Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Gulfstream International Airlines continues its transformation with a name change–to Silver Airways Corp.
The airline emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, when its new owner, Chicago-based asset management firm Victory Park Capital, provided $5 million in debtor-in-possession funding.
After buying the assets of the old Gulfstream International, Victory Park formed VPAA Co., under whose name the airline eventually became certified, explained CEO Darrell Richardson. “We hired a branding company to work with us, and after months of research, we came up with [Silver Airways],” he said. “You can expect to see a new paint scheme and logo [this] year.”
Victory Park picked Richardson, a regional airline veteran, to lead the airline last June. “I originally came onboard as a consultant and became chief restructuring officer while the airline was going through Chapter 11,” he said. “I was asked to stay on.”
Long-term Commitment to Growth
Launched in 1988 to serve as an on-demand charter carrier serving South Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas using Cessna 402s, Gulfstream International graduated to Beech 1900Cs in 1994, the same year it signed a code-share agreement with United Airlines. Two years later, it began scheduled service between Fort Lauderdale and the Bahamas. Gulfstream International signed on as a Continental Connection carrier in 1997. In 2007, the company went public, and a year later, it added its Cleveland hub.
Following its Chapter 11 filing in 2010, only Mickey Bowman, vice president of the company’s Essential Air Service (EAS) program; Phil Le Fevre, vice president of flight operations and director of operations; and Craig Attell, vice president of safety, security and regulatory compliance, remained with the management team. Others recruited by Richardson include David Querio, COO; Curtis Berchtold, vice president and CFO; Peter Barry, vice president of technical operations; Matthew Holliday, vice president of sales and marketing; and Donna Tipsword, vice president of human resources.
Last October the company announced its plans to acquire six 34-seat Saab 340B+ turboprops to begin replacing the 21 Beech 1900Ds in the fleet. “The Saabs will be used on our Florida-Bahamas routes,” said Richardson. “We’re looking at some new routes focusing on the Bahamas, so I felt we really needed to have cabin-class aircraft. We’ve purchased six Saab 340s to date, but would certainly be interested in acquiring more.”
The airline expects to have inserted 12 Saabs into service by the end of the year, says Richardson. “We’re interested in boosting service and expanding in markets where we feel there is a revenue opportunity and we can add value for the traveling public,” he explained. “The Orlando market in particular shows tremendous opportunity, both in terms of intra-state flying within Florida, as well as more flights to the Bahamas.”
The airline continues to code share as United Express out of Florida and United’s Cleveland hub, where it offers EAS to six cities. It also flies independently out of Billings, Mont., to seven EAS markets and “remains open” to new opportunities for further EAS flying, said Richardson.
“Victory Park is committed to growing Silver Airways into a world-class airline,” concluded Richardson. “We want one that is financially sound, safe and professional, but also fun to fly and a great place to work. This is a long-term commitment.”