By Jack Elliott
The Air Group, a major management and charter operator headquartered in Los Angeles, will construct a large new facility at Teterboro Airport. It will serve as headquarters for the company’s eastern operations.
The facility, going up on the east side of the airport near the tower, will include two 30,000-square-foot hangars, as well as a 12,000-square foot office building. An old hangar currently on the site will be demolished prior to construction, scheduled for completion in the fall.
The new facility will be built on land leased from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by Signature Flight Support, one of the fixed base operations on the field. Signature will build the complex and The Air Group will be a tenant.
“The new complex will be state of the art,” said Jon Winthrop, chairman and CEO of The Air Group. “It will include a full-service maintenance facility that will be used principally to service the company’s own aircraft. The new in-house facility will be similar to the Los Angeles maintenance operation and will give us full control of technical services. The importance of having control of these services can’t be overemphasized. We’ll have the latest equipment and will be set up to utilize the most modern processes.”
Winthrop pointed out that the facility will not be a full-service FBO.
“We will not compete with the five FBOs now on the field,” he said. “This facility will be used to serve our management and charter customers.”
Initially, the Teterboro complex will be slightly larger than The Air Group’s Los Angeles headquarters.
“That will only last for a short while,” Winthrop said. “We’re expanding our headquarters on the West Coast, which will open not long after the Teterboro facility. When the new section is open, the Los Angeles headquarters will be larger than the Teterboro eastern base of operations.”
The Air Group manages 35 aircraft, 28 of which are on a Part 135 certificate. The fleet ranges from a King Air 300 to a Global Express and GV. Five aircraft were added to the fleet in 2005, including a GIV at Teterboro.
The company entered its 26th year in December 2005. Winthrop started the company with a single Citation 500 based in Burbank, Calif. Today, the company has bases in St. Louis, Mo.; Honolulu; Santa Barbara, Santa Ana and San Francisco, Calif.; and Denver.
The Los Angles headquarters facility is at Van Nuys Airport. In addition to a sales office in Chicago, the company has aircraft based at Teterboro and Baltimore. The Air Group also has an operation in Japan.
“We rent hangar space from Japan Airlines at Haneda Airport, outside Tokyo,” Winthrop said. We have a Japanese partner, which is a Tokyo aerospace company. They provide APU (auxiliary power unit) programs for the Japanese defense forces. They also manufacture aircraft parts, such as pumps and actuators, and they’re the exclusive sales agent in Japan for the Gulfstream GIV-SP and the GV.”
Winthrop got into aviation through the back door. After he graduated from the University of Southern California, where he studied business, finance and marketing, he went to work for IBM as manager of the company’s government program.
“I sold office equipment to aerospace companies,” he said. “Working in the government program, I had security clearance to go into their facilities, which no other office equipment manufacturer had. One of my customers was a Learjet company, Golden Jet Airways. They operated eight Learjet 35s for Purolator, which competed with FedEx at the time. Learjet hired me as a salesman.”
In the late 1970s, Winthrop served as director of marketing for Avjet Corporation in Burbank.
“They operated a Westwind, Turbo Commander and King Air on charter,” he said. “I was responsible for the aircraft management division and all charter operations.”
In 1980, Winthrop started The Air Group.
“I had one customer who owned a Citation 500,” he said. “It was six or seven months before I got a second customer. Then I got a contract with a Detroit company that had three Learjets. We got our first GII in 1982. Sometime in the mid-1980s, we had our first Hawker for charter.”
Shortly after that, they opened a FAR Part 145 repair station in Van Nuys. Things have gone well for The Air Group over the years.
“In 2005, our business was up about 15 percent,” Winthrop said. “Our charter business was up 10 or 11 percent.”
Forecasts for 2006 and 2007 are up.
“We expect to add 10 percent to our revenue and bottom line,” he said. The new Teterboro facility will help them toward accomplishing that goal.
Winthrop said the company has recently seen a change in the approach of buyers.
“Since the economy has strengthened, we see smarter buyers,” he said. “They’re a lot more discriminating. They pay a lot more attention to evaluating options. They’re much more concerned with how their money is spent.”
Winthrop sees growth ahead in the next five years for The Air Group.
“I’d like to see us in the 50 to 75 airplane group range,” he said.
As far as the market place, Winthrop forecasts that it will consolidate.
“Some smaller operators will drop out,” he said.
He also believes that the future for management and charter looks bright.
“The airlines are getting worse and worse,” he said. “They can’t service the client base that can afford to pay for executive service.”
For more information, visit [http://www.theairgroup.com].