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The Southern California flight school One Above Aviation, which promoted itself using the trademark “EatSleepFly,” has suddenly gone out of business.
One Above Aviation chief pilot and CEO Mark Robinson confirmed to Vertical that the school, based at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, has ceased operations.
“We have called all of our students, we have settled with all of our vendors, and everyone has been informed,” he said by phone on March 18. According to Robinson, a lack of qualified flight instructors and an increase in operating costs at John Wayne Airport were contributing factors in the decision to close the school.
However, One Above Aviation gave little indication of its intentions online. The school was active on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but didn’t announce its pending closure. As of March 19, the school had apparently deleted its Instagram and Twitter accounts. Its Facebook page was still live, but the phone number listed there was disconnected and its website was offline.
One student who had been preparing to start helicopter flight training at One Above Aviation said that he only learned of the closure when he stopped by its former office, after trying unsuccessfully to reach the school by phone.
“[I] found it completely empty. Not a trace of One Above Aviation anywhere in the office. It was wiped clean, like they never existed,” he told Vertical.
One Above Aviation was owned by Anna Robinson, who is widely understood to be Mark Robinson’s wife, although Mark refused to confirm that to Vertical. According to her LinkedIn profile, she worked as a clerical aid and office administrator before August 2013, when she joined the flight school start-up Revolution Aviation, where Mark Robinson was chief pilot.
On Jan. 30, 2018, a Robinson R44 operated by Revolution Aviation crashed into houses in Newport Beach, California, killing pilot Joseph Anthony Tena, who had an ownership stake in the company, and passengers Kimberly Lynne Watzman and Brian Reichelt. Another passenger was seriously injured in the crash, while one person on the ground sustained minor injuries.
A Revolution Aviation helicopter was also involved in a crash involving a student pilot in September 2017. As was first reported by the L.A. Times, earlier that year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had investigated a complaint regarding improper maintenance at the company.
An FAA spokesperson confirmed to Vertical, “The agency substantiated some of the allegations in the complaint, including allegations of improper maintenance, improper record keeping, and operating a helicopter when it had not undergone a required annual inspection. The FAA closed the investigation after counseling two employees, ensuring the company had addressed all the issues brought to its attention, and put processes in place to prevent the issues from occurring again.”
The spokesperson later added that in 2018, the FAA investigated a Santa Ana-based company called Steam Aircraft for violations including failing to keep required maintenance records for work it performed on aircraft operated by One Above Aviation. The FAA issued letters of correction to Steam Aircraft as well as One Above Aviation, and both companies developed corrective action plans that were accepted by the FAA.
The name on the Revolution Aviation website and social media accounts was changed to One Above Aviation following the Newport Beach crash. Despite the continuity in online accounts and use of the trademark “EatSleepFly,” as well as the continued involvement of Mark and Anna Robinson, Mark Robinson told Vertical, “We are not associated in any way with Revolution Aviation. . . . There’s no correlation between the two companies.”
Robinson claimed that Revolution Aviation’s accidents played no role in the decision to close One Above Aviation. Neither, he said, did an accident in September 2018 involving a One Above Guimbal Cabri G2, which crashed during flight training.
“We have been a very successful operator. We have done good by a lot of people,” he insisted. “Now it’s on to a new adventure.”
This story has been updated to add new information about FAA enforcement actions in 2018.