AvCraft Sale Considered

By Paul Gable

Sun Air Scandinavia is considering purchasing AvCraft Technical Services in Myrtle Beach, according to an email received by GSD from an aircraft industry source.

Several Horry County sources confirmed Sun Air and AvCraft officials have met with Horry County Department of Airports staff to discuss the sale.

AvCraft has a long term lease with Horry County for three hangars at Myrtle Beach International Airport. Any sale of the company would require approval by Horry County Council for assumption of the current lease or negotiation of a new lease by the new owner.

According to aviation industry sources, Sun Air Scandinavia is a successful regional airline providing scheduled air service to cities in northeastern Europe through a franchise agreement with British Airways. Sun Air Scandinavia’s home office is located in Billund, Denmark with Billund Airport serving as its hub.

Sun Air Scandinavia’s franchise flights for British Airways serve a total of 13 European cities spread throughout six countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom).

According to aviation industry information, the Sun Air Scandinavia fleet consists of four Dornier 328 Turbo Props, 10 Dornier 328 Jets and two BAe Jetstream 31 aircraft.

According to the Sun Air Scandinavia website, the company also operates charter flights to Europe and maintains three maintenance, repair and overhaul sites in Denmark, the largest of which is at Billund Airport.

It is unclear how maintenance and repair services at AvCraft would fit into the business plan of Sun Air Scandinavia. According to local sources, Sun Air Scandinavia’s sole owner and CEO Niels Sundberg is a member of the AvCraft board of directors.

AvCraft Support Services (as it was known at the time) first arrived in Myrtle Beach in late 2003 as the North American operating subsidiary of AvCraft Aviation Inc. It was supposed to serve as the maintenance, repair and completion facility for the Dornier 328 aircraft. AvCraft Aviation was in the process of purchasing the Dornier 328 production facility at Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany out of bankruptcy.

Under a business plan designed by Ben Bartel, principal owner of Avcraft Aviation and its subsidiaries at the time, aircraft would be produced by AvCraft Aerospace GmbH in Oberpfaffenhofen, then, flown to Myrtle Beach where the aircraft would undergo painting and other completion services as well as later maintenance, repair and overhaul as required.

Bartel’s plan was virtually still born as AvCraft Aerospace GmbH went into receivership in Germany in March 2005. AvCraft Aerospace GmbH never produced a new airplane but did manage to finish two partially built airplanes on the production line and sold some of the unsold inventory, approximately 12 Dornier 328 aircraft, that was included in the bankruptcy purchase.

AvCraft has continued to operate in Myrtle Beach under a receiver and several different owners through the intervening years. It has never produced any of the 400-600 new jobs originally promised by Bartel or 150 new jobs promised by the current ownership despite receiving cash incentives, rent reductions and other incentives from the county over that time.

According to several sources, the AvCraft/Sun Air talks with the county included a request for facility improvements, paid for by Horry County, at the AvCraft hangars and forgiveness, by the county, of current past due rent.

In other words, will Horry County provide yet another incentive package to, presumably, help facilitate the AvCraft sale?

You can’t fault AvCraft for making the request as the county has yet to come to its senses and say no to any request from this underperforming company.

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