Wheels Up has acquired U.S.-based business aircraft charter and management company Gama Aviation LLC (dba Gama Aviation Signature), creating the second-largest private aviation company in North America. Financial terms of the transaction, which closed today, were not disclosed. Gama Aviation Signature—the largest Part 135 operator in the U.S., according to 2019 Argus Traqpak data—has operated Wheels Up’s fleet of King Air 350is, Citation Excel/XLSs, and Citation Xs since Wheels Up launched in 2013.
The deal follows Wheels Up’s acquisitions last year of Delta Private Jets and Travel Management Company—the respective fourth and ninth-largest Part 135 operators per Argus data—as well as software developer Avianis Systems. Including today’s transaction, Wheels Up’s owned and managed fleet now numbers more than 300 airplanes. Using Argus figures, the combined entity logged more than 160,000 flight hours last year—more than number-two fractional provider Flexjet (111,189 hours).
“This transaction supports our long-term vision for the future of Wheels Up, and as we continue to build the fleet and offer aircraft management services, we are uniquely positioned in the market with a full ecosystem for all private aviation needs,” said Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter. “We welcome Gama and their pilots into our Wheels Up family as a natural step based on the successful history of our two companies.”
Gama Aviation Signature will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wheels Up, led by current president and CEO Tom Connelly. It will also continue to serve aircraft management and charter customers out of its current location in Shelton, Connecticut.
Additionally, Wheels Up said it “is committed to providing ongoing career opportunities for Gama employees who deliver world-class private travel, safety, and service.”