Canadian Business Aviation Behemoth Skyservice Has Big League Plans for the United States: Exclusive with CEO Benjamin Murray

With the planned 2025 opening of its new, hyper-luxe FBO development in Fort Lauderdale, Skyservice continues to expand its capabilities from Canada throughout North America.

(Toronto, Ontario) On the heels of its recently-announced partnership with Fontainebleau Development and the completion of its investments in Fontainebleau’s Opa-Locka and forthcoming Fort Lauderdale fixed base operators (FBOs), business aviation company Skyservice is continuing to broaden its core capabilities from Canada to North America in a particularly bold – and particularly ‘hyper-luxe’ – way, via South Florida and beyond.

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A rendering of the forthcoming Fontainebleau Aviation fixed-base operator (FBO) site at Fort Lauderdale International Airport (IATA: FLL, ICAO: KFLL, FAA LID: FLL), courtesy of Skyservice.

Specifically, after announcing both its partnership with Fontainebleau and the completion of its investment in Fontainebleau Aviation’s FBO at Miami’s Opa-Locka Airport (IATA: OPF; ICAO: KOPF; FAA LID: OPF) in December of 2023, Skyservice recently (on February 22nd) announced the completion of its investment in Fontainebleau Aviation’s development project at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (IATA: FLL, ICAO: KFLL, FAA LID: FLL), marking the first co-development project between Skyservice and Fontainebleau Development. The forthcoming Fontainebleau Aviation Fort Lauderdale FBO’s planned opening is currently set for the first half of 2025.

For those who have not yet heard of Skyservice (you will, soon), the 38-year-old company has, at the very least, a great story. In 2020, Benjamin Murray, the former president and chief operating officer of NetJets, joined Skyservice as both its chief executive officer and single largest individual investor. At the time, a large part of Skyservice’s appeal for Murray was the company’s vertically integrated business model.

“Basically, I honed in on this Canadian aviation business with a really great motor on it, which had all five of the businesses I was looking for: FBOs, aircraft management, charter, maintenance and repairs and aircraft sales,” Murray explained. “To this day, Skyservice works collaboratively on all five of these businesses, and this really sums up our key value proposition for customers; most of our aircraft management customers are also base tenants at our hangars, they get all of their services through Skyservice – fuel, maintenance, aircraft consulting services with respect to optimizing economics and when they need to make acquisitions, and charter sales – they work with Skyservice for aircraft sales and consultancy services, and then some.”

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Photo of Skyservice Business Aviation & Fontainebleau Aviation Chief Executive Officer Benjamin Murray, courtesy of Skyservice.

Out of the gate, Murray sought to accelerate Skyservice’s five-spoke business model, focusing specifically on driving growth, key areas of business and geographic expansion, providing top-tier customer service, sustainability and clean tech efforts, continuing to build and expand an MVP team and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

In October of 2021, Skyservice became the first business aviation provider in Canada to offer sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to its customers, in partnership with World Fuel, at its Toronto FBO facility. To extend the benefits of SAF to all of its Canadian locations, Skyservice began offering World Fuel’s SAF Book and Claim solution, a program that continues to date.

“We are actively striving to reduce the environmental impact of our operations, and providing low-carbon fuels is just one of several strategies we are employing to achieve this goal,” Murray said. “We will continue to work with our fuel providers in providing sustainable choices to our clients and continuously look for ways to lower Skyservice’s carbon footprint”.

In November of 2021, one month after introducing its pioneering SAF program in Canada, Skyservice Business Aviation began its expansion to the United States, announcing four new locations in the Pacific Northwest as Leading Edge Jet Center rebranded its facilities, services and teams at (1) King County International Airport-Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, (2) Redmond Municipal Airport and (3) Bend Municipal Airport in Central Oregon and (4) Helena Regional Airport in Helena, Montana under the Skyservice banner. Later, in December of 2022, Skyservice announced the opening of its new FBO facility in Napa, California and in spring of 2023, the company opened an FBO in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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Photo of Skyservice's Toronto South Hangar, courtesy of Skyservice.

Fast-forward to late 2023 and 2024: with respect to its most recent U.S. investment at Opa-Locka and development in Fort Lauderdale, Skyservice sought to be able to provide the benefits of its five-spoke business model and commitment to service directly to its customers in South Florida, the number one destination for its Canadian fleet (which currently boasts about 70 aircraft), according to Murray. And so Skyservice’s partnership with Fontainebleau Development was born.

“The collaboration between Skyservice and Fontainebleau in developing the new era of FBOs has been remarkable,” Murray, who is now also the Chief Executive Officer of Fontainebleau Aviation Holdings, said. “Today’s clients expect the amenities and conveniences of an FBO to match those of the best hotels - cue Fontainebleau’s latest masterpiece, Fontainebleau Las Vegas - as well as efficiency and safety that exceed any standard or policy. We’re pleased to work with Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Broward County to meet these expectations and provide the best of what business aviation has to offer.”

In keeping with the ultra-luxe nature of Fontainebleau’s FBO at Opa-Locka, Skyservice and the Fontainebleau Development team, led by Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Soffer and President Brett Mufson, will apply their signature brand of ‘next-level modern luxury’ to the forthcoming Fort Lauderdale development.

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A photo of Fontainebleau Aviation's Opa-Locka FBO courtesy of Fontainebleau Aviation on Instagram, @fontainebleauaviation.

“We feel this partnership has limitless potential, as we are creating a groundbreaking luxury FBO while also raising the standard of expectations for best-in-class aviation experiences,” Soffer said. “This is the beginning of a new era, where FBO amenities – powered by Skyservice and Fontainebleau Development – rival the finest luxury stays, founded in nearly 40 years of expertise, award-winning service, and safety excellence.”

The Fontainebleau Aviation FBO at Opa-Locka – one of the United States’ busiest general aviation airports - houses approximately 235,000 square feet of hangar space and a 60,000 square foot executive terminal; Fort Lauderdale will support an 80,000 square foot hangar, a 25,000 square foot lobby, and hangar offices and an executive suite. The goal: to provide “something for everyone” in South Florida - those seeking to fly in to a completely private terminal via Opa-Locka as well as those looking for direct access to both private and commercial terminals via the hub-and-spoke system in Fort Lauderdale.

“The network is collaborative, and our customers can expect the same quality in Florida as they receive at all of our Canadian and U.S. locations - the same safety standards, deep experience of more than 38 years and quality of care and custody of aircraft,” Murray said.

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A photo of the lobby of Fontainebleau Aviation's Opa-Locka FBO courtesy of Fontainebleau Aviation on Instagram, @fontainebleauaviation.

As for community benefits, Murray expects that the new Fort Lauderdale facility will bring between 75 and 100 new jobs to the surrounding community for day-to-day operations at the FBO, and many more opportunities with respect to fly-in, contractor and other roles. Similarly, 112 people are employed at Skyservice’s Opa-Locka facility.

Which brings us to the team: Skyservice currently maintains nearly 1,000 employees across 16 locations in North America. Last month, on February 1st, the company announced changes to its organizational model in the interest of enhancing client engagement and driving growth opportunities: Skyservice’s new structure consists of three global business lines in Business Aviation, Fixed-Base Operations and Aircraft Maintenance. Ron Silverman, the former Chief Commercial Officer at Jet Linx, joined the company as President of Business Aviation, and, within Skyservice, Ty Dubay, the former President of NetJets China and an SVP of Executive Jet Management, became President of Fixed-Base Operations and 18-year Skyservice veteran Paul Weeks became the President of Maintenance.

“We’ve got all three verticals, and all this history, with our leadership team, amazing partnerships – including our partnership with Fontainebleau – and wide-ranging private equity support, Murray said. “What makes Skyservice unique is that now we have this legacy business that has brought in new leadership and new thinking, and the team that we’ve assembled has run some of the largest global companies in business aviation. We’re super-charging the business and adding decades of success and expertise.”

With respect to the future, Murray is looking forward to continuing to drive growth alongside an all-star team and world-class service company, both in Canada and in the United States.

“Skyservice is in a strong position for future growth across all our lines of business,” Murray said. “We continue to search for opportunities that provide added value and service excellence to our customers as well as build infrastructure to meet the new and growing demands of Business Aviation. The industry is changing, and we are excited to be at the forefront of innovation.”

Skyservice: Key Specs

THE TEAM

  • President and Chief Executive Officer: Benjamin Murray
  • Chief Financial Officer: Qi Tang
  • Chief Human Resources Officer: Mirjana Bosnic
  • President, Fixed-Base Operations: Ty Dubay
  • President, Business Aviation: Ronald Silverman
  • President, Maintenance: Paul Weeks
  • Vice President, Information Technology: Peter Leblanc
  • Vice President, Marketing & Customer Engagement: Vanessa Engel
  • General Counsel: Diana Forgione

THE FLEET: AIRCRAFT MANAGEMENT, CHARTER & SALES

  • Skyservice currently boasts a fleet of about 70 aircraft, approximately half of which are available for charter, ranging from light jets to ultra-long-range (ULR) aircraft.
  • Skyservice’s Canadian fleet has achieved the Aviation Research Group/US’s (ARG/US) Platinum safety rating annually for the past nine consecutive years.
  • Skyservice plans to launch a charter loyalty program for its charter clients later this year.

FBOS

Skyservice’s FBO network extends throughout Canada and the United States, with specific FBO locations in:

  • Canada: Calgary (CYYC), Montréal (CYUL), Ottawa (CYOW), Toronto Midfield (CYYZ), Toronto South (CYYZ), Vancouver (CYVR), and
  • United States: Bend, Oregon (KBDN); Helena, Montana (KHLN); Redmond, Oregon (KRDM); Seattle (KBFI),Napa, California (KAPC), Miami Opa-locka (OPF)* and soon Fort Lauderdale (FLL) with Fontainebleau Aviation, a Skyservice company in partnership with Fontainebleau Development

MRO & AOG SERVICES

  • Skyservice is an Authorized Service Facility for Bombardier, a Gulfstream Authorized Warranty Facility, a Dassault Falcon Authorized Service Center, and a HondaJet Authorized Service Center.
  • Skyservice maintains MRO facilities in the following locations: (1) Canada: Calgary (CYYC), Montréal (CYUL), , Muskoka (CYQA), Toronto (CYYZ), & Vancouver (CYVR); (2) United States: Bend, Oregon (KBDN); Helena, Montana (KHLN); Redmond, Oregon (KRDM)
  • Skyservice offers mobile AOG and local AOG support in the following locations: (1) Canada: Toronto; Montréal; Calgary; Muskoka, Ontario and Vancouver; (2) United States: Bend, Oregon; Helena, Montana; and Redmond, Oregon

ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVES & SUSTAINABILITY EFFORTS

  • Skyservice’s Toronto FBO was the first to offer sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to clients in Canada; additionally, Skyservice was the first FBO to introduce SAF to Boeing Field in Seattle via AvFuel.
  • Skyservice offers carbon offset options in Canada through its partnership with World Fuel, which offers a Book and Claim program.
  • With respect to aircraft recycling, from parts distribution, to dismantling, through materials recycling, Skyservice has developed innovative strategies for management of end-of-life aircraft.
  • Skyservice’s development projects target Zero Energy buildings, including electric vehicle charging infrastructure and rooftop solar compatibility.
  • Skyservice is also upgrading its fleet vehicles with electric vehicles when available. Its most recently built FBO location in Canada, Skyservice South at Toronto Pearson International Airport, offers shuttle services for customers in an electric Polaris GEM E4 Golf cart.
  • Skyservice’s Toronto facility was designed as a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient building.
Newsfeed: Thursday, May 30, 2024