As the spate of mergers, take-overs, IPOs and SPACs continues around the industry, this one has raised a few eyebrows. British operator Halo Aviation has been sold to Directional Aviation, a “private investment firm whose singular focus is private business aviation”. As Halo becomes the 15th member of the ever-increasing Directional family of companies, there’s no doubt that Kenn Ricci will have big plans for its future.
The eyebrow action concerns the facts that not only do Halo Aviation own no helicopters, they do not have their own AOC (Air Operations Certificate), and they are based on an airfield which is closing for residential re-development. We expect Directional will put these to rights, but there would have been other candidates for their dollars that have less serious short-term issues to resolve.
Their fleet of Leonardo AW109 and AW169 helicopters are all private/corporate aircraft which Halo manages or makes available for charter on behalf of UHNWI owners. None are owned by the company or under lease contracts with Halo as principal.
The Halo charter operation currently does not have its own AOC. While it is feasible that they could be working towards having their own AOC, they have always operated under an umbrella agreement with Elite Helicopters (the trading name of Solent Helicopters Ltd, the name on the AOC).
Halo Aviation are based at Dunsfold Airport. Famous as the BBC Top Gear studio and test track, and as the production line for the British Aerospace Hawk jet trainer, Dunsfold received planning approval for 1,800 houses in late 2016. As part of the work, the airfield will close and the test track removed. This will also require Halo to find a new home.
Of the existing two Directors, Therese Bewsey has resigned, while Will Fanshawe remains at present. New directors appointed are Kenneth Ricci (see below) and Ben Watts, the COO European Ops at OneSky Flight LLC – and previously the CFO at Privatefly, the UK based online charter broker bought by Directional in 2018.
Until very recently, Halo Aviation was planning on opening a heliport at Cattedown, near Plymouth. In the company’s accounts for the year to 31 March 2020, it showed this property with a purchase value of £1.937M, together with a long-term creditor of £1.894M (and likely a short-term credit portion too, not specifically stated). On the same day as the transaction closes and the various notifications reach UK regulator Companies House, the charge against this property has been satisfied, and it seems feasible that this was outside Directional’s interests.
The full press release is shown below
Luxury fractional jet provider Flexjet and jet card pioneer Sentient Jet, today announced that they have a new sister company, Halo Aviation Ltd. (Halo), a leading provider of helicopter transportation services in the United Kingdom. The transaction follows the acquisition earlier this year of Associated Aircraft Group (AAG), the premier provider of executive Sikorsky helicopter service in the Northeastern United States. These moves position Flexjet, Sentient Jet and their sister companies, FXAIR and PrivateFly, on-demand jet charter providers in both the U.S. and Europe, to become leaders in vertical flight, further expanding their offerings and global operations.
Halo and AAG, both manage fleets of some of the finest helicopters in the world and are leading providers of vertical lift and urban mobility services in their respective nations. This move will inject a new group of customers from Flexjet, the second largest fractional jet provider in the world, and Sentient Jet, which has 8,000 active jet card holders, and will pave the way for a unique end-to-end travel solution not offered by any other provider. The structure of these companies and their relationships to each other will offer differentiators in the market that other brands will not be able to duplicate – from the safety of flying managed fleets to the packaging of end-to-end flight solutions – these acquisitions will rebrand what the private jet traveler will want in a provider.
“My vision is to strategically position each of our flight providers to become a leader in its market,” said Kenneth C. Ricci, Principal, Directional Aviation, parent of OneSky Flight and its member companies. “Flexjet is the preeminent global fractional ownership company, Sentient Jet offers the industry’s leading jet card and FXAIR and PrivateFly have uniquely-positioned offerings in the on-demand charter space. Now, with the acquisition of Halo and AAG, we can add another market to that list: Vertical lift.”
Ricci added that the addition of Halo advances three important strategic goals, saying, “First, these acquisitions position us as a leader in the exciting future of vertical lift solutions. Second, it builds a core competency in urban mobility operations. Third it makes possible synergies with our other affiliated companies, like Flexjet and Sentient, allowing us to provide a complete aircraft travel solution. During the coming months, we will share with our customers and partners our plans for taking vertical lift services to the next level – perhaps through bolstering the fleet with a manufacturer order which could lead to a possible combination of powerhouse travel solutions.”
Founded in 2009 by William Fanshawe and Therese Bewsey, Halo Aviation is a helicopter travel services provider with bases in the south of England, around London, in the Midlands and in the Channel Islands. Headquartered in Cranleigh, Surrey, Halo Aviation serves a clientele of leaders in business, government and other fields as well as leisure travelers, providing connections between airports and city centers and between short-haul domestic destinations such as musical festivals, racecourses and other sports and entertainment events.
While other private aviation companies are expanding into the vertical lift market, they are doing so as aggregators of demand for charter vertical lift providers. In contrast, the recent Directional Aviation OneSky Flight acquisitions targeted companies with managed fleets, giving them full control of assets and operations, ensuring that their stringent safety standards are met, that service aligns with the highest standards of quality and that synergies with other companies in the OneSky family are realized.
“The acquisitions of Halo and AAG by themselves make us a leader in vertical lift,” said Andrew Collins, OneSky’s on-demand private jet travel and vertical lift lead. “They also provide the foundation for the future of global mobility, with the capabilities to provide outstanding service on two continents; to provide a platform for the entry into service of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) technology. In addition, they offer a critical, customer-benefiting differentiator for their fellow OneSky companies, providing the link between airports and final destinations. We look forward to bringing to vertical lift the same commitment to excellence in customer service that we have to our other private aviation markets.”
The helicopters in the fleets of Halo and AAG are the finest on two continents. Halo operates six- and eight-seat Agusta/Leonardo helicopters, including the Agusta AW109 and AW169 models. The Agusta craft are produced by the helicopter division of Rome-based aerospace company Leonardo S.p.A., which previously had acquired the Agusta and AgustaWestland brands. Leonardo continues to produce a range of helicopters for commercial aviation, public service and military use, and manages the full range of operations from development to production to pilot training to after-sales support.
AAG operates the Sikorsky S-76, the longest-running helicopter serving elite clienteles, with more than 40 years and 7.4 million hours of safe flight. AAG offers charter services, the AAG Excalibur Card (sold in 10-hour increments), Sikorsky Shares™ and New York-area airport transfer services. It also offers professional aircraft maintenance and management services for Sikorsky owners.
About Directional Aviation and OneSky Flight
Directional Aviation is a private investment firm whose singular focus is private business aviation. Directional’s OneSky Flight portfolio of private jet travel providers includes shared/fractional jet ownership, jet card, membership, on-demand charter and vertical lift providers. Industry leaders representing MRO, private jet remanufacturing, aviation parts distribution and more also make up the Directional family. Directional Aviation is charting the course of private aviation, worldwide.
About Halo Aviation
Halo Aviation Ltd. is a helicopter company offering access to vertical lift via charter, card, fractional ownership and full ownership/management programmes. Halo Aviation is committed to passenger safety by operating the leading helicopter types in their class piloted by instrument-rated pilots, most of whom served in the U.K. armed forces. Halo’s fleet of Agusta/Leonardo AW109 and AW169 helicopters dispatch from bases in the south of England, around London, the Midlands and in the Channel Islands. For more information, visit www.haloaviation.com
AAG has flown more than 65,000 safe flying hours and has more than 30 years of experience providing helicopter charter, fractional ownership and helicopter maintenance services from its New York, Teterboro, Bridgeport, Providence and Philadelphia installations. With the Northeast’s largest fleet of S-76 helicopters, AAG is the only VIP helicopter company to own and operate its own FAA Part 145 maintenance facility and is a Sikorsky Authorized Customer Support Center. AAG has earned the Wyvern Wingman status, the ARG/US Platinum rating, the ACSF IAS Registry and the IS-BAO Stage 3 Registration, which serve as hallmarks of AAG’s commitment to safety. AAG also is approved for DCA operations under the DASSP. For more information, visit www.flyaag.com.