Air entrepreneur back at controls

ANDREA FOX
Last updated 05:00 28/09/2012

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Waikato's "little Kiwi battler", airline founder Ewan Wilson, is back in the aviation business - this time selling planes instead of cheap trans-Tasman seats on them.

The founder of Hamilton-based budget airline Kiwi Air, which failed in 1997, has launched Wilson Aviation to import a brand of light sport aircraft into New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific.

Wilson Aviation has an exclusive six-year partnership agreement with Slovakia planemaker Tomark Aero to sell its Viper SD4 aircraft.

Wilson, a pilot, Hamilton city councillor and Waikato District Health Board member, plans to establish a dealership network in the geographic region.

The aircraft retail for $120,000 to $190,000, and his target markets include flying schools, Australian farmers and hobby pilots.

He is planning to set up a maintenance, engineering and spare parts headquarters at either Hamilton Airport or Te Kowhai.

It's the 46-year-old's first foray back into the Waikato skies since the Kiwi Air venture, which was a spectacular success and spawned a new airport for the city, before nosediving after taking Air NZ and Qantas head-on at major Australian and New Zealand airports.

The year after the airline's failure Wilson was convicted of fraud and banned as a company director for five years.

Wilson Aviation has bought two top-of-the-line Vipers to start the venture.

Wilson said that as each dealership will be required to have a demonstration plane, the majority of the company's sales in the first year would probably be to appointed dealers.

He did not expect the economic downturn to affect sales because at $120,000 for a base model, a syndicate of keen pilots could easily afford to stump up the purchase price.

Also, the Viper's operating cost was a mere $50 an hour, he said.

This should make it a very attractive proposition for isolated Australian farmers who would otherwise use a much more expensive options such as a Robinson 22 helicopter.

Wilson and his wife Monique operate a global tour company, Grand Journey. He said he would not seek election as Hamilton mayor but would stand again as a city councillors.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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