Robert Van de Vuurst has been a go-to lawyer in the aviation industry in the United States and globally since 1987. For 28 years, Robert’s aviation clients have counted on him to oversee nearly every corporate, regulatory and transactional matter that they have.
Based out of the Firm’s Johnson City/Tri-Cities office, Robert brings an insider’s perspective to the industry that allows him to strategically guide clients through opportunities and navigate regulatory hurdles, all while keeping an eye on the bottom line.
Robert has overseen and been directly responsible for more than $2 billion in aircraft purchases and sales, both domestically and internationally, involving both original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) and private parties.
Significantly, he has spent much of his professional career as outside general counsel for major aviation industry clients, including 12 years for Edwards and Associates, Inc., which at the time was the largest independent broker-dealer of used helicopters in the world.
Robert was lead counsel and strategic advisor for the transaction for Edwards & Associates, Inc. and its shareholders when the company was sold to Bell Helicopter Textron in 1999.
Robert currently serves as outside general counsel for Dart Helicopter Services, the world’s largest aftermarket helicopter accessory manufacturer, as well as for Waypoint Leasing, the world’s largest independent helicopter leasing company, which has well over $1 billion in assets.
Robert handles, among other issues, aircraft sales, purchases and leases; finance and debt matters, including secured and unsecured credit and bond facilities, completion contracts and distribution agreements; FAA regulatory matters including the filing and prosecution of Supplemental Type Certificates, Part 91, 135 and 145 regulatory issues; compliance matters; and general litigation supervision.
He also assists with tax issues, aircraft ownership structuring, aviation finance and asset securitization matters, and domestic and international aircraft registration. Robert has a unique wealth of practical, hands-on aviation management experience as well.
From 2004 to 2010, Robert was outside general counsel for Era Group, Inc. (now a publicly traded company), and from 2010 to 2012, he served as the COO of the company and as president of Era Helicopters, LLC, one of the largest helicopter operators in the world.
In his management positions with Era, Robert was primarily responsible for all day-to-day company activities, including its offshore oil and gas support operations in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska; its tour division in Juneau and Denali, Alaska; its air medical EMS operations in the northeast United States and Florida; its joint venture Part 142 Training Center in Lake Charles, Louisiana; all international and joint venture activities, including a large operation in Brazil; and its international operations and aircraft leasing division. Era had approximately 900 employees, 180 aircraft, and $300 million in annual revenue, all of which were under Robert’s direct supervision.
In his role as president, he gained valuable experience in finance and accounting matters (including the negotiation and closing of a $350 million revolving credit facility) as well as all other parts and parcels of a multi-faceted international aviation company.
- University of Memphis School of Law, J.D., 1986
- East Tennessee State University, B.S., 1983, magna cum laude
- Tennessee, 1986
- United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, 1986
- United States Supreme Court, 1988
- Oversaw aircraft and equipment leases (both wet and dry) for more than 35 different aircraft types, on both a domestic and international scale as well as regulatory compliance issues for both Part 91 and Part 135 operators, including the negotiation of maintenance and “power by the hour” contracts. He was also responsible for ensuring clients have the necessary export and ITAR clearances.
- Spearheaded international aircraft and equipment leases and the concurrent equipment securitization in more than 40 countries, including India, China, Australia, Sweden, Indonesia, Scotland and other countries in Europe, Africa, Central America and South America.
- Assisted fixed base operator (FBO) client with branding and franchise agreements, fuel-uplift agreements, as well as hangar and aircraft maintenance issues.
- Represented lender in $4.5 million loan and accompanying securitization for the purchase of a used Cessna Citation X aircraft.
- Represented financial institutions in the origination and securitization of commercial loans involving a variety of pledged collateral types.
- Advised aircraft components manufacturer on a license agreement with a major OEM.
Professional Honors & Activities:
- Member – American, Tennessee and Washington County Bar Associations
- Listed in The Best Lawyers in America® in the areas of Corporate Law and Mergers and Acquisitions Law since 2009
- Listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers since 2007
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