Partners in Aviation provides managed aircraft co-ownership services for owners of business jets and turboprops who fly less than 200 hours per year. The company brings together an aircraft owner and a prospective co-owner or two entities looking to purchase a comparable aircraft. It then assists in acquiring the aircraft if necessary, setting up the partnership, scheduling usage, and providing an exit strategy.
A regional sales director for Beechcraft (later Textron Aviation) in the greater Chicago area for 34 years, PIA founder Mark Molloy took note of the number of people he met who owned or wanted to own a turboprop or light jet but couldn’t justify the expense for the hours they expected to use the aircraft. While many of these people were interested in splitting the cost with a partner, they were daunted by the legal complexity of an aircraft partnership agreement and the uncertainties concerning scheduling and maintenance.
In 2016, Molloy partnered with Tom Bertels, a marketing executive from Wichita, Kansas, who had a long history as a commercial and instrument-rated pilot. Recently retired as a managing partner from Sullivan Higdon and Sink, an advertising company that works with aviation clients, Bertels (who left PIA in 2019) added marketing expertise to Molloy’s aircraft transaction knowledge, and the two began to develop a way to fill the gap between fractional programs and sole ownership.
While the company was launched in late 2016, it took nearly two years of meeting with tax and finance consultants, legal advisors, and other industry experts to develop PIA’s managed co-ownership model. Legally structured differently than a partnership, the managed co-ownership structure allows each owner to create an entity with no connection to the other, providing autonomy in tax and title. PIA handles the communications between co-owners, who have 100 percent control of the aircraft schedule on alternating weeks with incentives to share when the other owner needs the aircraft on an off week.
For the first co-ownership deal, completed in 2018, the company took more than six months to find and match the co-owners, two frequent charter and jet card customers. The company acquired an Embraer Phenom for them that is based at Florida’s Palm Beach International Airport.
PIA has since completed matches in a wide range of business aircraft, including Cessna Citations, Embraer Phenoms, Hawkers, Gulfstreams, Bombardier Challengers, a Cirrus Jet, and Pilatus PC-12 turboprops. The majority of these have been preowned aircraft that were approximately 10 to 15 years old. Having identified a nationwide pool of prospective co-owners, PIA now typically completes matches within 60 days.