AVAir Inc., the Lynchburg operator of the American Eagle regional airline, has been sold to the company's president and chief executive officer, Curtis M. Coward, for an undisclosed price.
The announcement comes just as the paint is beginning to dry on the new American Eagle logos, which have replaced the old Air Virginia of the company's predecessor, and just as the red ink on its books is beginning to turn to black.
"The purchase of control of AVAir represents the fulfillment of a long-held objective of mine," said Coward, who has weathered the airline's turbulent flight from near fiscal disaster in 1984.
In announcing his acquisition of the seven-year-old airline, Coward also outlined an ambitious growth plan based on a franchise agreement the company signed with American Airlines in February, making it part of American's growing commuter airline network.
Coward said that AVAir, in conjunction with American Airlines' plan to build a new $1.6 billion hub at the Raleigh-Durham (N.C.) airport, will increase the number of flights out of that airport to 90 a day, serving 20 cities within a 300-mile radius.
AVAir's American Eagle system flies to 16 cities, from Newark in the north to Charlotte, N.C., in the south and from Norfolk in the east to Columbus, Ohio, in the west.
"In all candor, both revenue and profits will surge when we have the critical mass of Raleigh. The way to make money in this business is to serve a hub," Coward said.
In addition, since the company changed the airline's name to American Eagle from Air Virginia in May, AVAir has purchased 10 new Metro III aircraft, valued at more than $27 million, and has exercised an option to purchase 10 more for delivery this year and next.
AVAir, which has been operating at a loss since the start of operations in 1979, expects to break even in fiscal 1985 on revenue in the $20 million range, Coward said. Next year, he added, the company should make its first profit and revenue should increase to about $60 million in 1988.
The company, with Coward at the helm, has not always had such a bright future.
In the fall of 1984, AVAir, unable to pay off old debts and to meet its payroll, was purchased by Orr Felt Co., a felt maker in Ohio, at a "very good price," Coward said.
"Once all of that was settled and we had a focus and a long-term market plan, I was interested in getting equity," Coward said.
Orr Felt Co. decided to sell the company because of its large capital costs and because operations of the two companies were not complementary, Coward said. "This sale will allow both companies to pursue their objectives without overextending capital," Coward said.
Labor demand in Virginia rose in 1985, with Northern Virginia registering the largest increase in the state, according to the University of Virginia's Tayloe Murphy Institute.
As shown by increases in help-wanted classified ads, said Donald W. Lindsey, research assistant at the institute, "The overall trend in labor demand since 1982 has been increasing with 1984 a particularly strong year and 1985 following with continued growth."
In Northern Virginia, the institute's want-ad linage index rose 39 percent, to 176 in 1985 from 127 in 1984.
The next highest increase was a 28 percent increase in the west-central area, followed by a 26 percent increase in Hampton Roads and a 21 percent increase in the Richmond-Petersburg area. The lowest increase of 11 percent was in the south-west area.
The year-end index for Northern Virginia, however, was down from 194 in the previous month. Most markets showed a slight decrease in December, Lindsey said, because of a traditional drop in advertising during the month. The want-ad figures are based on a monthly study of 20 daily newspapers, not including The Washington Post.
Another indication of the health of the Virginia economy last year was a surge in housing starts for the first and second quarters.
While national housing starts showed signs of slowing in the beginning of 1985, Virginia housing starts climbed to record levels, according to a study by the Tayloe Murphy Institute.
"Virginia's economy in many respects does better than the nation's, and the increase in permit activity is a further indication of this," said Michael A. Spar of the institute.
During the first quarter of 1985, 14,262 construction permits were issued. "This is a much higher number than the average of 9,400 per quarter in each of the last five years," said Spar, and "is also well in excess of the first-quarter figure for 1984, a record year for the housing industry in Virginia."
In the second quarter of 1985, Virginia issued 19,557 housing permits, the greatest number since 1976, when the institute began tabulating housing-start data, Spar said. The second-quarter total is 44 percent higher than the five-year second-quarter average and 37 percent higher than in the first quarter.
The Baltimore Radio Show Inc., owner and operator of WFBR-AM, has purchased WKHI-FM of Ocean City, Md., from Atlantic Broadcasting Co. for $3 million.
The Baltimore Radio Show Inc. will retain the eight-year-old station's Top 10 radio format as well as its management and staff, Harry R. Shriver, the company's president and general manager, said. It also owns WOYK-FM in York, Pa., and WFBR-AM, the flagship station for the Baltimore Orioles Radio Network.