Justin Firestone launches aviation scholarship at Arizona University


Business aviation entrepreneur Justin and wife Natalie Firestone have set up an aviation scholarship at Arizona State University, after Justin honed his business skills at the college 20 years ago.

The Justin and Natalie Firestone Scholarship for Entrepreneurship in Aviation aims to inspire new generations of students to carve successful careers in business aviation. “I learned so much at Arizona State University, especially my business acumen,” said the Wheels Up co-founder Justin. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without that, so now I want to pay it forward.”

The Firestones hope the scholarship will encourage a new generation of aviation entrepreneurs to match Justin’s achievements. After working in professional sports marketing, Firestone joined the aviation industry in 2001. “When the horrific events of 9/11 happened, I was catapulted into arranging private jets for professional athletes,” he said. “At the time, the private aviation landscape appealed to the ultra-wealthy and famous.”

‘Ultra-wealthy and famous’

Since then, Firestone has served as a senior executive for Marquis Jet, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NetJets and Berkshire Hathaway, and as president of Hawker Beechcraft, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Textron Aviation. He was also a director of Sentient Jet.

Firestone founded Asia Jet in 2007 and Firestone Management Group in 2011, among other aviation and business projects. He co-founded Wheels Up to realise the goal of making it as easy to book a private jet as to order a pizza.

“We want to provide support for a student who wants to make a difference in today’s aviation industry,” said Firestone. “Perhaps he or she will be a disruptor, provide a new service through technology or improve how the aviation industry operates in an innovative way. We want to give a little push to help a student succeed by offering financial aid, mentorship and unique access to the aviation industry through our contacts and connections.”

‘Perhaps he or she will be a disruptor’

The Firestones have previously contributed to the university’s aviation programmes and maintain strong ties to the university’s athletics activities.

Marc O’Brien, programme chair and senior lecturer for the aviation programmes at The Polytechnic School, said: “Justin has been a vital component of our aviation programmes, even before giving this generous scholarship. He brings his experience and knowledge into our classrooms, providing our students with an industry perspective and the motivation to break out of the mould and do something different.”

Firestone said he could “see the wheels turning in students’ heads” and wanted to continue building a relationship with the aviation programme.

“If you can do something you love, you’re ahead of most people,” said Firestone. “I feel like I haven’t worked a day in my life. Natalie and I want to encourage an aviation student to never settle and to continue on their path because it is a very rewarding path to be on.”

The Firestone scholarship will be offered at the university’s Polytechnic School, one of six schools in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported this week that Wheels Up is in talks with Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp; a blank cheque or Special Acquisition Company (SPAC).

“If you can do something you love, you’re ahead of most people:” Justin Firestone, with wife Natalie.