The well-known Formula 1 champion and aviation entrepreneur passed away on May 20 at the age of 70.
Austrian Formula One driver, three-time F1 World Drivers’ Champion and aviation entrepreneur and pilot Andreas Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda died in his sleep in Vienna on May 20 at the age of 70, following a period of poor health.
Lauda is often listed as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time, and his rivalry with British driver James Hunt was featured in the 2013 film Rush.
He also founded and ran three airlines – Lauda Air, Niki, and Laudamotion.
Lauda was critically injured in a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. His Ferrari caught fire, and he came close to death, suffering serious burns.
Nevertheless, he survived, recovered and, just six weeks later, raced again at the Italian Grand Prix.
He established Lauda Air in April 1979. The airline began operations in 1985, initially as a charter and air taxi service. Austrian Airlines purchased Lauda Air as a wholly owned subsidiary in December 2000. Lauda Air later operated charter flights within the Austrian Airlines Group, and in July 2012 it was officially merged into Austrian Airlines.
In late 2003, he started a new airline, Niki. As with Lauda Air, he later sold his shares and the airline was merged with its major partner Air Berlin in 2011.
In early 2016, Lauda took over Amira Air and renamed the company LaudaMotion. As a result of Air Berlin’s insolvency in 2017, LaudaMotion took over the Niki brand and assets after an unsuccessful bid by Lufthansa and IAG.
Lauda was a licensed commercial pilot and occasionally piloted his airlines’ craft as captain.
On 20 March 2018, Ryanair announced it would acquire 24.9% of LaudaMotion. The Irish low-cost airline completed the purchase of 100% of the shares of the airline and announced further fleet expansion plans earlier this year.