Million Air Toronto at YKZ (Buttonville, Toronto ON, Canada) has completed a multimillion-dollar renovation and site improvement program. Included in this was a full reworking and overhaul that now includes a dedicated passenger lounge with cappuccino/soda bar, theater room, refurbished pilot lounge/snooze area and a new service and reception counter. Other standard Million Air amenities include full concierge service and BMW crew car. Toronto Airways, which operates the facility, has also expanded its educational/meeting capabilities by adding a 3rd seminar room and modernizing the 2 existing ones. A new flight dispatch area offering full weather and flight planning assistance and with dedicated ramp entrance has also been added. YKZ serves as a strategic reliever and alternate to the much larger YYZ (Pearson, Toronto ON, Canada) operation. Open 24/7, it offers lower landing fees and has customs services available on site. Photo shows Million Air Toronto Pres Derek Sifton at the service counter.
Pentastar Aviation at PTK (Pontiac MI) hosted an aviation day for area students in early July. Nearly 50 students aged 8–17, with little or no exposure to aviation, participated. Pentastar partnered with Oakland County, the Pontiac Alumni Foundation (PAF) and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles program. Most festivities took place in Pentastar’s Stargate terminal and adjacent ramp and hangars. Each student enjoyed a 20-min ride around the Waterford/Pontiac area in a GA aircraft, tours of the PTK control tower and fire and rescue facility, and presentations by aviation professionals. (Inset L) Pentastar Pres & CEO Rick Maloney addresses students. (Inset R) Students with USAF Col (R) Harry Stewart, a former member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Signature EWR (Newark NJ) now houses a US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) office. Services provided by CBP include the US Visit program, which assists Signature clientele with admissibility clearance when entering the US. In addition to a full range of FBO services, Signature EWR offers expedited transfers to commercial flights and transportation throughout the tri-state metropolitan area.
Assistair Business Aviation Handling, the FBO division of Mallorca, Spain-based Assistair Group, has added 2 new FBOs at GRO (Girona, Spain) and IBZ (Ibiza, Spain). The facilities opened in late June and join Assistair’s existing Spanish bases at BCN (Barcelona), PMI (Palma de Mallorca) and VLC (Valencia), which together handle some 10,000 passengers a year. The firm is looking actively at other Mediterranean destinations, including the south of France and Italy.
Construction of Odyssey’s jet center at NEW (Lakefront, New Orleans LA) is 25% complete. Odyssey has come a long way since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 and Owner Ken Allis faced an uncertain future for his FBO. Recently, Odyssey broke ground on its new permanent location at the main entrance to NEW. By year’s end visitors will be welcomed by a modern FBO in place of today’s temporary facility. Facilities and amenities planned for the new complex include a pilot lounge, conference room, flight planning room with WSI weather, and free wireless Internet access. Hangars can house aircraft up to the size of a Gulfstream V and overflow parking areas will be provided.
Business Airport ACH (Altenrhein, Switzerland) is building a new business aviation terminal to handle passengers and crews with destinations in eastern Switzerland, Liechtenstein and western Austria. Construction plans are in an advanced stage and the building may be ready in approximately 24 months.
Manny’s 50-year aviation love affair
Dressed for action, Manny Vargas is surrounded by local MAS staff members on the ramp at TLC, packing his standard compliment of multiple radios. Inset: In earlier days Manny was responsible for British Airways Concorde handling at ACA (Acapulco, Mexico).
Manny Aviation Services (MAS), with facilities at TLC (Toluca, Mexico City, Mexico) and full service handling at more than 60 locations throughout the country, was formed by Manuel “Manny” Vargas in 1997. MAS is a family business involving Manny’s son in handling, his daughter in charge of inflight catering and his wife serving as advisor.
Manny himself is often to be found on the ramp at TLC in his traditional jumpsuit festooned with all sorts of radios, phones and Web-enabled devices. “My goal is to convince customers that they’re in good hands in a very friendly country,” says Manny. “We coordinate all the details so that your flight will be a success.”
Building a business
It was in 1959, while working with his uncle Fernando’s MEX (Intl, Mexico City) catering business, which handled provisioning needs of Douglas DC6s, DC7s and Lockheed Constellations—that Manny discovered his passion for aviation. In 1965 he left to start a company handling charter flights to ACA (Acapulco) and in 1974, after meeting Universal Weather & Aviation Founder Tom Evans, he entered the world of business jet handling.
“Aviation gave me the opportunity to know the world without leaving home and handling corporate jets opened up a new panorama,” says Manny. “It required the need to be very professional and gracious with absolutely personalized customer attention.” From day 1 Manny was smitten by the aviation world and all it brought with it.
“I was inspired in seeing so many wonderful things—from the beautiful young flight attendants to all the activity that takes place on the ramp. I’d wear white gloves to deliver china, glasses and silverware as I hated to see these beautiful aircraft having fingerprints on them!”
Over the years Manny has interacted with a who’s-who of the business, entertainment and political worlds. He’s met former French President Charles de Gaulle and the Shah of Iran, arriving aboard a Sud SE210 Caravelle and Boeing 707-320, respectively.
Every US president from Carter to Clinton has been handled by Manny, along with Queen Elizabeth and former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Celebrity customers include many figures from the film world. “These high points have been very nice to motivate my life,” adds Manny.
While business has slowed over recent months, and Manny predicts slower-than-usual conditions for local bizav well into this year, the future remains bright. Busiest stations in Mexico these days, says Manny, are CUN (Cancún), NTR (Intl, Monterrey del Norte), SJD (Los Cabos, Cabo San Lucas) and TLC.
“We’re hiring more people and expanding conservatively,” adds Manny. Son Manuel Romero-Vargas, a law graduate, joined MAS in 2001. “We exist because our customers rely on us,” he says. “We push ourselves every day to exceed expected levels of service.” Manny, friend and handling confidant to heads of state and celebrities, is as smitten with aviation today as he was 50 years ago.
“My wife has always known that aviation is my fiancée on the side,” he says. “My target has always been to make customers feel at home, and the work I’m privileged to do is also my favorite hobby.”
Western Aircraft at BOI (Boise ID) has opened its new interior shop. Occupying more than 10,000 sq ft, the fully operational “re-completion center” focuses on major interior refurbishments for large business jets and turboprop aircraft. An Avfuel-branded FBO, Western Aircraft is an authorized service center, certified aircraft repair station and worldwide distributor of parts and avionics for manufacturers and OEMs including Dassault, Hawker Beechcraft, Pilatus, Honeywell and Rockwell Collins. Western has 6 major hangars totaling 120,000 sq ft and a 30,000 sq ft ramp. Comprehensive line service can accommodate any size of aircraft. Facilities include a private terminal with pilot lounge, conference rooms and flight planning area.