Deal to buy ERA airline division finalized

Posted: Thursday, July 21, 2005

The West Coast-based Era Aviation Investment Group, LLC — which formed solely to purchase ERA Aviation Inc.'s regional airplane division — completed the deal Monday.

Another company, SEACOR Holdings, purchased the entire Era Aviation company on Dec. 31, 2004, including its helicopter and fixed-wing airplane divisions.

At the time of the purchase, the company included close to 100 helicopters, along with its division of 12 planes, according to Era president and CEO Paul Landis.

"SEACOR was interested in hanging onto the helicopter business," Landis said. "They weren't interested in the airline business."

"We are very happy that we have closed the transaction," said Willie James Gault, a member of the investment group's board and a former pro football player. "We believe that Era presents a great opportunity for us and believe strongly in the capabilities of the management team to take the company to the next level of fully supporting Alaska in its growing transportation needs."

Era has not released the airline's purchase price.

Prior to the sale eight months ago, the company had lost millions in recent years, and former president Chuck Johnson said in January high employee benefit costs and fuel prices could lead to layoffs within the company.

Johnson has since retired, and Landis said Wednesday the losses were due to the company's helicopter division, and not its airplane division.

Last month, the airline announced no layoffs would accompany the sale. Flight routes and prices would remain the same, according to Landis.

The airline serves Homer, Kenai, Kodiak, and Prince William Sound from its Anchorage hub, and 17 other communities from its Bethel hub. Since the initial purchase last winter, Era has purchased a fourth Dehavilland Twin Otter plane, bringing its airline division to 13 planes.

It also plans to add new online services starting July 29, Landis said.

He said the airline will offer Web-based check-in and online flight tracking, where a real-time map displays incoming flights on the company's Web site.

"It brings us to the level of major carriers when it comes to some customer service," Landis said.

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