Eastern Airways back in local ownership as founder swoops to buy back

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 14 May 2019

Eastern Airways is back in the private hands of founder Richard Lake OBE, after he swooped to buy out the airline from crisis-hit Bristow.

The regional operator, based at Humberside Airport, was bought out back in 2014, 17 years after he and former Grimsby Town director Bryan Huxford formed it.

Tony Burgess, managing director of Eastern Airways, said: “Back as an independent operator, we will focus on opportunities to enhance and grow this business.  We will continue to work in close partnership with Bristow in the UK providing fixed wing operations to support the North Sea oil and gas sector.”  

Understood to have been acquired back for substantially less than the £27 million paid for it, operations will continue as normal, providing scheduled services as a franchise partner of Flybe, specialist oil and gas contracts, corporate shuttles for blue chip companies, and ad-hoc private charter services.   

Richard Lake OBE.

A European leader in its field, it recently became only the seventh airline in the UK to gain IATA’s Operational Safety Audit accreditation, which is the benchmark for global safety management in airlines. 

The team will continue to support Bristow’s Northern North Sea operations with a fixed-wing flying programme.

It is understood Humberside Airport remains under Bristow ownership, having been acquired by Eastern Group back in 2012. Managing director Deborah Zost was not immediately available for comment.

Bristow has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US, having been hit by a slump in the oil and gas market, with the company found to be in breach of leases after helicopters and their engines were interchanged.  Such was the extent of the problem, it was unable to file its fourth quarter results from 2018, and still hasn’t, which led to it being in breach of NYSE rules. The share price then bottomed out, putting it in further breach of Wall Street regulations.

Ready for take-off! An Eastern aircraft taxis to a runway.

Eastern itself is not without challenges. Rival Loganair has just announced it is to go head-to-head on certain routes from Aberdeen, Eastern's 'second' home after Kirmington. 

It also operates flights from Anglesey, Cardiff, Durham Tees Valley, Humberside, Leeds Bradford, Newcastle, Norwich, Paris Orly, Rodez, Scatsta, Southampton, Sumburgh, Warton and Wick John O’Groats.

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