Aviation

Wheels Up fleet to reach nearly 50 Wichita-built King Airs

Wheels Up, a New York-based private aviation membership company, took delivery of its 35th Beechcraft King Air 350i in August in Wichita. This airplane sports a unique pink paint scheme, which Wheels Up will use to support the Dubin Breast Center at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Wheels Up, a New York-based private aviation membership company, took delivery of its 35th Beechcraft King Air 350i in August in Wichita. This airplane sports a unique pink paint scheme, which Wheels Up will use to support the Dubin Breast Center at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. File photo

Wheels Up has added five Wichita-built Beechcraft King Air 350i planes to its fleet since mid-February and plans to add four more by June.

Officials from the New York-based private aviation membership company updated its fleet numbers to The Eagle as part of a separate announcement about the expansion of its program to include a less expensive membership option.

The 3-year-old company said it has added a second tier to its membership program called 8760 Membership. That membership costs $5,950 in the first year and remains at $5,950 in the second year.

That compares with its traditional membership, which is $17,500 in the first year and $8,500 in the second year.

The 8760 program is expected to drive Wheels Up membership higher. The current membership stands at 2,300. The primary differences between it and full-fledged membership is 8760 members won’t have guaranteed access to a Wheels Up airplane on the dates they want to fly – although separate air travel arrangements can be made through a partnership with aircraft charter provider Apollo Jets – and hourly aircraft rates are higher. 8760 members can also request to share a ride with traditional members.

“Wheels Up members now have an increased pool of like-minded members to view and join the flights they post for ride-sharing, further reducing their cost of flying,” Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter said in a news release.

A Wheels Up spokeswoman said Monday that with the additional King Airs, the company’s fleet by June will total 49 of the twin turboprops manufactured at the Textron Aviation East Campus.

The King Airs are part of a 2013 announcement by Wheels Up that it planned to order as many as 105 of the airplanes. At the time, the deal was valued at $1.4 billion.

Wheels Up also operates a fleet of 15 used Cessna Citation Excel/XLS business jets that it purchased from Textron Aviation.

Wheels Up founder and CEO talks about why his company chose the Beechcraft King Air for its fleet. Pictured with Dichter are, from left, wife Shoshana and daughters Harley and Phoebe. Video by Jerry Siebenmark / Aug. 28, 2015)

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark

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