Sojourn sets sight on international growth

 - May 17, 2011, 2:20 AM

Since former Hawker Beechcraft president of commercial sales Brad Hatt formed Sojourn Aviation last year, the company has quickly moved into diverse areas of business. That diversity has helped Sojourn Aviation prosper during the economic downturn, Hatt told AIN.

Sojourn Aviation focuses on four main businesses: consulting for aircraft companies; buying and selling used aircraft; brokering aircraft and helping buyers make acquisitions; and distributing aircraft like the Nextant 400XT and Quest Kodiak, as well as buying a selling airplanes for fractional-share companies Flight Options and NetJets. In launching Sojourn Aviation, Hatt teamed with Directional Aviation Capital principal Kenn Ricci, who heads Nextant Aerospace and Flight Options.

Activity has been greatest in the buying and selling of used aircraft, Hatt said, because of continuing low prices. “We’ve done the most business in the last six months, a little over 20 transactions in the last 120 days. The opportunity is quite good, although you have to be careful that you’re buying the aircraft right.”

Hatt credits his extensive network of contacts around the world with helping Sojourn make sales. This also helped persuade Quest Aircraft to hire Sojourn to set up and manage the international distribution network for the Kodiak single-engine turboprop. “It’s a great airplane,” he said, “and a great little company, but they’ve focused on selling to missionaries and bush applications versus into more of the mainstream general aviation market. [The Kodiak] has tremendous capabilities because of the STOL [features] and cargo/payload-range ability, and it’s a very rugged, versatile aircraft. People don’t know a lot about it, and we’re working to expand the brand awareness.”

In the fractional market, Sojourn is helping Flight Options and NetJets sell airplanes that are leaving the fleets. “We’re working to tap into those same worldwide connections to sell the airplanes,” Hatt said. While these airplanes have logged more than typical average flight times, he added, they cost less and have been well maintained by factory authorized service centers. A number have been sold in Latin America and Africa, and others in Europe and India. Hatt noted that these are not worn-out 30-year-old jets but fairly young airplanes being bought by increasingly sophisticated buyers. “They do their homework,” he said.

Sojourn is the exclusive international distributor for Nextant’s 400XT, an upgrade of the Hawker Beechcraft 400 series with new Williams International FJ44-3AP engines, Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics and other improvements. Sojourn will also help Nextant obtain international certifications. Nextant flew the first production 400XT here to EBACE, where it is on static display. “It’s taken what was a four-passenger, 1,200-nautical-mile airplane and made it a 2,000-nautical-mile airplane,” he said.

“I love being in a small company,” Hatt concluded. “Having spent my whole career working for big corporations, it’s fun to be that entrepreneur.”