Saturday, October 10, 2009

What's that smell: are the pogys dying off again? Or, is it something else?

In keeping with the intent to get up to date on various subjects, including base redevelopment, Side reports that the Forecaster ran a letter of his on the subject two weeks ago. The letter was shortened by more than half to meet space constraints, so in keeping with our characteristic humility, and commitment to full disclosure, we hereby post the original submission for your edification. New commentary will be appended below.

Oxford Aviation, Bailey: The Bodacity of Hype

Thank goodness the Forecaster and its parent the Sun Journal are investigating and reporting on Oxford Aviation’s pursuit of a plum deal as Brunswick Naval Air Station is redeveloped. Curiously, other media outlets with closer ties to the base have turned the other cheek.

Oxford Aviation is a small aircraft painting and interior refurb company with a history of lobbying eager political authorities for taxpayer funded corporate welfare and tax breaks, founded on promises that end up unfulfilled. As soon as a deal closes (or sometimes sooner,) it looks to jump elsewhere for a better deal.

Oxford has had skilled help in working the system. If you’ve ever doubted the power of courtroom theatrics, look no further than F. Lee Bailey, celebrity attorney and “spokesman” for Oxford. Compared to getting O.J. Simpson off the hook, schmoozing receptive public servants for OPM is like dining on lazy lobster.

With no publicly disclosed formal authority, Bailey has mesmerized an anxious MRRA and a State Commissioner with higher political aspirations. So much so that they are in a rush to sign a lease contract for the crown jewel on the base, with no public disclosure of the details, on October 20, less than 3 weeks from now. What’s the hurry? Where’s the due diligence?

Bailey uses soaring flights of hyperbole, enchanting all within earshot without the slightest bit of evidence, analysis, or substantiation. Try these: “a tremendous opportunity for Brunswick, far beyond anything I had imagined;” and “further cement Brunswick as a global leader in the aviation world.”

Bailey touts “contracts with aviation industry titans,” and avows that Oxford is “in discussions with Airbus.” His speechifying is all we have to go on. I suppose we should be grateful, though; this is too good a deal to pass up, right? (If you were an Airbus executive, would you take Oxford Aviation seriously?)

Jim Horowitz, the owner of Oxford Aviation, has kept out of the public eye, except to plead for more respect for his employees, a frivolous distraction from the troubling facts on the record.

Let’s be clear here. Some businesses succeed and grow because they provide products or services that didn’t previously exist; think personal computers and the huge wave of digital technology they have spawned. We have all come to depend on products and services that were barely imagined not very long ago.

Aircraft painting and related services are not in the same category. This is not an underserved market. It is courted by a worldwide array of established companies – from the very smallest like Oxford, to multi-national groups that have existing arrangements with Airbus and others. As a bit of research will clearly reveal, their capabilities, locations, facilities, staffs, and experience are impressive.

I have room for just a few examples:

Try the STTS Group of Europe at and one of their subsidiaries, QAPS at Be sure to see the pictures at STTS has facilities in Spain, France, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, and can handle aircraft from business jets to A340 and B747 airliners.

Or Leading Edge Aviation Services, with four facilities in the US, and one in Malaysia. Look at them at, and be sure to check their portfolio at

And there are a plethora of others, like Duncan Aviation, with more than 20,000 active accounts, 2000 worldwide employees, full repair capability, and multiple facilities with five times the total space of Hangar 6 at BNAS. Find info at and research the Fact Sheet linked on the page.

If anything, there may be overcapacity in the industry at this point.
Clearly, the only way for Oxford to fulfill Bailey’s soaring promises is to take business away from other well established and entrenched providers. Airlines aren’t going to buy more airplanes or service them more frequently because Oxford moves into a Brunswick hangar.

You can believe in David and Goliath if you wish. But how much of your hard earned money are you willing to risk on such an ill-defined scheme? Our government benefactors ensure we can’t buy mutual funds without a detailed written prospectus. Why are they doing all they can here to ensure we have not one solitary written detail, relying only on the extravagant oratory of a celebrity pied piper?

In conclusion, this proposal is irresponsible speculation with public resources, and it should be summarily refused until such time as a credible business plan is made public.

Meanwhile, neighbors of the Naval Air Station should plan on trouble sleeping in the years ahead if Oxford moves aboard. Judging from recent reports, fly by night operations should be expected.

Since submitting that rather benign item, several new thoughts have occurred to your reporter.

As it pointed out, Oxford's business model has to count on taking business away from other established service providers. To do this, you need discriminators, or "competitive advantage." Other than F. Lee Bailey's rhetoric, fawning political support, and copious amounts of taxpayer funds, no such discriminators are apparent.

In spite of the fact that Oxford's owner, Jim Horowitz, professes that:
Our national reputation is, without doubt, the highest in the industry.

Anxious to see the Oxford operations that attain such notoriety, this reporter took a drive by the "Oxford County Regional Airport" on a recent weekday morning. Let's just say that Oxford Aviation is the only entity at the airport; there is absolutely nothing else going on. The place looks desolate and nearly abandoned. From what one reads elsewhere, it's easy to surmise that the facilities occupied by Horowitz exist only because of taxpayer/bureaucrat generosity.

There were 24 cars in the parking lot. It's impossible to know how many of those are there for the use of incoming pilots, or left by outgoing pilots, both of whom make use of the remote rural airport for high-end commuting. One way or another, it's difficult to believe that 65 employees are working there.

It's also apparent that Horowitz has a sweetheart deal if he's only paying $1800 a month in rent, and if you believe reports, is delinquent in that regard. Rentals like this make him more of a charity at taxpayer expense than a viable business.

Anyone who visits the facility and can envision an Airbus executive or other major international interests stopping by and deciding that this is the company they want to service and paint their airliners in the future has a far different understanding of economic reality than I do.

Here's a glimpse or two:

Add this to all the troubling reports in recent articles, and the fact that Oxford held a job fair in January, reportedly because "The company said it will have more than 200 openings in the Brunswick Jet Division starting this summer," and I can only conclude that we are being treated to a major scam-o-rama. Complete with celebrity distractions.

Frankly, I'm disgusted, and highly dubious of the actions taken on our behalf by our so-called public servants.

And finally, to the pogys in the title. It was 1985, I believe, when a major stench descended upon our fair coast, caused by the massive die-off of hordes of menhaden, also called pogys, when they were chased up estuaries by predators and fell victim to a lack of oxygen. Anyone who saw and smelled them in the tidal marshes will never forget it; I especially remember the smell.

Decades later there's a very fishy smell in the air again. I've checked the local news sources to see if the pogys are dying off once more, and I can find no such reports.

Which leaves us to look for something else that smells fishy.

Especially a fishy smell with a hint of eau d'aviation fuel and essence of drying paint.

I wonder what it could be.

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