Prescription for success: new team in airline receives clean bill of health, prepares for take-off.

Author:Grenn, Ben
 
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It would be far too easy to say, "there's a new era at Era." But there is a new era at Era.

New owners. New management. New fleet. New start. New life. New Era!

Era Aviation Inc. is rising out from behind the cloud of bankruptcy and is once again looking for blue skies.

Late last year, Era Investment Group LLC, the commuter airline's owner, grounded former president and chief executive officer Paul Landis and placed former Anchorage resident Stephen Jackson at the controls.

"We're starting with a clean bill of health," said Jackson, the company's new top executive, referring to its emergence from Chapter 11 red ink.

FIXING BROKEN WINGS

No stranger to re-tooling troubled airlines, Jackson helped to successfully restore companies that include Mesa Air Group Inc., Reno Air Inc. and Hawaiian Airlines Inc. from their financial woes. Jackson has been working as a consultant to Era Aviation since January 2006. Prior to that, he was a partner with the (now) "Big Four" accounting firm of KMPG LLP.

Era's re-organization plan, which included rebuilding what Jackson describes as basically a nonexistent accounting system, meant paying its previous owner, SEACOR, $3.1 million over its use of their funds, a claim which was disputed. Era is handing more than $1 million up front to SEACOR, with the remainder of that bill to be paid in full next year.

"We want to continue the same excellent service that our customers are accustomed to, but strive to make it better," Jackson said. "We want to improve on our scheduling, flight arrivals and departures. We want to be able to say that when we say we are flying, we ARE actually in the sky.

"Era is out to keep our good name clean and to better all facets of our business, top to bottom--from clean aircraft down to on-time performance. If we do that, I think we'll be successful."

Jackson, who has deep roots in Alaska, grew up and went to high school in Anchorage, is joined by Mike LeNorman, director of sales and marketing; Dave Richards, vice president of finance; and Jeff Sharp, vice president of operations, to form Era's new top management team. Together, their focus now will be on how to keep the company operating in the black. Richards, who joined Era last year, most recently had been the controller for the Municipality of Anchorage, while Sharp has worked for Era for more than two decades. With its headquarters in Anchorage, Era Aviation serves the communities of Homer, Kenai, Kodiak, Cordova and Valdez. It is...

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