AAR buys former aircraft contractor of what was Blackwater

The company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, known for its security work in Iraq, is selling its aircraft company.
The company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, known for its security work in Iraq, is selling its aircraft company. (2007 Photo By Marko Drobnjakovic/associated Press)
By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 26, 2010

A Chicago area aircraft service company said Thursday that it will pay $200 million to buy the aviation unit of the security contractor company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide.

AAR Corp. is buying Aviation Worldwide Services, one of the units in the collection of companies owned by Xe Services, as Blackwater is now called. With annual sales of $1.4 billion, the 55-year-old AAR has about 6,000 employees in 13 countries. It maintains and repairs aircraft and handles logistics related to spare parts for commercial airlines and the U.S. military. It also makes pallets, containers and mobile hospitals.

Executives at AAR said they hope the purchase will boost the firm's government business. Aviation Worldwide Services has several contracts with the U.S. government, including some to move personnel and cargo in Afghanistan, another to move supplies between ships in Guam, and a deal to handle transportation logistics and casualty evacuation services in Africa. The aviation unit also has a deal to modify Blackhawk helicopters for the United Arab Emirates.

AAR's agreement to buy the unit is expected to close in the next few weeks.

"This acquisition represents a significant milestone in the expansion of AAR's value-added capabilities for government customers," said David P. Storch, AAR's chief executive.

Blackwater was started by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL who inherited an industrial fortune in the mid-1990s. It grew into a collection of companies under Prince and his McLean-based holding company, the Prince Group, and it developed a niche in doing a range of security work, from naval training and aviation services to building special armored vehicles. It also became widely known for training local, state and federal enforcement officers and for providing security and training in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Xe has come under increased scrutiny for some of its contract work in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Storch said he plans to move Xe's aviation unit out of Moyock, N.C., but gave no specifics, saying he was exploring locations.

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