Trans-Colorado Airlines

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Trans-Colorado Airlines
Founded August 25, 1980
Commenced operations December 23, 1980
Ceased operations July 1988
Hubs Stapleton International Airport
Destinations 8
Headquarters Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.A.

Trans-Colorado Airlines was a United States airline based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It operated from August 1980 until July 1988. The airline operated flights for Continental Airlines under the Continental Express banner beginning in 1986.

Early history[edit]

Trans-Colorado Airlines was incorporated on August 25, 1980, as Commuter Airlines of Colorado. Operations began on December 23, 1980 with one Swearingen Metro II. It served and was based in Gunnison, CO, with scheduled flights to and from Stapleton International Airport in Denver.

The company inaugurated service to Montrose, CO in May 1981 and acquired a second aircraft, a Metro III, in November 1981. On February 1, 1982, the airline acquired its second Metro III and, 1 month later, inaugurated service to Cortez, CO.

On May 11, 1982, the company changed its name to Trans-Colorado Airlines, Inc.

In 1983, the company began service to Durango, CO and Albuquerque, NM, on June 15 and December 16, respectively. A third Metro III was acquired on May 2, 1983.

In 1984, Trans-Colorado began service to Colorado Springs, where it eventually moved its corporate headquarters and performed all maintenance activities.

At the end of 1984, the company operated one Metro II and four Metro III aircraft. One year later, the company operated one Metro II and five Metro III airplanes.

Continental Express carrier[edit]

On July 15, 1986, Trans-Colorado became a Continental Express carrier, serving Continental Airlines flights at Denver. Under the terms of the agreement, Trans-Colorado flights were listed under the CO designation in airlines' computer reservation systems. In addition, Continental provided Trans-Colorado with ticketing, baggage handling and passenger boarding at Denver and Colorado Springs and with all passenger reservations through its own reservation system. Trans-Colorado was responsible for all aspects of the operations and all maintenance on the airplanes.

Trans-Colorado revised its schedule to provide feed to Continental at Denver, Colorado Springs and, as planned, eventually at Albuquerque.

Trans-Colorado records indicate that its load factor increased as a result of the arrangement, from 36.6% during the first 6 months of 1986, to 55.6% in August of the same year.

Agreement with Rocky Mountain Airways[edit]

Continental Airlines later purchased Rocky Mountain Airways, a regional operator considerably larger than Trans-Colorado, and was also based at Denver Stapleton. On May 13, 1987, Trans-Colorado entered into an agreement with Rocky Mountain Airways to provide it with flights under the Continental Express designation.

Under the terms of the contract, which was in effect through February 28, 1988, Trans-Colorado provided Rocky Mountain with airplanes and crews for $400/block hour for flights operated from May 15, 1987 through December 31, 1987, and $357/block hour for flights operated from December 31, 1987 through February 28, 1988. A minimum of 245 block hours per aircraft per month was guaranteed, averaged over the period of the contract. In addition, Rocky Mountain paid Trans-Colorado a fee for its aircraft that were not leased and for aircraft that were not flown due to weather, air traffic control, and related factors. Rocky Mountain provided the flight schedules, ground handling, and support services for the flights. Flights were to be operated in accordance with Trans-Colorado policies and procedures. The contract specified that Trans-Colorado could not be sold or control of the voting stock transferred without the approval of Rocky Mountain. However, the contract stated that "Continental's withholding of consent will not be unreasonable....”

Financial troubles[edit]

In the early summer of 1987, Trans-Colorado began to experience serious financial difficulties. In a September 30 letter to a financial organization, a company official stated that "...the only cash that is paid out will be only that which is essential to fulfilling the requirements of the Continental contracts."

On December 3, 1987, Trans-Colorado's chief executive, William Mueller, wrote employees that "We have begun working on our long term restructure plan, which deals with both creditors and revenue sources. Please hang in with us, as great strides have been taken the last few weeks to stabilize the Company, but we still have a lot of work to do."

After the contract with Rocky Mountain expired, Trans-Colorado then moved its operations and maintenance facilities to Houston, TX, in anticipation of a contract to operate as a feeder to Continental Airlines though another wholly owned Continental subsidiary, Britt Airways.

For several months, Trans-Colorado operated flights for Britt; however, no long-term contract materialized. In April 1988, Trans-Colorado filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors. In July 1988, it ceased operations and voluntarily surrendered its operating certificate to the Federal Aviation Administration. According to Trans-Colorado, the ending of operations were "as a direct result of economic hardship imposed by Continental Airlines (Britt Airways, Continental Express) when the prematurely terminated our contract with them."