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Airline set to take off.

Former Eastern Air Lines executive Jack E. Robinson is determined to enter the ailing airline industry despite its continuing woes. Robinson has founded Florida Air, a publicly traded commuter airline that will serve the Bahamas, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and other Florida cities.

In January, Robinson formed Florida Air with the help of Daniel E. Carpenter. From a $1 million pool of working capital, they purchased the assets of the now-defunct Aero Coach Air Lines for about $100,000. Robinson, the former president of Eastern Express, owns 51% of Florida Air. Carpenter, president of Benefit Concepts New York Inc., a firm that structures employee stock option plans, owns49%.

After purchasing Aero Coach, the partners hired Havkit Corp., a New York-based brokerage firm, to begin merger proceedings with Professional Ventures Inc., a shell company traded on the over-the-counter pink sheets. The merger, which was expected to be completed by July 15, offers Florida Air access to capital in the public markets.

Of the merger, David Kaplan, president of Havkit, says, "From a legal standpoint, Professional Ventures inc. will own Florida Air. But the owners of Florida Air will wind up with the majority of the stock ... Florida Air will be a publicly traded company on the over-the-counter pink sheets."

Florida Air began flying in March; however, it shut down in April when its only plane developed mechanical problems.

In May, the airline purchased three 15-seat C99 aircraft from Wichita, Kansas-based Beech Aircraft Corp. Beech financed the purchase of the C99s, and at press time was negotiating Florida Air's purchase of five more planes. Carpenter says the price for the eight aircraft could be as much as $21.5 million. The airline expects to be flying again in September.

Robinson believes: "If an airline offers low fares and good frequency within the state of Florida, they're going to make money hand-over-fist."

Some disagree. Jordan Greene, president of AVMARK SERVICES LTD., a Miami-based company that monitors the airline industry notes: "I am unaware of any airline that has been able to maintain profitability as a dedicated Florida carrier."

But Kaplan feels the airline has potential. "They may be able to strike a deal with an airline in bankruptcy, give stock to the creditors and acquire aircraft and airline routes without coming up with additional money," he says.
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Title Annotation:Florida Air
Author:Lewis, Nicole
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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