Founded by Larry Risley in 1982, Mesa Air Shuttle began scheduled service between Farmington, NM and Albuquerque, NM using a nine passenger Piper Chieftan. Mr. Risley, an aircraft mechanic by trade mortgaged his house and Fixed Base Operation business to start the airline.
In its first ten years of business. Mesa grew from a Company with one aircraft serving two cities to an organization operating 38 aircraft serving 63 cities. During this same time period, the Company transformed itself from a small closely held corporation to a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ exchange. In 1989, the Company expanded its operation through a codeshare agreement with Midwest Express serving an extensive network of cities out of Milwaukee, WI. This pattern of continued growth was expanded upon with the acquisition of Aspen Airways in 1990. With the Aspen acquisition, Mesa gained a codeshare agreement with United Airlines, operating as United Express out of Denver.
Acquisitions continued with the addition of Air Midwest in 1991 adding US Airways as a codeshare partner, and West Air in 1992 adding additional United Express flying in California and the Pacific Northwest. In addition to these acquisitions, Mesa expanded further with the creation of Florida Gulf operating under a codesharing agreement with US Airways out of Tampa, FL in 1991, and added an America West codesharing agreement in 1992. These additions enabled Mesa to become the largest Beech 1900 operator in the world by 1991 as well as the launch customer for the Beech 1900-D model aircraft. Two years later, Crown Airways was acquired, further strengthening Mesa?s ties to US Airways.
By 1995, approximately 95% of Mesa?s consolidated flying was derived from operations associated with codesharing agreements with its partners United Airlines, USAir and America West Airlines. The early 1990s were years of tremendous growth and change for Mesa. The Company was no longer a small airline, in fact by 1995, Mesa was among the largest regional airlines in the nation. During this entire period, Mesa focused to maintain the small company attributes which led to its initial success while at the same time ensuring that business decisions reflected the fact that Mesa was quickly becoming a big company.
In 1995, Mesa initated its first Regional Jet service utilizing two Fokker 70 Regional Jets. Mesa?s initial foray into regional jet service proved one thing: regional jets were a viable product that offered a more predictable revenue model. Mesa expanded the role of the RJ by entering into an agreement with Bombardier to acquire 11 CRJ 200 aircraft. Although initially flown under an independent banner, these aircraft were quickly put into service with US Airways. With all of the growth and expansion, the future seemed brighter than ever for Mesa. Unfortunately, numerous factors, some within control of the company and some beyond Mesa?s control, combined with devastating effects.
In 1998, Mesa renegotiated a new codeshare agreement with America West, moved Mesa?s corporate headquarters from Farmington to Phoenix and expanded the outside representation on the company?s Board of Directors. By the end of 1998 the Company was operating 24 CRJ 200 aircraft, 12 Dash 8 aircraft and 79 1900 D aircraft.
Having returned to profitability Mesa focused on continued growth opportunities. In 1999 Mesa announced the acquisition through merger of CCAir, Inc. adding additional US Airways routes and expanding the Company?s codeshare relationship. Mesa successfully negotiated the expansion of both the US Airways and America West codeshare agreements. Mesa secured additional regional jet flying with US Airways expanding the fleet from 12 to 28 regional jets. 1999 also saw the expanded growth of Mesa?s CRJ fleet with the addition of 13 CRJ 200s bringing the fleet total to 32 in addition, Mesa concluded negotiations with Embraer to add 36 ERJ 145 aircraft to the Company?s fleet.
By 2000, Mesa was moving forward in virtually every area and it was evident to everyone that great things were happening. The America West codeshare agreement was expanded from 17 to 22 regional jets. These changes translated to 75% of Mesa?s flying being conducted under revenue guarantee contracts. Mesa also reduced unprofitable operations, including the return of 17 Beech 1900s to Raytheon. This positive trend was carried forward into 2001 with the incorporation of additional fixed fee regional jet aircraft. 2001 also saw the announcement that Mesa had reached an agreement with America West to expand the codeshare agreement to add up to 40 larger CRJ 700 and 900 aircraft. It is interesting to note in keeping with Mesa?s tradition of taking advantage of new opportunities Mesa announced that it would be the launch customer of the Bombardier CRJ 900 aircraft, just as it was the launch customer of the Beech 1900 D ten years earlier.
Mesa?s continued success has drawn notice throughout the industry. In 2002 and 2003, the CRJ 700 and 900 joined the fleet as scheduled. The future of Mesa is as bright as ever. With the continued efforts of our employees, the prospects for success, and the ability to overcome adversity have positioned Mesa as one of the leading regional airlines in the industry. The drive and determination forming the foundation of the Company is readily apparent today as reflected in the recently announced codeshare agreement with Delta Air Lines and further expansion of the United codeshare agreement. Mesa Air Group is currently comprised of three airlines, Mesa Airlines, Air Midwest and Freedom Airlines. Capping off a successful 2005, Mesa Air Group was named the Air Transport World?s Regional Airline of the Year.