Kenny Dichter, Wheels Up CEO, has long been a man on a mission. This week the mission became clearer. With the acquisition of Gama Aviation Signature from Gama Aviation and Signature Aviation, Wheels Up is now the largest Part 135 operator of business aircraft in the US, by hours flown. In fact, it is now the leader by a long way and has a fleet of more than 300 aircraft and employs more than 1,000 pilots.
In the past 12 months, Wheels Up has acquired three of the 10 largest Part 135 operators – Gama Aviation Signature, Delta Private Jets and TMC. According to ARGUS International’s TRAQPak data (which serendipitously issued its 2019 report this week), these operators accounted for 160,161 flight hours in 2019. Executive Jet Management, the sister company of NetJets, was second with 59,237 hours. XOJET was third with 51,741 hours, followed by Jet Linx, Solairus and Jet Edge.
By comparison, ARGUS International says NetJets, the largest fractional operator, flew 399,950 hours in 2019 (up 9.4%). Followed by FlexJet/Flight Options at 130,379 hours.
Obviously, these figures only show hours and not revenues (a King Air clearly sells for a lot less per hour than a G650ER). But Wheels Up has gone from not operating any aircraft for six years (with Gama Aviation the aircraft operator) to the biggest Part 135 operator in less than one year.