Wheels Up Buys Mountain Aviation, Quadrupling Citation X Fleet

 - January 5, 2021, 10:48 AM
Wheel's Up's acquisition of Denver-based Mountain Aviation will quadruple its fleet of Cessna Citation Xs to about 40 of the high-speed twinjets. The company likes the model for its Mach 0.92 speed, super-mid cabin size, and transcontinental range. (Photo: Mountain Aviation)

Wheels Up is continuing its buying spree, this time scooping up Denver-based air charter and MRO provider Mountain Aviation following the acquisitions of Travel Management Co. (TMC) in mid-2019 and Delta Private Jets and Gama Aviation Signature early last year. Specific financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Jefferies acted as the exclusive financial adviser for Wheels Up.

The addition of Mountain Aviation will provide Wheels Up with West Coast bases (in Denver and Thermal, California) and heavy maintenance capability for its Beechcraft King Airs and Cessna Citations. It will also quadruple the size of the company's Citation X fleet to about 40. Mountain Aviation also has bases in Teterboro, New Jersey, and Anchorage, Alaska.

According to Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter, this acquisition is similar to its TMC buy, meaning Mountain Aviation will continue to operate under its own brand name and serve existing customers while integrating Wheels Up’s technologies and best practices. “Mountain Aviation’s wholesale charter operations and super-midsize jet fleet are a perfect complement to Wheels Up’s previous acquisition of [TMC], which operates the industry’s largest wholesale floating fleet of light jets,” he added.

The acquisition adds 59 aircraft, most of which are Citation Xs, to Wheels Up's fleet, bringing the total to about 335 King Airs and Citations flown by more than 1,000 pilots. Wheels Up also plans to further expand its Citation X fleet this year, with Dichter and Gregg Fahrenbruch—former Mountain Aviation CEO and now Wheels Up’s senior v-p of operations strategy—praising the model’s speed, cabin size, and range. The latter includes transcontinental and West Coast-to-Hawaii capabilities, they said.

Meanwhile, Mountain Aviation’s Part 145 maintenance capabilities—housed across seven hangar facilities at Rocky Mountain International Airport in Broomfield, Colorado—will increase Wheels Up’s in-house maintenance function and capability. In addition, Wheels Up will offer managed aircraft services to Mountain Aviation’s existing clients and broaden its customer base via a growing government defense contract business and expanding services to medical transportation customers.

“We’ve come to know and greatly respect Mountain Aviation’s talented team over the past few years and are excited to welcome them officially to our Wheels Up family,” said Dichter. “We are aligned on culture, forward vision, and business goals. This acquisition further strengthens the Wheels Up suite of products and services.”

"The air charter industry continues to be highly fragmented, and I see lots of opportunities," Dichter said, hinting that Wheels Up's buying spree is far from over. He told AIN that "2021 should be a special year" but did not divulge more details.

Wheels Up currently counts more than 10,000 active members/customers and expects to log more than 200,000 flight hours this year across its entire fleet.