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Inside the ‘too good to be true’, $1,000-a-month private jet club accused of ripping off customers, employees and contractors to the tune of $40 MILLION


When AeroVanti took off in 2021, the start-up pledged to revolutionize the private aviation industry by offering luxury flights to well-heeled clients at cheaper rates.

But just three years later the company is mired in lawsuits and has been accused of ripping off customers, employees and contractors to the tune of $40 million.

Speaking to Bloomberg Businessweek, insiders have now revealed the scale of the scandal – with one lawyer describing the operation as having the ‘hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme’.

At the center of the onslaught is the firm’s 39-year-old founder Patrick Britton-Harr –  a medical services mogul with no formal training who had previously served time for vehicular manslaughter after killing his 20-year-old passenger in a 2006 drunk driving crash. 

Britton-Harr was also recently found liable for $30 million of damages in relation a pandemic-era scam – and used the ill-gotten gains to buy at least two AeroVanti planes, feds said in December. 

Those planes – a pair of posh, twin-engine Piaggios – were part of a fleet used to ferry wealthy clients across the globe before being grounded last summer following an FAA probe. 

Troubled Sarasota startup AeroVanti launched in May 2021 to major fanfare as it promised to disrupt the private aviation industry but is now mired in lawsuits

Troubled Sarasota startup AeroVanti launched in May 2021 to major fanfare as it promised to disrupt the private aviation industry but is now mired in lawsuits

At the center is the firm's 39-year-old founder Patrick Britton-Harr, who was recently ruled liable for $30 million in a separate fraud case

At the center is the firm’s 39-year-old founder Patrick Britton-Harr, who was recently ruled liable for $30 million in a separate fraud case

The firm launched in 2021 with a membership model that cost $1,000 a month plus $1,500 per flight-hour – which appeared to be a bargain compared to the industry average of $7,000. 

Customers could also pay for a VIP membership called Top Gun which cost as much as $150,000 and offered perks such as priority booking – with the money invested supposedly going towards purchasing jets via fractional ownership.

But the first clues of Britton-Harr’s waning venture came when customers started reporting last-minute cancellations, insiders told Bloomberg Businessweek.

AeroVanti, at the time, blamed the mix-ups on unspecified mechanical issues or ‘supply chain’ woes but furious customers soon began complaining.  

‘This is not what I had in mind when I signed up for this,’ one ‘Top Gun’ tier client reportedly wrote in an email  – in a chain of about 100 others who experienced similar treatment. ‘Constant scramble versus relaxed luxury,’ they added.

Many clients said they found themselves stranded in far-flung destinations, often forced to make other arrangements – on their dime – to get home.   

Some missed weddings, others missed graduations – as several became suspicious of Britton-Harr’s brash vows to upend the private aviation sector.

‘It was a mess,’ Kristin Vogel, one of at least 20 Top Gun members who filed lawsuits over perks they say never materialized.

‘We’d get confirmations all week, then wake up that morning and get a cancellation,’ she continued.

After her third canceled flight, Vogel took it upon herself to call Britton-Harr, she said, recalling to Businessweek how the bro-ey CEO who preferred shorts and flip-flops to a suit flipped on her when she suggested she was being scammed.

‘He screamed at me, ‘If you say the word scam one more time, I’m going to remove you as a member!’ ‘ she told the publication of the 2022 call. 

She recalled thinking at the time: ‘If this company is not doing well and they’re cutting corners and we’re getting on a plane that they own – it just didn’t feel safe.’

'It was a mess,' Kristin Vogel, one of at least 20 who paid a $150,000 lump sum for access to priority booking and perks - like having their at least $1,000 monthly fee perpetually waived.

‘It was a mess,’ Kristin Vogel, one of at least 20 who paid a $150,000 lump sum for access to priority booking and perks – like having their at least $1,000 monthly fee perpetually waived.

Another person who signed up for the firm’s Top Gun club reportedly added of then-CEO Britton-Harr and AeroVanti’s management: ‘Bernie Madoff could learn a few things from these clowns.’

That was more than a year ago, when AeroVanti was still flying high – at least on the outside.

The company, which operated out of an office building at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, had raised about $110million in investor funding enthralled with Britton-Harr’s vision of a more accessible VIP experience for frequent flyers.

Within a year, the firm also racked up more than 300 members and $20 million in revenue, according to Britton-Harr – but staffers who spoke to Businessweek Tuesday explained how internally, it was a whole other story.

‘Imagine the worst person you can have to be in charge of anybody’s lives or money and not having anybody to stand in their way,’ said ex AeroVanti Director of Operations Daniel Marchick – who was hired in May 2022 – of Britton-Harr as a boss. 

‘That’s what happened,’ he continued, before citing several examples of questionable business decisions made by the self-made mogul.

‘Patrick would add flights in and destroy the schedule,’ Marchick said of the exec’s tendency to schedule flights for investors slipshod, often at the expense of paying customers.

‘If employees pushed back,’ the former Air Force flight engineer further recalled, ‘[Britton-Harr] would be like, “I’m the CEO. This is my company. This can be done. There are no real rules.”‘ 

He and other employees reportedly claimed that many of these unscheduled flights were unsanctioned and kept off official logs in full violation of FAA regulations. 

Britton-Harr, Marchick and others revealed, referred to these free flyers internally with the abbreviation ‘D.N.S.,’ meaning ‘do not screw’ – leading the ex-AC-130 gunship pilot to declare: ‘He had his pecking order of people.’

The company, which operated out of an office building at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, had raised about $110million in investor funding enthralled with Britton-Harr's vision of a more accessible VIP experience for frequent flyers

The company, which operated out of an office building at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, had raised about $110million in investor funding enthralled with Britton-Harr’s vision of a more accessible VIP experience for frequent flyers

Despite the risk of using capital garnered by paying clients to sway sales, Britton-Harr continued the practice, staffers said.

When it became apparent there were not enough planes to go around, AeroVanti – at Britton-Harr’s behest – started routinely canceling reservations, they recalled.

To quell suspicions, Britton-Harr and his sales team routinely told members they had a dozens of planes in operation – a statement one of the suits against the firm says was an outright lie, as only two or three were actually airworthy at a given time.

In comments to Businessweek, staffers and members alike remembered how all the while, AeroVanti assured customers it would reimburse them for market-rate rebookings through another charter company at their own expense. 

Often, though, those refunds never materialized, the insiders said – and neither would restitution on investments that helped get the fleet off the ground initially.

Britton-Harr was also accused of flouting federal safety and flight regulations to address the emerging overload, staffers who spoke under the condition of anonymity and Marchick said.  

When someone wrote ‘Minimum ten hours of rest’ on an office whiteboard in reference to federal guidelines that dictate how long pilots can fly each day, Britton-Harr reportedly told a staffer to ‘Erase that number,’ stating, ‘That doesn’t exist.’

‘”This is an at-will state!”‘ Marchick recalled of what his boss would allegedly say at the time – implying that anyone who complained could be fired at a given moment.

Britton-Harr later made good on his word by firing his own father, 70-year-old Steve Harr, from the position of chief pilot.

Once a pilot for the US Navy, Harr was brought on early, but after clashing with his son over his management style, was mercilessly ostracized, staffers said. 

‘NO ONE IS TO CONTACT Steve Harr anymore for any reason,’ pilots were reportedly warned in a company email sent last May.

Within a year, a few months before employees' previously late paychecks stopped, Britton-Harr fired his father, 70-year-old Steve Harr, from the position of chief pilot following a clash about his management style

Within a year, a few months before employees’ previously late paychecks stopped, Britton-Harr fired his father, 70-year-old Steve Harr, from the position of chief pilot following a clash about his management style

Before that, though, the man known to throw alcohol-fueled, hors d'oeuvres-laden parties for his workers and associates would routinely fly by helicopter to the firm's Sarasota office from his home on Tampa¿s Davis Islands. Sarasota Airport is seen here

Before that, though, the man known to throw alcohol-fueled, hors d’oeuvres-laden parties for his workers and associates would routinely fly by helicopter to the firm’s Sarasota office from his home on Tampa’s Davis Islands. Sarasota Airport is seen here 

A few months earlier the firm had lost another staffer who many regarded as the company’s sole responsible exec, COO Robert De Pol, without warning.

A former Navy pilot brought on five months into AeroVanti’s tenure, De Pol reportedly declined to comment on his resignation, stating only that he wants to distance himself from the company. 

This left Britton-Harr with complete control of the company, Marchick and others recalled. 

Before that, though, the man had been known to throw alcohol-fueled, hors d’oeuvres-laden parties for his workers – with associates routinely flying by helicopter to the firm’s Sarasota office from his home on Tampa’s Davis Islands. 

As this was happening, in the waning months of 2022, AeroVanti began holding back employees’ paychecks – at first temporarily, but then for good, employees said. 

Around that time, office workers were told there had been ‘issues’ with their usual payroll vendor, ADP.

In reality, the vendor had dropped AeroVanti because of unpaid bills, a former members services staffer told Businessweek – one of several third-parties.

When asked, ADP confirmed to Businessweek that AeroVanti was no longer a client, but declined to comment further.

Pilots’ pay, meanwhile, was also doled out late – with one flyboy claiming he and his counterparts were at times more than a month behind.

This continued for roughly half a year, staffers said – as Harr continued to court new sources of cash for AeroVanti.

Already peeved over a sudden switch from an hourly rate to a flat, monthly salary of $12,000, the pilots carried out a mass exodus last summer, staffers revealed – with four quitting on a single day in June, and a dozen or so leaving soon after.

Pilots' payments, meanwhile, were also doled out late - with one flyboy claiming he and his counterparts were at times more than a month behind. This continued for roughly half a year, staffers said - as Harr continued to court new sources of cash

Pilots’ payments, meanwhile, were also doled out late – with one flyboy claiming he and his counterparts were at times more than a month behind. This continued for roughly half a year, staffers said – as Harr continued to court new sources of cash

Somewhere down the line, Britton-Harr also stopped paying AeroVanti's bills - spurring calls from fuel companies, mechanics, plane leasers, and part suppliers, staffers told Businessweek

Somewhere down the line, Britton-Harr also stopped paying AeroVanti’s bills – spurring calls from fuel companies, mechanics, plane leasers, and part suppliers, staffers told Businessweek

Meanwhile, prospective investors continued to receive free flights, as Britton-Harr continued his quest for financing.

Somewhere down the line, Britton-Harr also stopped paying AeroVanti’s bills – spurring calls from fuel companies, mechanics, plane leasers, and part suppliers, the staffers said.

But they, like the firm’s employees, were left largely at Britton-Harr’s mercy, as AeroVanti had no company credit card or account, and he controlled all of its finances, those interviewed claimed.

As a result of those unfinished deals, Britton-Harr, in 2022, had several of his planes repossessed by angry lessors.

One belonged to Florida entrepreneur Scott Levine, who told Businessweek how Britton-Harr, after only a few months after leasing him his LearJet, began defaulting on repayments.

‘When you’re pretending to have all that money but you’re spending other people’s money, it just kind of inflates you,’ he said, nearly two years after suing to get his plane back in 2022.

He went on to describe his ordeal with Britton-Harr – and how the three-year contract was supposed to net him $1 million in profit, as well as four free years of AeroVanti membership.

He said that once the payments stopped showing up, Britton-Harr stopped returning his calls, spurring him to text other employees for answers. 

That allegedly led AeroVanti to cancel his membership, after which company brass told him they wouldn’t be making any more payments.

The reason provided, Levine recalled, was that his plane was ‘not airworthy’ – which he insists was not true. 

When he went to AeroVanti’s office in person to repossess it, he found a mechanic’s lien on the plane citing unpaid bills – a clue to Britton-Harr’s already crumbling house of cards.

When he sued to get it back four months after first leasing it, he claims he found parts missing – which fellow lessors later told him had been installed on other AeroVanti planes.

Levine unloaded on AeroVanti and its CEO in a LinkedIn post, leading Britton-Harr to threaten to sue for libel. Levine responded by suing Britton-Harr for unpaid bills – and was swiftly awarded $2 million. 

As a result of those unfinished deals, Britton-Harr, in 2022, had several of his planes repossessed by angry lessors. One belonged to Florida entrepreneur Scott Levine, who told Businessweek how Britton-Harr, after only a few months after leasing him his hey, began defaulting on repayments

As a result of those unfinished deals, Britton-Harr, in 2022, had several of his planes repossessed by angry lessors. One belonged to Florida entrepreneur Scott Levine, who told Businessweek how Britton-Harr, after only a few months after leasing him his hey, began defaulting on repayments

When he sued to get it back four months after first leasing it, he claims he found parts missing - parts that fellow lessors later told him had been installed on other AeroVanti planes. Levine unloaded on AeroVanti and its CEO in a LinkedIn post, leading Britton-Harr to threaten to sue for libel. Levine responded by suing Britton-Harr for unpaid bills - and was awarded $2 million

When he sued to get it back four months after first leasing it, he claims he found parts missing – parts that fellow lessors later told him had been installed on other AeroVanti planes. Levine unloaded on AeroVanti and its CEO in a LinkedIn post, leading Britton-Harr to threaten to sue for libel. Levine responded by suing Britton-Harr for unpaid bills – and was awarded $2 million

Several others have since followed suit, repossessing planes from AeroVanti due to Britton-Harr reneging on their agreements.

This all occurred during AeroVanti’s second year, when the high-flying CEO secured sponsorship deals with the Chicago Cubs, USA Sailing, the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Other clients included UFC lightweight Dustin Porier and New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz.

Around that time, Britton-Harr’s business model abruptly shifted from outsourcing flights and services to doing everything in-house, staffers recalled, as they would often go weeks without pay while Britton-Harr continued to spend on marketing.

He sponsored NASCAR driver Corey LaJoie in the Coca-Cola 600 last May, as well as 10 suites during the 2023 Preakness Stakes that very same month. 

It co-hosted events with the Florida-based veteran outreach firm Blue Angels Foundation, and even flew a low-income Navy family from Florida to Maryland to see relatives in a widely seen feature for YouTube. 

As the venture secretly struggled, Britton-Harr (seen at center in pink) continued to keep up appearances, staffers said - co-hosting events with the Florida-based veteran outreach firm Blue Angels Foundation, and spending a great deal on marketing

As the venture secretly struggled, Britton-Harr (seen at center in pink) continued to keep up appearances, staffers said – co-hosting events with the Florida-based veteran outreach firm Blue Angels Foundation, and spending a great deal on marketing

Britton-Harr is seen here with his wife Travy Deckman at the event last year, as employees were reportedly not getting paid and the firm found itself under FAA scrutiny for allegedly flouting federal flying rules

Britton-Harr is seen here with his wife Travy Deckman at the event last year, as employees were reportedly not getting paid and the firm found itself under FAA scrutiny for allegedly flouting federal flying rules

High-profile clients included UFC lightweight Dustin Porier - who were given priority over less other members deemed less important

High-profile clients included UFC lightweight Dustin Porier – who were given priority over less other members deemed less important

Then, when several of his pilots jumped ship in June after an incident that saw a  pilot accidentally drive a plane carrying NFL star Lutz off a runway in Destin, Florida, lawsuits started to file in.

That same month, Joey Giordano, the vice president of all of AeroVanti’s operations, emailed staffers to tell that their paychecks would be paused completely. 

The reason provided, employees told Businessweek, was that the air firm was ‘awaiting some capital in order to get back on track and continue on a path of success.’

Insisting AeroVanti was not closing, Giordano reportedly assured remaining staff: ‘There are no hard feelings if you decide that AeroVanti isn’t the right path for you. For those that stay, there could be very green valley’s [sic] ahead to enjoy!’

Employees interviewed went on to reveal how around this time, the FAA was likely already a year into its still ongoing investigation – having interviewed several AeroVanti associates in those months.

Moreover, in what insiders said was a telltale sign that authorities received complaints about the company, pilots were frequently subjected to surprise inspections upon landing at airports.

This created an air of unease around the AeroVanti office, staffers recalled – leading Britton-Harr to one day suddenly demand employees stop using Slack out of fear they were being monitored by federal agents.

Britton-Harr - who in December was found liable for duping nursing homes with phony tests during the pandemic to secure seed money for AeroVanti - sponsored NASCAR driver Corey LaJoie in the Coca-Cola 600 this past May

Britton-Harr – who in December was found liable for duping nursing homes with phony tests during the pandemic to secure seed money for AeroVanti – sponsored NASCAR driver Corey LaJoie in the Coca-Cola 600 this past May

He also sponsored 10 suites during the 2023 Preakness Stakes that very same month, days before a flood of lawsuits alleging fraud and misdealings on the part of the brash CEO were filed

He also sponsored 10 suites during the 2023 Preakness Stakes that very same month, days before a flood of lawsuits alleging fraud and misdealings on the part of the brash CEO were filed

As employees were missing paychecks, the 'AeroVanti Lounge' at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa promised 'luxury at every step'

As employees were missing paychecks, the ‘AeroVanti Lounge’ at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa promised ‘luxury at every step’

Staffers were thrown through another loop in late June when Britton Harr suddenly stepped down as CEO.

Announcing the decision days after being hit with several lawsuits – including two from 20 Top Gun members who said their invested $120,000 never got them the fractional plane ownership they’d been promised – Britton Harr said he would remain AeroVanti’s chairman.

Another civil suit filed on behalf of AeroVanti clients, claimed the company engaged in widespread fraud, including running a network of ‘sham’ companies intended to purposely defraud customers.

The scam, the suit said, consisted of company brass ‘exaggerating the rapid growth of new members, the number of aircraft in its “fleet”, and the significant amount of investor-led funding received to support expansion.’ 

Days later, Britton Harr issued a public statement decrying the Top Gun plaintiffs, insinuating they were looking for a payday. 

‘They believe in cancel culture,’ wrote Britton-Harr. 

‘We have a tremendous amount of support,’ he added. ‘We are continuing to move forward and will not be blindsided by a few toxic individuals.’

At least 10 cases have since been filed against Britton-Harr, several of them alleging he misappropriated funds, with one of the lawyers saying AeroVanti's operations had all the 'hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme'

At least 10 cases have since been filed against Britton-Harr, several of them alleging he misappropriated funds, with one of the lawyers saying AeroVanti’s operations had all the ‘hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme’

The scam, the suit said, consisted of company brass 'exaggerating the rapid growth of new members, the number of aircraft in its "fleet", and the significant amount of investor-led funding received to support expansion'

The scam, the suit said, consisted of company brass ‘exaggerating the rapid growth of new members, the number of aircraft in its “fleet”, and the significant amount of investor-led funding received to support expansion’

The company, meanwhile, continued to tout its supposed 400 percent growth, claiming it had ‘completely [transformed] the private aviation industry and [was] quickly establishing itself as the leader in best-in-class private services at a fraction of the price of its competitors.’

At least 10 cases have since been filed against Britton-Harr, several of them alleging he misappropriated funds 

As he continued to show face around the office, he was formally replaced  by former Manatee County administrator Scott Hope as CEO, who took the position months after being probed for potentially destroying public documents in his former position. No charges have surfaced from that investigation.

Tasked with turning the financially unstable company around, he was replaced within four months by Britton-Harr’s brother Todd – who had previously been convicted of smuggling over a thousand pounds of marijuana from Mexico in 2013.

Todd was replaced himself just days later by none other than Britton-Harr himself, who today remains back at the helm.

Before that, though, Britton-Harr found himself at the center of another scandal – this one surrounding several of his prior lab testing ventures, Provista Health, AMS Onsite, Britton-Harr Enterprises, Coastal Laboratories, and Coastal Management Group.

A complaint filed by the DOJ filed in July alleged the then-AeroVanti chairman had defrauded Medicare out of some $7 million by submitting false claims for pandemic-era tests at the firms that never occurred. 

Some were billed as diseases that are only found in animals, feds wrote, adding that Britton-harr allegedly sought to profit from the unfolding pandemic by offering the phony COVID-19 tests to nursing homes.

He went on to use the ill-gotten funds to buy at least two AeroVanti airplanes and a sailboat, the Justice Department said – before a default judgment that same month saw Britton-Harr ruled liable for $30 million in damages.

Meanwhile, the cancellations continued, and ex employees claimed they could be fired at a moment's notice if they told members the truth

Meanwhile, the cancellations continued, and ex employees claimed they could be fired at a moment’s notice if they told members the truth 

Feds added how Britton-Harr, at the time, had at least six bank accounts and a dizzying array of holding companies.

After the DOJ complaint, Britton-Harr stopped appearing at the AeroVanti office, staffers said, recalling how his other brother Troy came to collect his belongings.

Within weeks, employees learned their on-again, off-again boss had been evicted from two rental properties in Sarasota, both because of unpaid rent.

As this was happening, AeroVanti’s fleet – now reportedly reduced to one craft that Britton-Harr may not even own – was inexplicably grounded, leaving staffers wondering if they would ever get paid.

Contractor Andy Amrhein of Thomasville Restoration also sued Britton-Harr for unpaid work on his home in Annapolis, Maryland 

When reached for comment about Britton-Harr’s whereabouts, Amrhein joked to Businessweek, ‘Do you know where I can find him?’

As this was happening, AeroVanti's fleet - now reportedly reduced to one craft that Britton-Harr may not even own - was inexplicably grounded, leaving staffers wondering if they would ever get paid

As this was happening, AeroVanti’s fleet – now reportedly reduced to one craft that Britton-Harr may not even own – was inexplicably grounded, leaving staffers wondering if they would ever get paid 

Britton-Harr blamed too much success for the company¿s woes, writing 'the massive support and growth our club received during its development stages outpaced the operational capacities and overall needs of our members'

Britton-Harr blamed too much success for the company’s woes, writing ‘the massive support and growth our club received during its development stages outpaced the operational capacities and overall needs of our members’ 

After his sudden return to the helm, Britton-Harr billed the company’s woes as being in the rearview, confidently speaking about AeroVanti’s ‘revitalization’ and appeared to blame the firm’s woes on too much success.  

‘As we reset the foundation of AeroVanti at is core and build up the company infrastructure with aircrafts, yachts, employees and crews all for members benefits, the stability for operations of the luxury membership program is one of the primary focus,’ Britton-Harr wrote in an email.

‘The massive support and growth our club received during its development stages outpaced the operational capacities and overall needs of our members,’ he added.

The firm’s webpage, however has been suspended – though Britton-Harr claimed in his email that the club was already ‘back up and flying.’

As proof, he cited a single Learjet 31A – a far cry from the dozen it claimed to have in January of last year.

With regard to its flying capabilities, Marchick called the sole remaining craft a ‘freaking mess,’ while Hopes claimed it does not even belong to him.

The FAA investigation – believed to revolve around the $1,000-a-month private airline operating without the necessary certification to charter flights – is still ongoing, and could produce criminal charges. The FAA declined to comment. 

As for the lawsuits – of which there are at least ten – they also remain ongoing. 

The firm's webpage, meanwhile, has been suspended - though Britton-Harr claimed in an October email that the club was 'back up and flying'

The firm’s webpage, meanwhile, has been suspended – though Britton-Harr claimed in an October email that the club was ‘back up and flying’

The firm – which previously had dual headquarters in Maryland and Florida – has also closed its Annapolis location.

Still, Britton-Harr has assured onlookers that another ascent is still in the cards.

‘With tempered opinion and patience from our members,’ he wrote. ‘AeroVanti has a renewed shot at success.’ 

Businessweek was not able to reach Britton-Harr for comment. He did not immediately respond to a request from DailyMail.com.



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