Airline executives whose predictions of regional divestitures raised eyebrows just two years ago watched their prophesies turn to hard reality in late February, as Northwest Airlines announced its intention to spin off its Memphis-based Express Airlines I subsidiary and Continental Airlines revisited its plans to divest itself from Continental Express.
Mesa Air Group
Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group has signed a memorandum of understanding to enter a new fleet management program with Pratt & Whitney Canada that would include the sale of “certain assets” related to its Desert Turbine Services unit and spare PT6 engines. The tentative six-year deal covers 58 Beech 1900Ds and 116 engines, valued at some $70 million.
CCAir president Carter Leake last month notified his employees that parent company Mesa Air Group planned to close the money-losing regional airline on July 1. Leake’s memo arrived on the same day as Mesa’s latest contract proposal to CCAir’s pilots. The pilots rejected a previous proposal.
A virtually stagnant market for new commercial airplanes and a rapidly eroding capital base have convinced German airframe builder Fairchild Dornier to pursue a new “strategic” partnership with another large aerospace concern. “We are cash negative,” said company chairman Charles Pieper during a press briefing on the morning of Fairchild’s March 21 rollout of the 70- to 85-seat 728.
Less than nine months into a pro-rate code-share contract with Frontier Airlines that called for the introduction of seven Bombardier CRJs into the Frontier system by year-end, Mesa Air Group has begun to curtail its relationship with the Denver-based low-fare carrier as a lingering environment of razor-thin yields has resulted in “less than satisfactory” returns for Mesa, according to a company official.
Obstacles against the development of a thriving regional airline industry in Latin America in many respects look as formidable as ever. Lack of capital availability, inadequate airport infrastructure, government interference and a lack of open-skies treaties between nations continue to hinder progress in a region that, in terms of sheer size, holds as much potential for growth as any other in the world.
Regional Aviation Partners (RAP), the new Phoenix-based lobbying organization established by Mesa Air Group chairman Jonathan Ornstein as an advocate for small-community air service, has attracted its first new airline member and a pair of high-profile regional aircraft manufacturers in time for the start of the next congressional session this month.
Jonathan Ornstein has learned something over the years about mending fences–and breaking down barriers. Although the outspoken and sometimes brash chairman and CEO of Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group has fought his share of battles during his 13 years in the airline business, Ornstein has found ways to overcome conflicts with those he needs to survive and prosper.
The FAA awarded Bombardier’s 86-seat CRJ900 regional jet its U.S. type certificate on November 14, ostensibly paving the way for first delivery to Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group in April. Launch airline Mesa plans to fly the airplanes as America West Express under the auspices of Freedom Airlines, a new non-union subsidiary that launched CRJ700 services from Phoenix to Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., on October 26.
Big Sky Airlines will operate as a subsidiary of Mesaba Holdings by year-end if the Billings, Mont.-based Fairchild Metro III operator meets “certain labor conditions” set by its would-be parent company from Minneapolis. The proposed merger would create a new division within Mesaba Holdings, flying under an operating certificate and labor contracts separate from Mesaba Aviation.