Avantair: The Little Fractional That Could

 - September 14, 2006, 11:35 AM

Piaggio Avanti fractional provider Avantair is fast becoming a major player in the industry. While company CEO Steve Santo readily admits that Avantair isn’t a national program quite yet, “we’ll be there by the end of the year.”

Avantair’s fractional fleet currently numbers 24 Avantis, and it has seven managed Avantis on property. The company has grown steadily over the past year, but the delay in Piaggio Avanti II deliveries to the Clearwater, Fla.-based fractional has stunted its growth. The last aircraft delivery to Avantair was in late January.

Santo said that 11 of the Italian-made turboprop twins will be added to the fleet by year-end, and he already has four pre-sold. The first Avanti II for Avantair was scheduled for delivery on June 23. Next year, Avantair plans to take 15 Avantis, and in 2008 it expects to add 18 more.

While the Avanti is an ideal fractional airplane, the slow deliveries are forcing Avantair to look at other aircraft models. “We’re working on adding more types,” Santo said, “and we’ll announce something in the next couple of months.”

More immediately, this month Avantair opened a 40,000-sq-ft West Coast base in Camarillo, Calif. But the move is a logistical home run–the facility is a full-service FBO and comes with fuel rights, which will help the fractional contain fuel costs in pricey California. Santo said the fractional will add another base–most likely in the Chicago area–this year.

Fueling this expansion is Avantair’s new owner, Alfred Rapetti, who took over in the fall. Rapetti, a retired investment banker with previous ties to aviation interests, plans to enlarge the company further by emphasizing “elite levels” of customer service, continuing base expansion and building the aircraft fleet.

“I want to take Avantair to the next level,” Rapetti told AIN. “We’re starting by ensuring that shareholders get the best service of any fractional provider. Every detail will be covered–from immaculate interiors to high-end, Italian-themed aircraft stock.”