“I think that empathy is the most
important trait a business leader can have.”
“I think that empathy is the most important trait a business leader can have.”


Leading With Passion

Kenneth C. “Kenn” Ricci, an aviation entrepreneur and the principal of Directional Aviation Capital, who for the last 40 years has owned, invested and actively managed private aviation enterprises that today generate more than $4 billion in annual revenue, employ more than 5,000 people across North America and Europe and service more than 300,000 annual flight hours for a global customer base.

In starting his first aviation enterprise in 1981, through a methodical build, has constructed the largest and most complete platform of enterprises serving all functions of the global private aviation industry. This unprecedented scale, and the dynamic manner in which each of these businesses provide the others a distinct competitive advantage, has generated a track record of consistent success within a complex and constantly evolving industry.

Kenn serves as the Chairman of Flexjet which operates more than 300 aircraft and takes an active management approach to 12+ enterprises touching everything from fractional aircraft ownership, jet cards and on-demand charter to aircraft maintenance, management and brokerage to innovative organizations specializing in pilot training, sustainability, aerospace engineering, private helicopters, eVTOLs and sustainability.

Kenn began his aviation career as an Air Force ROTC cadet at the University of Notre Dame and started his first company, Corporate Wings, in 1981. His love of aviation had him founding, acquiring or financing a broad range of aviation companies and ideas over his career.

An Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000, he has been named one of the most influential people in aviation-by-Aviation International News. In 2005, Kenn led the restructuring of the Mercury Air Centers, a $200 million company operating aircraft support facilities at 24 different airports. He sold the company to Macquarie Infrastructure Trust in 2007 in a deal valued at $615 million.

In 2010, Kenn received the Harvard Business School’s Dively Entrepreneurship Award. In 2011, Kenn was the youngest recipient of the prestigious William A. “Bill” Ong Memorial Award for extraordinary achievement and extended meritorious service to the general aviation industry.

Kenn is the founder of Nextant Aerospace, the innovator of Aircraft Remanufacturing and in 2015, received the Aviation Week Laureate Award, a benchmark of industry excellence, recognizing his work as an innovator.

In 2016, Kenn received the Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award from the Living Legends of Aviation and in 2019 was inducted as a Living Legend of Aviation. The Living Legends of Aviation are admirable people of remarkable accomplishment in aviation including entrepreneurs, innovators, industry leaders, record breakers, astronauts and pilots.

An airline transport pilot with more than 6,000 hours of flight time and extensive international experience, he was Governor William Clinton’s pilot when he ran for President in 1992.

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, in 2018 he created a groundbreaking giving structure called a Philanthropic Succession Partnership to donate $100 million to the university, the single largest unrestricted, guaranteed gift ever committed. Kenn is also a graduate of the Cleveland Marshall School of Law, where he was named a Distinguished Alumni in 2016 and selected for admission to their Alumni Hall of Fame in 2018.

Kenn serves on the Board of Trustees for the University of Notre Dame, the Smithsonian and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

In 2018, Kenn was named one of Town & Country Magazine’s top 50 Philanthropists for his charitable work. His other philanthropic causes include Able Flight, which provides people with disabilities a way to challenge themselves through flight and aviation career training. In 2014, Kenn was honored by the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for championing research and treatment of the disease, which affects 30,000 children and adults in the United States.

Recognized as a leader and innovator in the private aviation industry, he has been widely quoted in print, online and on broadcast television including The New York Times, Washington Post, Fox Business, Bloomberg TV, CNBC, Robb Report and Worth Magazine. His management strategies have been featured in the Wall Street Journal and he is the Author of “Management by Trust”, a book featuring practical management techniques for building employee trust and success.


“Don’t miss the five best days of your life. Since you never know when they will be, you have to live every day like it could be one of your best.” – CHARLES RICCI “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Aviator and poet Antoine de Saint Exupéry “What kind of man would live where there is no daring? I don't believe in taking foolish chances, but nothing can be accomplished without taking any chance at all.” – Charles Lindbergh “I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine.” – Neil Armstrong “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right.” – Henry Ford “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw “Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example rather than his advice.” – Charles Kettering {{current_slide_index}}   /   {{total_slide_count}}