Smith Gambrell & Russell partner Steven Rossum has joined Florida-based Silver Airways as the carrier’s chief executive.

Rossum, who headed Smith Gambrell & Russell’s aviation consulting group and worked as a partner in its Atlanta office, joined the Florida-based carrier on 7 August. His move comes as the airline looks to expand its existing fleet with the $1.1 billion purchase of up to 50 new ATR-600 series aircraft.

He said he was pleased to join the carrier at an “exciting and very promising point” in its growth. On 1 August, Silver Airways confirmed that it had entered into merger negotiations with Puerto Rican carrier Seaborne Airlines.

“The momentum of our airline – as demonstrated by the order for new ATR-600 series aircraft, the potential for Caribbean expansion, and our amazing team members – were key reasons I decided to join Silver,” he said.

“The company has made great strides over the past year, and we have more good things in store as we continue to upgrade our company across the board for the benefit of our passengers, employees and stakeholders... This is truly an exciting time... I’m confident we’ll have more good news to share down the road.”

Rossum returned to Smith Gambrell & Russell in 2013, after beginning his career at the firm in 1987. While at the firm, he served as Silver Airways’ external general counsel.

In between both stints at Smith Gambrell & Russell, he headed up several carriers’ in-house legal teams. Between 1998 and 2012, he worked as general counsel at AirTran Airways, DHL Airways and Reno Air, where he oversaw respective mergers with Southwest Airlines, ASTAR Air Cargo and American Airlines. Before that he was assistant general counsel at US Airways.

More recently, Rossum served as the chief restructuring officer at Pinnacle Airlines during its 2012 restructuring, ahead of its buy-out by Delta Air Lines.

Gregory Segall, chairman of Silver Airways, said: “We welcome Steve to the team. He has been an important contributor to Silver’s recent accomplishments in a key advisory capacity and he’s the right person to lead the company forward.”

Rossum replaces Sami Teittinen, who became chief executive of the carrier in 2014.

Peter Barlow, who heads Smith Gambrell & Russell’s air transport industry group, said: “Steve has been a tremendous asset to our clients and has been a great partner of the firm. I have every confidence that his deep industry experience on both the operational side and as a lawyer will accelerate the accomplishment of Silver Airway’s goals.”

In January, the firm opened its first office outside of the US in London after poaching aviation finance partners Mark Turnbull and Ben Graham-Evans from Blake Morgan.