The founder of a membership-based private aviation club based partially in Sarasota, AeroVanti, is denying a pair of industry reports that contend the company’s fleet of airplanes has been grounded.
Private air service industry publications Private Jet Card Comparisons and AINonline, in stories published June 26 and June 28, respectively, allege the club’s fleet has stopped flying. In one story, in Private Jet Card Comparisons, AeroVanti COO Paolo Ferrari confirmed the grounding, saying it was related to maintenance. Ferrari added that at least one aircraft was expected to fly soon.
Patrick Britton-Harr, in a June 30 interview with the Business Observer, says stories of the grounding allegations are false. “We just had a plane fly yesterday, and we will have another one today,” Britton-Harr says. “We are flying every day. We are totally operational.”
According to FlightAware, an aviation and flight tracking site, one of AeroVanti’s planes, a Piaggio P.180 Avanti, with the tail number N290BC, flew from Springfield, Massachusetts, to AeroVanti’s base in Sarasota on June 27. That was the plane’s first flight since May 21, according to FlightAware.
No other information on other planes AeroVanti might own or operate was available on FlightAware. A Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport official told the Business Observer that he had no knowledge on whether AeroVanti planes stopped, or had stopped, flying. A spokesperson for Atlantic Aviation, one of two private air service fixed-base operators at the airport, declined to confirm or deny whether AeroVanti uses its facilities, citing client confidentiality.
Asked after the phone interview in a text specifically about Ferrari’s comments that the fleet was grounded due to maintenance issues, Britton-Harr responded that those “comments appear to be taken out of context. We can not comment on that conversation. We are operational and flights will continue for our members.”
AeroVanti also addressed the issues, generally, in an email sent to members June 30. In the note, obtained by the Business Observer, the company says its new CEO, former Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes, will be conducting a Zoom meeting July 7 at noon "for all of our members to learn about the new direction for the club and how we will be making improvements moving forward."
"Please note, we are operational and taking limited flights as we work through our current challenges to bring more aircraft back into service," the note states. "Thank you for your continued support as we refocus our club for enhanced service and consistency for our members."
AeroVanti is built on a tiered membership model and competitive hourly pricing. The company, founded in 2021 with a dual headquarters in Sarasota and Annapolis, Maryland, has had some major wins in the past few years. That includes Britton-Harr being named a Business Observer 40 Under 40 winner in October.
And, on top of a $100 million investment led by Lafayette Aircraft Leasing and a $9.75 million Series A funding round in 2022, AeroVanti claims to have secured exclusive partnerships with the University of Maryland, University of Central Florida, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Cubs, Spire Motorsports and U.S. Sailing. It acquired Arizona-based Marjet Aviation in March 2022. As part of its continued growth, the company unveiled the AeroVanti Yacht Club earlier this year.
Hopes is also new to the company. In addition to his role overseeing Manatee County government, Hopes served a term on the Manatee County School Board, where he was chair for a year. He resigned from Manatee County in February during an emergency county commission meeting to talk about communication issues between Hopes and the elected officials. Hopes had been in the role at the county for 22 months; Aerovanti officials, in announcing Hopes’ hire, said he would work alongside Britton-Harr to grow the company.
In addition to the alleged fleet grounding, Aerovanti faces several lawsuits from customers and members contending fraud. The trade publications also write about more potential issues, including the company allegedly nearly missing payroll.
Britton-Harr, in the brief June 30 phone call, says “we can’t comment on the lawsuits.” Later in the call he denied all the allegations in the published stories, including missing payroll, calling them “totally false.”
(This story was updated to reflect information from the email sent to members.)