Smaller aircraft–specifically regional jets–are often blamed for delays in the National Airspace System, said Mesa Air Group chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein, in a recent speech at the Washington Aero Club, but he argues that “playing the blame game” takes focus off the need to expand airport capacity and continue to modernize the ATC system.
Bombardier has answered the call for a series of improvements to its line of 70- to 86-seat RJs, ranging from new engines on the CRJ700 to wing modifications on the CRJ900. Bombardier also plans to certify its CRJ700 and CRJ900 for higher mtows, giving each significantly more range.
Transcripts released by the FAA early last month reveal that the pilots of the Pinnacle Airlines CRJ200 that crashed in Jefferson City, Mo., on October 18 purposely climbed to 41,000 feet to “have a little fun” before the jet, its 50 passenger seats empty, lost power and began a rapid descent. “We don’t have any passengers on board so we decided to have a little fun and come on up here,” said one of the pilots.
Mesa Air Group last month won the rights to the assets of bankrupt Midway Airlines after outbidding Connecticut-based investment firm Wexford Capital by some $550,000.
A Mesa Airlines Bombardier CRJ200 shed a fan blade and lost the front section of its left engine cowling during a scheduled flight from Denver to Phoenix last Thursday. Operating for US Airways as America West Express, Mesa Flight 2985 had flown some 60 miles south from Denver International Airport when, at about 5:30 p.m. MST, the airplane’s No. 1 GE CF34-3B1 turbofan ejected the blade.
Mesa Air Group will help establish a new Chinese regional airline under a contract it signed in late December with China’s Shenzhen Airlines. The deal gives Mesa a 25-percent stake in the new company, expected to launch service by the end of the year with 50-seat regional jets. The 500 million yuan ($64 million) venture gives Shenzhen Airlines a 51-percent stake as required by Chinese law and Delaware-based Wilmington Trust Corp.
Republic Airlines will fly 17 seventy-six-seat Embraer E170s as Frontier Jet Express under a new code-share contract meant to replace and expand service now performed by Seattle-based Horizon Air with Bombardier CRJ700s. The 11-year contract calls for the first aircraft to enter service next month and the last in December 2008. Horizon’s contract with Frontier expires in December.
Jonathan Ornstein rarely goes more than a few weeks without making headlines in the aviation press, but the fiery CEO of Mesa Air Group outdid himself last year with the launch of his new Go! subsidiary in Hawaii.
Honolulu-based de Havilland Dash 8 operator Island Air suffered the first serious casualty of Mesa Air Group’s incursion into Hawaii last month when CEO Rob Mauraucher announced he planned to furlough or lay off 65 full-time employees, remove two aircraft from service and eliminate five of the regional airline’s 17 routes.
The Air Line Pilots Association last month issued a vote of no confidence in the management of Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group due to what union leadership characterized as slowing growth and rapidly mounting operational problems.