

For aircraft owners, there are still a lot of issues surrounding the FAA's NextGen program. Determining what you should do to remain compliant without drowning in the high costs associated with the new avionics involved is challenging, to say the least.

Last month, in part one of our NextGen series, I discussed avionics equipment and mandates associated with the NextGen program, including what equipment is already mandated, what will be mandated come 2020 and what could potentially become required in the future. These scheduled and proposed mandates have become an important factor to consider for aircraft owners, especially when it comes to deciding whether to upgrade their aircraft's avionics or upgrade to a new airplane altogether.

Here's a rundown of what some aircraft owners have experienced, including how much cash you may need to shell out to get up to speed:

The Trends:
While some business jet operators have a little bit of time to think it over, others are already finding it necessary to upgrade their airplanes to ADS-B and FANS-1/A for international operations. And others are choosing to upgrade early to get it over with and avoid the consequences of not being ready for the 2020 ADS-B mandate.

"What I'm seeing is people using the cost of NextGen to justify an aircraft replacement sooner rather than waiting," says David Wyndham, President and Co-Owner of aircraft consulting firm Conklin & de Decker. "They are fearful of the cost of the upgrade on their older aircraft, or having an older aircraft with little resale appeal if they don't upgrade."

The resale value of an old airplane is one thing. The cost of new, mandated equipment exceeding the cost of the aircraft itself is another reality that aircraft owners must face.

But not everyone shares the opinion that upgrading now is the best option. Some aircraft owners are willing to wait it out with the preconception that the FAA won't be able to meet its own mandate in 2020, and with the hope that the cost of equipment will decrease as more manufacturers put their solutions on the market and better options start to emerge than exist right now. This plan could backfire, though: According to Duncan Aviation's website, as the deadline approaches, the cost of ADS-B will likely go up and aircraft owners could find themselves on a wait list for installation, and, ultimately, grounded.

The Challenges:
Equipment upgrades for NextGen have become a bit of a headache for aircraft owners, as much of the newer technology isn't compatible with what's currently on board aircraft, especially aircraft older than 10 years.

Jeremy Cox, Vice President of JetBrokers, Inc says there are problems at the manufacturer level when it comes to compatibility. "The main problem with ADS-B compliance…is that both Collins and Honeywell are still working on their FMS modifications to enable the ADS-B functionality."

"Worse, there will not be any weather depiction through most of the large aircraft FMS units, as they will not support the frequency," Cox says.

Add to this the possibility of STCs and required waivers for some equipment upgrades, and aircraft owners are experiences delays and down time for expensive equipment that they didn't want to begin with.

The Real Cost:
There are numerous options to consider when it comes to upgrading an airplane for NextGen, which is why every aircraft will be different when it comes to determining the cost of NextGen upgrades.

International operators will be hit the hardest, according to Cox. A full NextGen-compliant upgrade for an international, long-range business jet could likely mean numerous equipment upgrades, such as a new GPS, NAV system, FMS, transponder, Multi-Function Display (MFD), SATCOM, cockpit voice recorder (CVR), or a datalink printer.

Some owners will have additional options to consider, like whether to install ADS-B In along with ADS-B Out equipment. (As of now, the FAA is only mandating the use of ADS-B Out.)

Cox says the cost could add up to millions for business jet owners. "A Gulfstream IV will cost about $1 million to comply. A Falcon 900 will cost anywhere from $1.1 million to $3.5 million. A Challenger 601 will cost more than $1.5 million. Add to this the cost of in-flight SATCOM data that will always be turned on when operating within FANS and CDPLC airspace."

The Silver Lining:
If there's a silver lining to the cost of NextGen equipment, it's that the safety and efficiency that comes with these upgrades will benefit everyone who participates.

While the initial installation is no doubt costly, some people (depending on the type of ADS-B equipment used) will get satellite weather and traffic information at no cost. For those used to paying fees for satellite weather and GPS subscriptions, the high initial price of ADS-B might be worth it in the long run.

And still others see the value in NextGen overall. Pilots are all different when it comes to what they find necessary or valuable in avionics, and many see ADS-B and other equipment upgrades as a welcome and necessary part of the flying world.

Aircraft owner Neal Clayton says the technology is worth it. "I am not a weekend-afternoon local flyer. If I fly I'm going somewhere, at least across state lines, maybe at night, maybe in IMC, or maybe both. So things like synthetic terrain, weather display, and GPS steering are more than toys to me."

The Fight for Santa Monica Airport - A Timeline

"The Spirit of Santa Monica," was donated to the city by the Museum of Flying and was fully restored, and is on display at the Santa Monica Airport. The monument stands as a tribute to the legendary aircraft builder Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. and the company he founded, Douglas Aircraft Company – the city’s largest employer for 50 years. This photo can be found among many others at the Santa Monica Airport website.

Recent events regarding the future of the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) have played out across the news and websites of aviation organizations NBAA, AOPA and FAA. I went back in the archives of online news reports to build a timeline of events that have led to the recent federal court’s ruling.


June 2, 2011 - The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today welcomed an announcement that City of Santa Monica officials would not contest a federal court's ruling that the city could not ban "Category C and D" aircraft from Santa Monica Airport (SMO). The council's announcement, made earlier this week, follows a January 21 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in favor of a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the city's most recent attempt to ban the aircraft amounted to "unjust and unreasonable" discrimination and violated the terms of a grant agreement for accepting federal funds for the airport.

The controversy dates to 2008, when Santa Monica city officials adopted a ban against the Category C and D jets from serving SMO, on alleged safety grounds.The city's move was immediately challenged by the FAA, which ruled that the airport did not have the authority to impose the ban, and disallowed it from taking effect until the FAA could further consider the matter, with a decision from the agency being subject to a federal court appeal. Link to Details


May 7, 2013 - The Santa Monica City Council directed city staff to continue exploring options for the future of the Santa Monica Airport, including the possible impacts of a partial or complete closure. In a unanimous vote, council members voted to focus on finding ways to reduce airport noise, air pollution and safety risks through revised leasing policies, voluntary agreements and restrictions. City staff were also directed to continue to assess the potential risks and benefits of a full or partial closure of the airport.

Early on in the meeting, City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie outlined the city's legal options in the exploration of the future of the Santa Monica Airport. She said city staff met with representatives from the FAA to convey community sentiment about noise, safety and air quality, but did not reach a deal. Moutrie said the city owns the airport, but the city's choices are limited by federal law and several agreements, adding that the FAA has both legislative and judicial powers. The city believes its agreement with the FAA expires in 2015, while the FAA maintains the date is 2023. Link to Details


September 29, 2013 - A Cessna Citation CJ2 veered off the right side of Runway 21 after landing at Santa Monica (Calif.) Airport at 6:20 p.m. PDT. The twinjet struck a hangar and was destroyed by fire. The pilot of the plane that crashed at Santa Monica Airport, killing all four people aboard, reported no problems prior to the landing, and the plane's tires were fully inflated, despite early speculation that a blown tire may have sent the aircraft careening into a hangar, according to a preliminary report. The hangar collapsed onto the plane, which had taken off from Hailey, Idaho.

"Witnesses reported observing the airplane make a normal approach and landing," according to the NTSB report. "The airplane traveled down the right side of the runway, eventually veering off the runway, impacted the 1,000-foot runway distance remaining sign, continued to travel in a right-hand turn and impacted a hangar structural post with the right wing. The airplane came to rest inside the hangar and the damage to the hangar structure caused the roof to collapse onto the airplane. A post-accident fire quickly ensued.'' Link to Details


October 31, 2013 - In the wake of September's deadly jet crash, Santa Monica officials sued the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday to gain control of the city's embattled airport, which local groups want to turn into a park. Filed in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles, the lawsuit seeks a declaration that the city holds clear title to the 227 acres containing the oldest continuously operating airport in the county. It also challenges the constitutionality of a 1948 agreement between the city and federal authorities that requires the historic property and its 5,000-foot runway to remain an airport in perpetuity or be returned at the option of the FAA to the U.S. government.

If the city is successful, there is concern among aviation organizations that it might alter the status of former military airports around the nation and encourage attempts to close some of them.

FAA officials declined to comment, saying that as a matter of policy they do not discuss pending litigation. The agency's long-held position is that the city must operate the airport through 2023 under assurances it gave in exchange for federal airport improvement grants. The FAA also has asserted that Santa Monica is further obligated to keep the airport open well beyond 2023 because it acquired the much improved airfield after World War II under terms of the federal Surplus Property Act. FAA officials have said in the past that they are committed to preserving the federal investment and keeping the airport open. Link to Details


Feb. 10, 2014 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) today joined in filing a brief of amicus curiae supporting a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) motion to dismiss the latest effort to close the historic airfield.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen called the battle over SMO a "bellwether moment" in preserving other vital general aviation (GA) airfields across the country. "Santa Monica's latest attempt to close its community airport carries very serious ramifications for the continued viability of our nation's general aviation airports," he added. "It is imperative that the FAA maintain jurisdiction over SMO, and other essential airports that our Members rely upon for convenient access to communities across the United States."

The FAA countered last month that any questions over which entity holds the title to SMO must be settled under terms of the Quiet Title Act, which requires such lawsuits to be filed within 12 years following learning of the federal government’s interest in the property. That first occurred, the agency asserted, when both parties agreed in August 1948 to return control of the airfield to the city. Link to Details


Feb. 13, 2014 - A federal judge ruled in favor of the position advocated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), namely that the city’s challenge to the requirement that Santa Monica Airport (SMO) continue to be a publicly-accessible airport was untimely. Link to Details


Mar. 25, 2014 - Marsha Moutrie, City Attorney, and Martin Pastucha, Director of Public Works for the City of Santa Monica, prepared a report that offered several options to restrict operations at SMO. Recommended option included directing staff to begin positioning the City for possible closure of all or part of the Santa Monica Airport ("Airport") after July 1, 2015, including, for instance, by preparing a preliminary conceptual plan for a smaller airport that excludes the Airport's western parcel and by preparing preliminary work plans for environmental assessment. The CA City Council voted 6 to 0 to pursue further restrictions. Link to Report Details

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen replied, "It is clear that, despite a significant, recent legal setback, the council has voted to renew its efforts to restrict services at an important general aviation airport," Bolen said. "For decades, NBAA and others in the general aviation community have fought to preserve access to this airport, in the face of ongoing opposition by the city council. This is a battle we must and will continue to fight." Read the complete response from the NBAA at this Link to Details


For a more detailed overall history of the airport, check out their history page here.

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