AE Industrial Partners, a private equity investor specializing in control investments in the aerospace and defense sector, among others, has acquired a majority interest in Utah-based airfreight operator Alpine Air Express. According to a statement from the companies, AE will partner with Alpine’s existing shareholders, and Alpine CEO Michael Dancy will continue in his role.
Alpine Air Express operates a fleet of more than 40 Beech 99, Beech 1900C and Beech 1900D turboprop freighters in feeder service for UPS and the U.S. Postal Service in the western United States. The carrier has nearly doubled its fleet size since 2014 with support from its previous partner, KEB Enterprises. Dancy told Air Cargo World that he expects Alpine to double or triple in size during the next few years with support from AE Industrial Partners, which has previously invested in companies in the aviation space, although this deal marks its first investment with a carrier.
Alpine’s service covers what Dancy called the “last air mile,” connecting major airports and regional airports for customers including USPS and UPS, and through its UPS business, Amazon. Distinct from larger turboprop freighters such as those from Embraer and ATR, Beech aircraft are operated by only one pilot, which “addresses the massive pilot shortage,” Dancy added.
In addition to its role as a regional air carrier, in November 2018 Alpine received an STC for passenger-to-freighter conversion of the Beech 1900D from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Dancy said Alpine began work on developing the converted freighter about four years ago, after operating smaller Beech turboprops and recognizing that “about 350 of those aircraft [Beech 1900D] were made but never converted into cargo.” With the arrival of its STC, Alpine has “now become an engineering company… [and is] able to convert those aircraft for our UPS business.”
According to Dancy, Alpine has developed conversion centers in Johannesburg, South Africa, and at its Provo, Utah, base, and plans additional locations in the future – “probably in mainland Europe, two in Canada, and two [total] in the U.S.”