PRIVATE AVIATION SEES MAJOR INVESTMENT ON HEELS OF INDUSTRY-WIDE REVENUE GROWTH

 Victor, a London-based charter broker that uses operators like Elite Air to fulfill customer needs, recently received a $10 billion investment from BP.

Victor, a London-based charter broker that uses operators like Elite Air to fulfill customer needs, recently received a $10 billion investment from BP.

As private aviation continues its strong growth coming out of the 2008 recession, investors are pouring increasing amounts of money into the industry.

Oil giant BP late last year announced a $10 billion investment in London-based private charter broker Victor, which uses approximately 100 part-135 operators, including Elite Air, to fulfill its clients’ needs.

“The digital revolution is changing the face of the energy industry, and BP is at the forefront,” David Gilmour, vice-president of BP technology business development, said in a statement. “We’ve now completed five deals in less than a year, and Victor aligns with our priorities around digital innovation and low carbon.”

Victor, which reported $39 million in revenues in 2016 and about $60 million last year, is just one of many private aviation companies seeing renewed interest as the economy ramps back up. JetSmarter, another online marketplace for chartered aircraft and a frequent customer of Elite Air, has been on a fundraising roll—the company has raised more than $100 million in roughly the last calendar year. And the owner of now-defunct Blue Star Jets has taken over StarJets International in the hopes of raising revenues to more than $100 million, according to Forbes.

Not all of the investments have borne fruit. Forbes also reports Zetta Jet, a Singapore based charter operator, filed for bankruptcy last September due to an unsustainable business model and alleged fraud among its top-level executives.

“I am more and more convinced that just as starting a commercial airline attracted alpha entrepreneurs during the 1980s and ‘90s, private aviation today is now luring the rich, famous and infamous who see it as both an opportunity and a lifestyle, sometimes both,” said Doug Gollan, Forbes contributor and aviation industry expert. But Gollan goes on to say that “clearly, getting to profitability and having a presence in the private aviation business, whether one actually owns and operates jets or is brokering them, is not easy.”

Elite Air-Managed Citation X Flies Into Famous Beach Airport

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One of the Houston-based Citation Xs managed by Elite Air was caught in fight approaching and leaving the renowned Maho “Kerosene” Beach in Saint Martin this past spring.

In the top right photo, the super-midsize jet is doing its best approximation of the well-known picture (top left) of commercial carrier Air France approaching the runway over the beach. It’s not quite as dramatic, but it was still a thrill for Captain Richard Byrd and SIC Justin Williams.

Legacy 600 Receives Full Refurbishment

 For additional images of the newly refurbished Legacy 600, visit Elite Air on Facebook at  www.facebook.com/Elite-Air-139090768823 .

For additional images of the newly refurbished Legacy 600, visit Elite Air on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Elite-Air-139090768823.

The Elite Air-managed Legacy 600 based at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport underwent a complete interior and exterior refurbishment in August.

The aircraft, manufactured in 2007 and fitted with wireless internet last year, was placed back into service on Aug. 28.

“The Legacy is a beautiful aircraft and extremely popular with our charter customers,” Elite Air Sales Director AJ Becker said. “We couldn’t be happier to unveil its new look.”

The Legacy 600 holds up to 13 passengers, can travel as many as 6.5 hours nonstop and features an enclosed lavatory and full galley. The aircraft, widely considered one of the best value heavy jets in the industry, has a spacious interior and best-in-class luggage space. 

The Elite Air-managed Legacy 600 was one of the earliest additions to the company’s charter fleet and has carried passengers all over the country and around the globe.

“This aircraft is truly one of the most reliable options in our charter fleet,” Becker said. “Not only is the owner charter-friendly, but the crew is one of our best.”

Primarily crewed by Captain Tom Rissmiller, SIC Josh Moore and cabin attendant Debbie Dreyer, the Legacy can also be flown by pilots Blake Spencer and Mark Hughes.

Elite Air Helps Loyal Customer Buy Global XRS

 The Global XRS, capable of carrying up to 14 6,300 nautical miles, will be the largest aircraft in the Elite Air fleet.

The Global XRS, capable of carrying up to 14 6,300 nautical miles, will be the largest aircraft in the Elite Air fleet.

Elite Air CEO Gray Gibbs recently assisted a longtime customer in purchasing a Global Express XRS. Gibbs, also a tax attorney and aircraft sales consultant, helped the customer find the right jet and negotiated the deal.

The new Global, the second managed by Elite Air, will be available for charter in the next several weeks once its addition to the company’s 135 certificate is FAA-approved.

“We have a lot of experience managing the Global 5000 that’s been on our certificate for years,” Gibbs said. “When this one came on the market at the right price, we knew it was the perfect aircraft for this customer’s needs.”

The Global XRS has a range of 6,300 nautical miles, can carry 14 passengers and reaches mach 0.89 at a maximum altitude of 51,000 feet. Its stand-up cabin is nearly 8 feet wide and more than 40 feet long. The heavy jet’s steep approach and takeoff angles allow it to operate out of some of the world’s most challenging airports.

The Global XRS’s state-of-the-art avionics include auto-throttles and a latest-generation heads-up display.

“For any of our customers who’ve experienced the comfort and performance of our Global 5000, this aircraft takes it up a notch,” Elite Air Sales Director AJ Becker said. “It’s now the biggest jet in our fleet, making us capable of accommodating larger parties than ever before.”

Elite Air Assists With Hurricane Relief

 With aircraft located primarily in Houston and St. Petersburg, Fla., Elite Air has had a front row seat for the massive hurricanes that recently ravaged the U.S. mainland.

With aircraft located primarily in Houston and St. Petersburg, Fla., Elite Air has had a front row seat for the massive hurricanes that recently ravaged the U.S. mainland.

As Elite Air lent a hand in late August delivering hurricane relief supplies in the Houston area, where several of the company’s aircraft are based, another massive storm bore down on its headquarters. Late changes to forecasts showed Hurricane Irma’s path would be directly through the Tampa Bay Area. And the race was on for people to get out of Florida.

“We booked at least nine trips in the eight hours after the forecasts changed,” Sales Director AJ Becker said.

That was only the beginning. Elite Air sold dozens of additional charters out of Florida and the Caribbean in the days before the storm. Industry-wide, demand for charters was reported to have doubled or tripled during the week.

And while the trips Elite Air flew were commercial not humanitarian, CEO Gray Gibbs said the company didn’t change its pricing a bit. A Sept. 6 CNBC report indicated some charter companies were charging 30% more than their standard fares.

“There were a lot of aviation companies gouging folks to escape to safety, but that’s not the way we do business,” Gibbs said. “We sold these trips during extremely high volume periods and in distress without raising prices a dollar.”

Meanwhile in Texas, communities were struggling to deal with the massive amounts of flooding brought by Hurricane Harvey. The hurricane, which dropped more than 40 inches of rain in multiple areas over four days from Aug. 25 to 29, pushed at least 30,000 people out of their homes. More than 17,000 rescues were required to save those trapped inside.

Elite Air was able to do its small part in assisting in the relief effort, delivering supplies to hard hit areas on multiple deadhead legs.

“Considering the amount of devastation the people of Texas experienced and the long recovery they face ahead, it was a small service,” Becker said. “But we were happy to help and hope those supplies got to someone in need.”

Piaggio P.180, Dynamic Turboprop, Added to Fleet

Elite Air has made a unique new addition to its fleet of charter aircraft—the rear-accelerated turbroprop Piaggio P.180 Avanti. The striking Piaggio will join Elite Air’s King Air 200 and Piper Malibu to bring its propeller-plane portfolio to three aircraft.

The Piaggio, however, brings performance that is truly in a class by itself, according to Elite Air CEO Gray Gibbs.

“The unique design of the Piaggio gives it jet-like performance in almost every way,” Gibbs said. “It can fly higher, faster and farther than anything in its class. We’ve had our eye on these aircraft for some time, so we couldn’t be more excited to finally have one on our certificate.”

Elite Air’s Piaggio P.180 will be based at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) and will be available for charter in the next several weeks. The aircraft can travel nearly 1,500 nautical miles at 41,000 feet and more than 450 miles per hour, making it comparable in range to most light to midsize jets, while being more fuel efficient and affordable.

“The Piaggio we’re now lucky enough to manage is immaculately maintained,” said AJ Becker, Elite Air’s marketing and sales director. “Passengers in this aircraft aren’t likely to recognize they aren’t traveling in a jet.”

Elite Air’s Piaggio will be flown in the more reliable two-pilot configuration—First Officer Scott Rydman will be joined in the cockpit by a captain to be named—and can seat up to eight. The fully pressurized cabin features articulating leather seating, a working galley and extensive entertainment options.

Hundreds of corporations around the country—and globe—have over the years adopted the Italian-designed Piaggio, which was first offered to the Italian armed forces.

“We can’t wait to hear customers’ reactions to this aircraft,” Becker said. “It’s been turning heads all over the world since the late 90s, and we’re sure folks will love it.”

Business Aviation Posts Monster Year

 The worldwide fleet of Challenger 300s, including the one on Elite Air’s 135 certificate based in Boca Raton, Fla., flew 90,054 flights in 2016, more than any other super-midsize aircraft.

The worldwide fleet of Challenger 300s, including the one on Elite Air’s 135 certificate based in Boca Raton, Fla., flew 90,054 flights in 2016, more than any other super-midsize aircraft.

Business aviation recorded one of its best years in history in 2016, according to Argus International’s Business Aviation 2016 Review.

The industry analyst and auditor reported that growth continued in every major aircraft and operational category in 2016. In 11 of the 12 calendar months, the industry saw gains. Only April experienced a slight year-over-year decline of 0.6%.

According to Argus, 2016 flight activity was up 3.2% and flight hours were up 3.8% when compared to 2015. That represented three straight years of growth in business aviation from 2014-2016.

Argus indicated flight activity stayed fairly consistent throughout the year. The second half, from July to December, was up 3.3% compared to the same period in 2015, while the first half was up 3.1%. The first quarter of 2016 experienced the strongest year-over-year rise in flight activity, up 4.2% from Q1 2015, helped along by the extra day in February. The second, third and fourth quarters saw increases of 1.9%, 3.3% and 3.2%.

The Part 135 industry continued to lead business aviation’s overall industry growth. The segment saw yearly gains in 11 of the 12 months in 2016, including 10.1% growth in November. Part 135 on-demand charter flights and flight hours grew 5.6% and 5.8% in the past 12 months when compared to 2015. Part 135 operators flew 1,413,870 hours last year, an increase of 77,336 hours over 2015.

Breaking it down by aircraft, large cabin Part 135 flight hours grew 10.1% in 2016. Midsize Part 135 flight hours grew at a rate of 3%, and small cabin aircraft flights grew 1.8%. Turboprop flight hours increased 9.4% during 2016.

Part 91 flights and flight hours likewise increased, at 2% and 2.9%, over the past 12 months compared to 2015. Part 91 operators flew 2,234,979 hours in 2016, an upsurge of 63,159 hours from the previous year.

The fractional industry, which posted yearly declines during 10 of the 12 months in 2015, posted yearly gains during 9 of the 12 months last year.

Following the robust 2016, Argus analysts estimate the positive trend will continue well into 2017. Flight activity in January, February and March rose several percentage points over the same period in 2016.

An Unexpected Bird Encounter

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Elite Air CEO Gray Gibbs and Pilot Drew Spiros were fortunate enough to catch an Air Force Thunderbirds flyover while on assignment in Daytona Beach, Fla. Gibbs and Spiros watched the flyover on Feb. 26 at Daytona Beach International Airport, where they had delivered passengers for the Daytona 500.

The Thunderbirds, led by Lieutenant Colonel Jason Heard, flew over the Daytona International Speedway just as the national anthem ended on race day. The Air Force demonstration team flies over the Daytona 500, along with a host of other high-profile events, every year.

For a full video of the Air Force Thunderbirds flyover, visit Elite Air on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Elite-Air-139090768823.

Experienced Dispatcher Jamie Condo Joins Team

 Condo brings experience from Flexjet, the U.S. Navy, and the yachting and fire rescue industries to Elite Air.

Condo brings experience from Flexjet, the U.S. Navy, and the yachting and fire rescue industries to Elite Air.

Jamie Condo, a veteran aircraft dispatcher with nearly 20 years experience, joined the Elite Air team in late 2016.

Condo comes to Elite Air from Flexjet and has worked in flight sales and operations since 1998, when she completed her service with the U.S. Navy. She served as an air traffic control specialist for nine years while enlisted.

“I was fortunate enough to be one of the first females stationed on an aircraft carrier on the West Coast,” she said of her time in the Navy.

Condo’s educational background is in business administration; she earned her bachelor’s degree from Columbia Southern University. In addition to aviation, she has worked in sales and dispatch in the yachting and fire rescue industries.

Condo primarily covers weekends for Elite Air, an arrangement she says suits her schedule. “I love it because of the flexibility of it,” she said. “I have two teenage daughters, and I love being available to them.”

Elite Air CEO Gray Gibbs said he’s known Condo for more than 15 years through her work in the industry.

“Jamie has worked with some of the best in the business, and we knew she would fit right in with the Elite Air team,” he said. “She’s been tasked with a difficult job taking on weekends, but she’s excelled at it immediately."

SECOND HAWKER 800 ADDED TO CHARTER CERTIFICATE

 The newest Hawker 800A with the XPR upgrade on the Elite Air charter certificate gives customers another midsize option for trips from coast to coast.

The newest Hawker 800A with the XPR upgrade on the Elite Air charter certificate gives customers another midsize option for trips from coast to coast.

Elite Air has added a second workhorse Hawker 800 to its charter certificate, giving passengers another affordable option in the midsize jet class out of the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE).

“The Hawker is one of our most popular charter aircraft,” Elite Air Marketing and Sales Director AJ Becker said. “Now, when one of our Hawkers is on the road or in the air—which is often—we’ll be able to offer customers a second option.”

The Hawker 800A with the XPR upgrade seats up to eight passengers and has a range of 2,900 miles. The XPR upgrade offers increased stability and more efficient operations compared to its predecessor. The aircraft is capable of 447 knots at 37,000 feet of altitude. For long-range flights, it operates best at 400 knots at 39,000 feet.

“This aircraft gives our customers a second, nearly identical midsize that falls neatly between our extensive light options and our super midsize jets,” Becker said.

Crewed by a team that includes Tom Rissmiller, Drew Spiros, Bruce Bartling and Doug Downer, the Elite Air-managed Hawkers are “stable and comfortable,” according to Rissmiller. “And its range is good for that size airplane,” he said.

The 800XPR is capable of coast-to-coast flights at industry-leading values. Rissmiller, who has more than 15,000 total hours and more than 5,000 hours in Hawkers, said the team of first officers is “the best in the business.”

According to Elite Air CEO Gray Gibbs, the company’s familiarity with the Hawker 800 and how to operate it make the new airframe a perfect addition to the charter certificate.

“We’ve been flying Hawkers for more than a decade,” he said. “This is a platform that we know how to crew, maintain, stock and market. We expect it to be another strong contributor in our fleet of charter jets.”