Directional Aviation Capital

This investment firm owns well-known business aviation service providers such as Flexjet, Sentient Jet, and Nextant Aerospace.

What It Is: Directional Aviation Capital is a private investment firm that funds its portfolio of business aviation companies, which contains such well-known brands as Flexjet, Sentient Jet, and Nextant Aerospace. Those companies provide services that include charter, fractional ownership, jet cards, and aircraft remanufacture, refurbishment, and financing.

How It Grew: In 1981 Kenn Ricci, a law-school grad and former military and airline pilot, spent $27,000 in savings and $500 borrowed from his father to buy Corporate Wings, a Cleveland-based aircraft charter management company. By 1985, he had increased its annual revenues more than tenfold, to $3.4 million. As business aviation blossomed in the early 1990s Ricci acquired hangars and other supporting operations. He also took time off to serve as Bill Clinton’s pilot during the 1992 Presidential campaign.

Back in Cleveland, Ricci founded fractional-ownership program Flight Options in 1998, offering shares in preowned aircraft, and merged with Raytheon Travel Air, the Beechcraft airframer’s fractional program, in 2001. Corporate Wings acquired a stake in Mercury Air Center’s FBO network in 2005, and two years later sold the company to the Macquarie Infrastructure Trust for a reported nine-figure profit. Ricci founded Nextant Aerospace, a pioneering business aircraft remanufacturer, in 2007, first introducing the Nextant 400XT light jet, using Beechjet 400A/XP airframes. That same year he founded Directional Aviation Capital (DAC) as an investment vehicle for his businesses. 

Ricci, who left Flight Options in 2003, rejoined as chairman in 2008, with DAC ultimately acquiring majority ownership, though the appeal of shares in preowned aircraft proved limited. 

DAC bought jet card provider Sentient Jet and Everest Fuel Management in 2012. The next year, after riding out the Great Recession, the company acquired Flexjet, Bombardier Aerospace’s fractional, jet card, and charter program, and ordered some $6.5 billion of the Canadian airframer’s business jets. The next year DAC ordered Embraer Phenom 300s and Legacy 450s, and up to 50 long-range Gulfstreams, and consolidated Flexjet’s, Flight Options’ and Sentient Jet’s charter brokerage operations under its Skyjet brokerage. Then, in 2015, it ordered 20 of Aerion’s in-development AS-2 supersonic business jets, worth $2.4 billion at list price.

In 2018 Directional acquired U.K.-based charter broker and mobile-booking-app developer PrivateFly; U.S. flight and maintenance training provider Simcom International (in partnership with CAE); and Italy’s Sirio S.P.A., to support Flexjet’s planned growth in Europe.

Recent News: Gulfstream announced at the National Business Aviation Association’s convention in October that Flexjet will be the fleet launch customer for its forthcoming flagship, the G700.

What It Offers: Directional’s companies include Flexjet, which offers fractional ownership in the Embraer Phenom 300, Learjet 75 LXi, Bombardier Challenger 350, and Gulfstream 450 and 650; Sentient Jet, a jet card provider; and Nextant Aerospace, which sells the Nextant 400XTi, G90XT, and 604XT (remanufactured models based, respectively, on the Beechjet 400A/XP, King Air C90, and Challenger 604). Also in Directional’s portfolio are Simcom International, which specializes in flight training, and Constant Aviation, which refurbishes aircraft.


FAST FACTS

Founded: 2007

Headquarters: Cleveland

Employees: about 2,200

Revenues (2018): more than $2 billion

Founder, principal, and chairman: Kenneth “Kenn” Ricci

Website: directional.com

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