Newsmakers 2009: New companies emerge from the collapse of JetDirect

 - December 28, 2009, 9:02 AM

The fallout from the failure of JetDirect Aviation earlier this year reverberated throughout the aviation industry, magnifying the effect of the recession on dozens of aircraft owners and operators and the people who fly, maintain and support the aircraft that were, for a brief time, under the JetDirect umbrella.

JetDirect attempted to create a national charter company brand by acquiring nearly a dozen charter companies as the aviation industry soared into 2008. Most of the acquired companies–many of them well known–have disappeared since JetDirect shut down on April 17 and liquidated on May 1. But other companies managed to extricate themselves from the JetDirect debacle and resume growing independently. Survivors include Solairus Aviation (formerly Sunset Aviation), Presidential Aviation and Sentient Jet.

The assets of JetDirect were purchased by investors led by former JetDirect owners, and they formed a new company called Wayfarer Aviation. JetDirect left hundreds of former employees owed money for unpaid salary, benefits and expenses.
Vendors that provided services to JetDirect were also left with unpaid invoices.
Management clients of JetDirect were offered repayment of money they had deposited with JetDirect if they signed up as clients of the new company. Those who did not become clients lost all the money they had deposited for payment to pilots, prepaid insurance and other expenses. JetDirect also never paid all the money it owed to some of the charter companies it bought, including $31.5 million that was still due for the purchase of assets of Tag Aviation USA.

The new Wayfarer Aviation hired 300 of the former 700 JetDirect employees. On September 30, Wayfarer Aviation announced that Bill Koch had been appointed CEO. Koch has an extensive background in the charter business, having begun his career at AMR Combs. He served as president and COO of SevenBar Enterprises, then became president and CEO of Imaginaire Private Jet Charter before joining Wayfarer.

The Wayfarer name has a long history in aviation. Wayfarer Ketch Aviation was formed from the Rockefeller family flight department then sold to Tag Aviation in 1999. JetDirect came to own the Wayfarer name after buying the Tag assets. Under Koch’s leadership, Wayfarer is building a global presence in the charter/management industry.

JetDirect’s attempt to build a national charter brand failed due to overly ambitious expansion plans that coincided with a nasty recession. Meanwhile, JetDirect survivor Sentient Jet, which brokers charter and sells jet cards, has built a national brand and is prospering in what has been a challenging marketplace.