As a pilot himself, AeroVanti CEO Patrick Britton-Harr saw firsthand that many private plane companies charge too much for what they actually provide customers.
“I saw there was a gap in the private aviation industry, there was too big of a jump from commercial going to private,” he said. “I could not justify myself spending $6,495 an hour to fly a King Air 350, when I know as a pilot that it doesn’t cost nearly that much to operate that plane.”
He founded the AeroVanti Air Club in July 2021 to offer the luxury of a private flight at half the price of his competitors through an annual membership model. Now the Annapolis-based company is in the midst of raising a $9.75 million funding round as interest in private flights has exploded in recent years amid the pandemic.
Britton-Harr hopes to use the funding to make strategic mergers and acquisitions so the company can become more vertically integrated. The 50-person company is looking to acquire flight training centers to ensure a steady supply of new pilots, as well as maintenance centers to keep its fleet of planes and helicopters in good condition. As part of its growth strategy, in March, the company acquired Arizona-based Marjet Aviation.
The funding raise, AeroVanti’s first, comes during a period of growth for the private flight industry. Last year saw a new all-time high of 3.3 million private flights in the United States, according to aviation data firm Wingx.
The company is already making substantial revenue, pulling in $20 million in the past year, Britton-Harr said. Current customers include NFL players, celebrity chefs and professional golfers. The company has planes docked in Easton, Maryland, Sarasota, Florida, and is opening a new location in Austin, Texas.
AeroVanti plans to grow to 1,200-1,500 total flight club members and nearly double its fleet to 24-25 planes by the end of this year. The company has already raised over $3 million of the series A round, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Annual membership dues allow AeroVanti to keep costs-per-hour of flight relatively low. An individual membership costs $1,000 a month, with family memberships being priced at $1,500 and businesses at $2,500 for a corporate level.
“It opens up a new class of customer that would be flying first class with a family for business travels to then get into the private aviation sector at a very palatable rate,” Britton-Harr said.
In a private flight, passengers have more control over the experience and can skip the time-consuming journey through airport security. Instead of showing up two hours before a flight like commercial passengers, AeroVanti passengers arrive at the airport 15 minutes before flying away.
The ability to skip the general aviation process also means there is less of a chance of catching a virus or disease, something that is important to many consumers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The core of the AeroVanti fleet is the Piaggio P.180 Avanti with two turbo prop engines. The company also has several Learjet 31’s and a Gulfstream G3. The company offers helicopter flights for shorter trips, such as Miami to the Florida Keys.
The majority of pilots at AeroVanti previously served in the military. Britton-Harr said he provides better hours and pay than large-scale commercial operators for former military pilots after they leave the force.