Metro Airlines

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Metro Airlines, originally Houston Metro Airlines, was a commuter airline that was originally headquartered in Houston, Texas, United States,.[1] Metro subsequently moved its headquarters to north Texas. The airline had an operational base located on the grounds of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and also had offices on the airport property and in Grapevine, Texas.[2][3][4] Metro evolved into an airline holding company with the acquisition or creation of a number of different airlines, including the banner carrier (Commercial Aviation) operating for Eastern Airlines named Eastern Metro Express which was based in Atlanta, GA and Metroflight which operated American Eagle service from the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport.

History[edit]

In 1969 the airline was founded to serve the Houston area with "cross-town" flights.[5] Houston Metro Airlines constructed their own 2,500 foot, short take-off and landing (STOL) airstrip along with a passenger terminal building and maintenance hangar adjacent to Clear Lake City, Texas near the NASA Johnson Space Center. The Clear Lake City STOLport was essentially Houston Metro's own, private airport. The airline's initial route linked Clear Lake City (CLC) with Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH). According to the February 1976 edition of the Official Airline Guide (OAG), the airline was operating 22 roundtrip flights every weekday in a passenger shuttle operation between Clear Lake City and Houston Intercontinental. The route system was later expanded to include a number of destinations in southeast and south Texas with flights to George Bush Intercontinental Airport. At one point, the airline also flew between Laredo, TX and San Antonio, TX. All initial Houston Metro service was operated with de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter twin turboprop STOL aircraft as the Clear Lake City STOLport was specifically designed for this aircraft. Additional new service was later extended to Lafayette, LA and Lake Charles, LA with flights to Houston Intercontinental (IAH) with these services being operated with larger Short 330 twin turboprop aircraft. The Short 330 was also utilized by Metro for flights between IAH and Beaumont/Port Arthur (BPT) where one was destroyed by a tornado in 1983 while sitting empty on the airport ramp (see Accidents and incidents below).

In 1972 the airline carried between 90,000 and 100,000 passengers per year. It displayed a profit of $156,510 U.S. dollars in an eight-month period.[6]

In 1978 Metro entered the "stand up widebody cabin age" when the first orders for five (5) Short 330 twin turboprops were announced. [1] These Irish-manufactured aircraft would be used to complement the Twin Otters already in use on higher demand routes as well as new service to Lafayette, LA and Lake Charles, LA and offered far more comfortable seating for passengers. The addition of the 30 passenger Short 330 turboprops required Metro to make provisions for flight attendants and also resulted in the carrier joining the ranks of the regional airline industry via its use of larger aircraft. The company was also independently operating flights from the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport (DFW) at this time with DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft with services to several destinations in east Texas with some of these flights continuing on to or originating from Houston Intercontinental (IAH). These Twin Otter passenger services into DFW were flown by the Metroflight Airlines division which would eventually operate American Eagle flights. Metroflight also independently served several destinations in Oklahoma and north Texas from Dallas/Ft. Worth and Oklahoma City.

In 1982 Metro purchased fourteen (14) Convair 580 aircraft from the original Frontier Airlines (1950–1986). These 50 passenger twin turboprops were then used to initiate the first ever American Eagle service via a new codesharing passenger feed agreement with American Airlines.

Metro Airlines operated out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport via its wholly owned Metroflight division under the American Eagle brand beginning on November 1, 1984. In 1985 the airline announced that it would end service to Houston Intercontinental Airport (now George Bush Intercontinental Airport).[5] Royale Airlines, a commuter/regional air carrier based in Louisiana, then assumed many of the routes that were previously operated by Metro into Houston. However, in 1987 Royale declared bankruptcy and ceased all scheduled passenger flight operations.

Metro holding company acquisitions and subsidiaries[edit]

Metro Airlines spun off its certificated airline, being Metro Airlines, and formed an airline holding company. Among the commuter and regional air carriers acquired or created by Metro were:

  • Brockway Air - acquired in the summer of 1989, Metro changed Brockway's name to Metro Air Northeast, but operated as a banner carrier codeshare partner flying as TWExpress on behalf of Trans World Airlines (TWA).
  • Chaparral Airlines - merged into the operations of wholly owned subsidiary Metroflight for "the American Eagle codeshare branded banner flying". Chaparral had operated American Eagle service primarily from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) on behalf of American Airlines before being merged into Metroflight.
  • Metro Express II - spun off from the original Metro Airlines for "the Eastern Express codeshare branded banner flying". This regional airline was based in Atlanta, GA and operated as Eastern Metro Express flying British Aerospace BAe Jetstream 31 and de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 twin turboprop aircraft. Eastern Metro Express provided passenger feed at the Eastern Airlines hub located at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL).
  • Sunaire - name changed to Aviation Associates. This commuter air carrier operated as Eastern Express in the Caribbean flying de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprops and providing passenger feed at the Eastern Airlines hub located at the San Juan International Airport (SJU). Service was flown to St. Croix (STX), St. Thomas (STT), Tortola, BVI (EIS), Virgin Gorda, BVI (VIJ) and other short haul destinations in the Caribbean. The Eastern Express service was primarily operated from San Juan although point-to-point flights between various other islands were flown as well. The Twin Otter was well suited for flights into Virgin Gorda as the airport runway on this island was an unpaved sand and gravel airstrip at the time.
  • Eastern Express - Metro also operated feeder services as Eastern Express for Eastern Airlines to and from Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH) during the mid-1980s flying de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprops. Destinations served on a nonstop basis from IAH by this Eastern Express service included Beaumont/Port Arthur, TX (BPT); Clear Lake City, TX (CLC), Lake Charles, LA (LCH); Longview, TX (GGG); Sugar Land, TX (SGR); Tyler, TX (TYR); and Victoria, TX (VCT). Metro was also operating Eastern Express service at this time from San Antonio International Airport (SAT) with service to Laredo, TX (LRD)[7]

Bankruptcy[edit]

In May 1993 Metro Airlines went bankrupt. The airline assets were promptly purchased and renamed by AMR Corporation whom were already involved with Metro Airlines by way of the "banner carrier" codeshare flying that Metro performed for AMR via its Metroflight division with these services being created cooperatively by the legacy carrier, being American Airlines, and the regional, being Metro subsidiary Metroflight, as American Eagle during the mid-1980s.

Houston Metro's original home, being the Clear Lake City STOLport located in the Houston area near the NASA Johnson Space Center, was abandoned and subsequently demolished in order to make way for suburban development. There is currently no trace of this pioneering airfield to be seen.

In later years, Continental Express operated scheduled passenger air service from Ellington Field (EFD) which is located near the former site of the Clear Lake City STOLport. Like Houston Metro, these Continental Express flights, operated with ATR-42 and Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia turboprops and later by Embraer ERJ-135 regional jets on behalf of Continental Airlines, were designed to transport connecting passengers via a short hop across the city to Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). However, this service was finally discontinued as well.

Turboprop Fleet[edit]

Destinations - Houston Metro and Metro[edit]

These destinations were served by Houston Metro Airlines and later by Metro Airlines (following the airline's name change) with de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprops and/or with Short 330 turboprops:

Destinations - Metroflight[edit]

These destinations were initially served independently by the Metroflight division with de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft:

  • Altus, OK (AXS)
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX (DFW) - Hub
  • Enid, OK (WDG)
  • Houston, TX (IAH)
  • Lawton, OK (LAW)
  • Longview, TX (GGG)
  • Lufkin, TX (LUF)
  • McAlester, OK (MLC)
  • Nacogdoches, TX (OCH)
  • Oklahoma City, OK (OKC) - Hub
  • Paris, TX (PRX)
  • Ponca City, OK (PNC)
  • Stillwater, OK (SWO)
  • Tyler, TX (TYR)
  • Wichita Falls, TX (SPS)

Metroflight would later operate codeshare services for American Airlines flying Convair 580 turboprops as American Eagle.

Destinations - Eastern Metro Express[edit]

These destinations were served with British Aerospace BAe Jetstream 31 turboprops and/or with de Havilland Canada DHC-8-100 Dash 8 turboprops:

  • Albany, GA (ABY)
  • Asheville, NC (AVL)
  • Atlanta, GA (ATL) - Hub
  • Augusta, GA (AGS)
  • Bristol/Kingsport/Johnson City (TRI, the Tri-Cities Regional Airport serving this area in TN and VA)
  • Chattanooga, TN (CHA)
  • Columbus, GA (CGS)
  • Dothan, AL (DHN)
  • Ft. Walton Beach, FL (VPS)
  • Gulfport/Biloxi, MS (GPT)
  • Huntsville, AL (HSV)
  • Knoxville, TN (TYS)
  • Lexington, KY (LEX)
  • Macon, GA (MCN)
  • Montgomery, AL (MGM)
  • Panama City, FL (PFN, airport now closed)
  • Wilmington, NC (ILM)

Destinations - Sunaire/Aviation Associates/Eastern Metro Express[edit]

These destinations were served with de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 250 & 300 turboprops:

  • San Juan, PR (SJU) - Hub
  • Mayaquez, PR (MAZ)
  • St. Croix, USVI (STX) - Hub
  • St. Thomas, USVI (STT)
  • Tortola/Beef Island, BVI (EIS)
  • Virgin Gorda, BVI (VIJ)
  • St. Maarten, N.A. (SXM)

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Short 330 destroyed by a tornado at Beaumont, Texas on May 20, 1983. [2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 30, 1985. 95." Retrieved on June 17, 2009.
  2. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 14–20, 1990. "Metro Airlines" 112. "One Metro Center, 1700 W 20th Street, DFW Airport, Texas 75261-2626, USA"
  3. ^ "Trails." City of Grapevine. Retrieved on December 10, 2009.
  4. ^ "Grapevine 1990 Tiger Data." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Weiss, Michael. "METRO AIRLINES TO SHIFT SERVICE FROM HOUSTON." The Dallas Morning News. August 14, 1985. Retrieved on March 25, 2009.
  6. ^ Cray, Douglas W. "Airlines for Commuters." The New York Times. Business/Finance F17. September 10, 1972. Retrieved on March 25, 2009.
  7. ^ departedflights.com, Feb. 15, 1985 edition Official Airline Guide (OAG)
  8. ^ "Save Time and Money. Fly Metro and Delta to the Northeast or Midwest" (advertisement). The Victoria Advocate via Google News. May 13, 1974. Retrieved on March 25, 2009.