Wheels Up finalizes deal for 10 Cessna jets

06/03/2014 5:24 PM

08/08/2014 10:24 AM

Wheels Up, a membership-based flight club for private business aircraft passengers, has finalized a deal with Textron Aviation for 10 factory custom refurbished Cessna business jets for its program.

The Cessna planes include the Citation Excel and XLS midsize jets.

The additions complement Wheels Up’s fleet of Beechcraft King Air 350i turboprops, the company said.

The first several jets will be based on the East Coast; jets will be added to other regions throughout the year, it said.

“Since our August 2013 launch, we have seen rapid growth and broad-based demand for our King Air 350i offering,” Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter said in a statement. “The addition of the Citation Excels and XLS’s will allow Wheels Up to meet the needs of our membership for longer range lift as we build out our total aviation solution.”

The company will explore adding additional Citations to its fleet, including the Citation CJ4 and Citation Sovereign.

“They are both highly competitive aircraft,” Dichter said.

By the end of 2014, Wheels Up will have a fleet of 27 King Air 350i aircraft, 10 Excel and XLS jets, and five Global 5000s through VistaJet.

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.

Each will have room for up to nine passengers and a range of 2,070 nautical miles.

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

Last year, Wheels Up signed a deal with Beechcraft Corp., now part of Textron Aviation, for up to 105 King Air 350i planes. The order included 35 firm orders for the King Airs with an option for 70 more.

At list prices, the aircraft are valued at $788 million with maintenance services valued at more than $600 million.

The first 35 King Airs are to be delivered by mid-2015.

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