Wheels Up for Beechcraft
Wheels Up, the new membership company which ordered 105 King Air 350i aircraft yesterday, is an exciting concept from Kenny Dichter, who also founded Marquis Jet.
As a start-up, Wheels Up has a lot going for it: the management team clearly understands the industry; the King Air is a fantastic aircraft, capable of carrying nine passengers, with luggage, for far less than a similarly sized business jet; and Dichter is also launching at the right time in the cycle.
(It is also a fantastic order for Beechcraft which will also maintain the Wheels Up fleet. Especially when you think this time last year Hawker Beechcraft was busy in negotiations with China’s Superior Aviation. Beechcraft is a very different company now.)
But – and you knew there was a “but” coming – launching any operator is a brave decision. Setting up an operator that owns its aircraft is especially courageous.
Dichter is hoping to sign up 15,000 members (at a very reasonable joining fee of $15,750 including their first year’s membership) and expects them to fly for between 25 hours and 30 hours each year, similar to the Marquis 25 hour jet card he sold for NetJets. He expects each King Air to fly around 800 hours a year.
Wings Up may live up to its worthy aim of “democratising business aviation” but these are ambitious numbers and you need to sell a lot memberships to pay for a $788 million fleet.