Chicago Express Airlines

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Chicago Express Airlines
Chicago Express logo.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
Ceased operations2005
Frequent-flyer programATA Travel Awards
Fleet size16
Parent companyGlobal Aero Logistics
(known as ATA Holdings when Chicago Express ceased operations)
HeadquartersChicago, Illinois
Key peopleEdward Halley (CSC Investment Group CEO)
Mike Brady (Chicago Express Founder)
J. George Mikelsons (ATA Founder)

Chicago Express Airlines, Inc. (IATA: C8ICAO: WDYCall sign: Windy City) was a regional airline headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, United States.[1][2]

It operated regional feeder services from Chicago Midway Airport under the name ATA Connection. On June 1, 1999, ATA Airlines acquired Chicago Express for $1.9 million.[3] Chicago Express became a wholly owned subsidiary of Amtran, later known as ATA Holdings, and now known as Global Aero Logistics, Inc. The airline had a line maintenance base at Midway Airport in Chicago, Illinois, and a hangar maintenance base at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 2000, The hangar maintenance base was moved to South Bend Regional Airport in South Bend, Indiana. Chicago Express provided connecting service at ATA's hub, Chicago Midway International Airport. In 2004, ATA Airlines declared bankruptcy, and as a result, ATA terminated turboprop service (ATA Connection), and Chicago Express ceased all operations on March 28, 2005. It was purchased by CSC Investment Group based in Chicago, headed up by investment group CEO Edward Halley, on March 28, 2005.


Logo of
ATA Connection

The airline was established in 1993 by Mike Brady of Express Airlines I in Atlanta, Georgia. The airline started operations in August 1993. Its route structure in many ways mimiced an unrelated defunct predecessor named Chicago Air which also operated from Chicago Midway's airport less than a decade before. On June 1, 1999, Chicago Express became a wholly owned subsidiary of Amtran, later known as ATA Holdings and now Global Aero Logistics, and operated as ATA Connection, a regional code sharing affiliate of the now defunct ATA Airlines (formerly known as American Trans Air). Chicago Express' principal base of operations was Chicago Midway International Airport, where the company maintained its headquarters. For several months before its liquidation, the company also operated a hub in Indianapolis, part of ATA's failed plan for intrastate flights throughout Indiana. However, following ATA Holdings' decision to codeshare flights with Southwest Airlines, a decision was made to terminate Chicago Express effective March 28, 2005, in favor of a strictly mainline operation. CSC Investment Group, Inc., headed by CEO Edward S. Halley, purchased the airline in 2005 for $3.2 million.


Logo of
ATA Connection
(2001 - 2005)
Logo of
Chicago Express
(2000 - 2005)
Route Map of Chicago Express (ATA Connection) before its demise on March 28, 2005

At the time of ATA's grounding of Chicago Express on March 28, 2005, Chicago Express/ATA Connection had operated scheduled service to 17 destinations throughout the Midwest:

United States[edit]








Prior to the airline's dissolution, it announced new service from Indianapolis to Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary, Indiana, however it never began service on this route.


At the time of termination on March 28, 2005, Chicago Express had 16 aircraft in its fleet consisting of:

Chicago Express Fleet
Aircraft Total Passengers (Economy) Routes Notes
Saab 340B 16
Short haul / Commuter All were former American Eagle aircraft.

Fleet history[edit]

A BAe Jetstream of Chicago Express airlines at Midway International Airport in 1994.
  • Chicago Express received delivery of its first Saab 340B (N194AE) on February 5, 2000.[4]

Having previously operated a fleet of BAe Jetstream 31 aircraft, at the time Chicago Express ceased operations its fleet consisted of 17 Saab 340B aircraft, all of which were former American Eagle aircraft. The 17 Saab 340Bs replaced the BAe Jetstream 31s, which were used prior to ATA's acquisition of the airline in 1999.

The Jetstream 31s were divided into two groups based on design features: 6 Jetstreams were equipped with Garrett turboprops with Automatic Power Reserve (which came from JetStream International, a USAir commuter. These were the ones with tail numbers N8xxJS), and the remaining 4 Jetstreams were equipped with Garrett turboprops with water-methanol injection. After Amtran's acquisition of Chicago Express in 1999, the Jetstreams were "retired" and most found homes with other (mostly corporate) operators. One aircraft was written-off during an engine run-up immediately prior to its resale to another operator when one propeller struck a ground power unit.

Two Saab 340Bs (N309CE and N311CE) were owned by Amtran, and remained in Indianapolis for several months after Chicago Express ceased operations. The remainder were quickly leased by Colgan Air.


  1. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 22–28, 1995. 64. Retrieved on July 25, 2009.
  2. ^ "Welcome To Chicago Express Airlines Online." Chicago Express. December 6, 1998. Retrieved on July 25, 2009.
  3. ^ Meyer, Gregory (March 1, 2005). "ATA mum on bid for Chicago Express". Crain's Chicago Business.
  4. ^ "Photos: Saab 340B Aircraft". Retrieved July 9, 2018.

External links[edit]