Rivals to acquire Era Aviation

Bill White

Anchorage-based airline Era Aviation is being acquired by owners of rival airlines in Alaska.

HoTH Inc. said it expects to complete its purchase of Era on Feb. 27. No purchase price was disclosed.

HoTH is owned by John Hajdukovich, Mike Hageland, James Tweto and the parent company for Frontier Flying Service Inc. and Hageland Aviation Services Inc.

Hajdukovich will become chief executive of Era and will integrate Era with Frontier.

"Era operations will allow us to right size the aircraft to our markets. Era has an excellent safety record and culture that will complement our strategic goals of developing a statewide network of professional airlines that set the standard for safe operations," Hajdukovich said.

Era serves Anchorage, Fairbanks, Bethel, Cordova, Homer, Valdez, Kenai and Kodiak with scheduled passenger flights and flies charters as well. It will retain its name after the acquisition.

Era endured a series of hardships in the middle of this decade, with the company being sold a couple of times and spending about a year reorganizing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. As the decade began, it was a major regional airline with both helicopter and fixed-wing operations. A Texas company bought it in 2005 for its helicopter operations, then a few months later sold the airplane business to a group of West Coast investors.

In late 2005, the airline entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection over a $12 million dispute with a creditor. The airline emerged from Bankruptcy Court a year later and since has expanded.

Frontier and Hageland merged last year under the parent company Frontier Alaska, based in Fairbanks. Hajdukovich bought Frontier in 1974 and it has been a key Fairbanks-based airline. Mike Hageland founded Hageland Aviation in Anchorage in 1981.

At the time of the merger, Hageland said that "aviation is a tough business. There's too many carriers in most of the markets. Possibly, we'll make one good company out of the two that were just rolling along."

W. Stephen Jackson, Era's current chief executive, said Tuesday that the purchase of Era "is a very intelligent business decision for HoTH and will enable the combined entities to provide ever higher levels of safety and service to customers along with greater financial stability for employees." After the acquisition, HoTH will have about 700 employees and annual revenue of more than $100 million, the company said. Jim Hajdukovich, president of Frontier Flying, says collectively the three commuter airline companies will serve nearly 100 of the state's cities and villages with intrastate service.