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Cessna business jets to join Wheels Up fleet

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, at 5:06 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, at 7:53 p.m.

Wheels Up, a membership-based flight club for private business aircraft passengers, plans to add Cessna Citation Excel and Sovereign business jets to its fleet, Wheels Up said in a news release.

Cessna will provide the maintenance on the aircraft as well.

Wheels Up expects to offer Cessna Citations to its members as soon as possible, it said.

Details are being finalized, but Wheels Up projects delivery of 15 to 20 Cessna business jets in 2014, a Wheels Up spokesman said.

Those jets are expected to be pre-owned, refurbished jets, with an average age of 7 to 10 years, the spokesman said.

The Citations will be outfitted with a Wheels Up blue-and-white-paint scheme and the word “Up” on the tail, along with customized interiors that include Wi-Fi connectivity, Wheels Up said.

The company could take 15 to 20 planes a year, depending on how its membership stacks up, Wheels Up founder Kenny Dichter told CNBC.

The planes will be a combination of new and pre-owned, Dichter said.

A Cessna spokesman said the two companies are still in the discussion stages about some specific details of the initiative.

“Cessna is not prepared to discuss further at this time,” the company said in an e-mail.

Dichter was the founder of Marquis Jet, which pioneered a 25-hour fractional jet card to clients. The Marquis Jet card had generated $4 billion in business by the time the company was sold to fractional ownership company NetJets.

“We feel that we know the Cessna product better than anyone else in the industry; while at Marquis Jet, we drove over $4 billion in revenue, the majority of which was on Cessna aircraft,” Dichter said in a statement. “To have Cessna, the industry authority in light, midsize and super midsize jets, working with Wheels Up is a significant achievement and a testament to the business model we’ve created.”

Scott Ernest, CEO of Cessna, said in a statement that Cessna is excited to be in business with Wheels Up because its membership model is one of the futures of private aviation.

“Wheels Up opens up a whole new space of customers who can access the Cessna product,” Ernest said.

The first 35 King Airs are to be delivered by mid-2015. The order includes options for 70 additional King Airs as Wheels Up expands nationally over the next two to three years.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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