Cirrus Design is to acquire US air-taxi operator SATSair in a move to stimulate demand for “personal” air transport. The company plans to accelerate the growth of SATSair’s fleet from nine Cirrus SR22 light aircraft, adding 100 more by the end of next year.

“Personal air transport has a huge benefit far beyond current pilots. We have to open up the market to a lot more people,” says Cirrus president and chief executive Alan Klapmeier. “We sell aircraft, but we are not in the pieces needed to grow the market. We need to step into the air-taxi market and help demonstrate that it can work.”

Based in Greenville, South Carolina, SATSair is a Part 135 operator providing point-to-point service using SR22 four-seat piston singles operating within a 485km (260nm) radius of strategic locations in the south-east USA. The company sells blocks of 10h, 20h or 50h and offers one-way flights for $495/h.

Cirrus plans to widen the service area to “everything east of Mississippi and south of Chicago and New York”, says Klapmeier, as well as to increase the number of aircraft available at each location. “We need to get the aircraft out there to kick-start the growth. We have to aggressively demonstrate this and convince the customers.”

Klapmeier says SATSair has already shown that some customers new to personal air transport will learn to fly and then buy an aircraft, while others will move up to jet charters. “At a foundation level, it has demonstrated there is value in personal air transport,” he says.

Whether Cirrus will continue as the owner and operator of SATSair in the long term is not clear, Klapmeier says. Investors or finance partners will be brought in to purchase, then lease back, the required aircraft.

Source: Flight International