Great Lakes Airlines

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Great Lakes Airlines
GLA logo.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
Fleet size 28
Destinations 21
Parent company Great Lakes Aviation, Ltd.
Headquarters Cheyenne, Wyoming
Key people Doug Voss and
Ivan Simpson
Chuck Howell
The former logo of the company
See also Great Lakes Airlines (Canada)

Great Lakes Airlines (OTCQBGLUX, OTCQBGLUX), is an American regional airline operating domestic scheduled and charter services. Corporate headquarters are located in Cheyenne, Wyoming,[2] with hubs at Denver International Airport, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and Los Angeles International Airport.

As of November 2013 Great Lakes Airlines received $58,299,575 in annual Federal subsidies for Essential Air Services that they provided to rural airports in the U.S.[3]

Great Lakes Airlines was also recently featured in an article published by Business Week stating that Great Lakes was one of the worst paying Airlines in the country, with a first officer's starting salary averaging around $14,000 a year.[4]


The airline was established by Doug Voss and Ivan Simpson and started operations on April 5, 1977. It began scheduled services on October 12, 1981, with flights between Spencer, Iowa, and Des Moines, Iowa. In February 1988, Great Lakes acquired Alliance Airlines, adding six cities around Lake Michigan to the route network. In the following years it continued to expand with routes mainly concentrated around a hub at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

In February 1992 Great Lakes signed a codesharing agreement with United Airlines becoming a United Express feeder carrier. From 1992 through 2002 Great Lakes operated extensive United Express operations with hubs at Chicago O'Hare and Denver and also at Minneapolis where United Airlines did not have a hub operation. Other United Express operations were also flown between Phoenix and Page, AZ, Detroit to Alpena and Sault Ste. Marie, MI, and a shuttle operation between Springfield, IL and the Chicago Meigs airport. All flights were operated with 19-seat Beechcraft 1900D and 30-seat Embraer 120 Brasilia aircraft. On June 1, 1998 the airline greatly expanded its Denver hub by adding the United Express routes formerly operated by Mesa Airlines.

On January 19, 1994, the airline went public trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange. In October 1995, Great Lakes began operating under the Midway Connection banner at Raleigh/Durham through a marketing agreement with Midway Airlines, but this ceased in 1997.[citation needed] Prior to the relocation of the headquarters to Cheyenne, Great Lakes was headquartered in Summit Township, Clay County, Iowa, by Spencer Municipal Airport and near the city of Spencer.[5][6][7]

In late 1995 Great Lakes acquired the assets of Arizona Airways obtaining routes from a hub at Tucson, Arizona to Phoenix and Page, AZ, as well as to Albuquerque, NM, and to several points in northern Mexico. This operation ended in mid 1997.

Great Lakes status as United Express was downgraded in early 2002 when it became an independent carrier but still maintained an indirect code sharing agreement with United Airlines as well as establishing a new code share with Frontier Airlines. Since then Great Lakes has seen a steady decline in traffic and service to many cities has been dropped including the entire hub operation at Chicago O'Hare. The Minneapolis hub was also closed however a small operation there was reinstated on March 17, 2012 when Essential Air Service (EAS) routes formerly flown by Northwest Airlink carriers were obtained . The Denver hub is now the main focus for Great Lakes however routes from that hub have been vanishing as well. Many cities the carrier once served as United Express no longer have any airline service.

New flights from Albuquerque, NM to Clovis and Silver City, NM were added on April 3, 2005 after obtaining the EAS contracts for these cities formerly held by Mesa Airlines. These flights operated until November 30, 2012. EAS subsidized flights currently operate from Phoenix, AZ and Los Angeles, CA and small hubs were also operated at Milwaukee, Kansas City and St. Louis during 2008 through 2010 with EAS routes as well.

The airline added service to a new hub serving Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 7, 2010 with routes to Ely, NV, Page, AZ, Farmington, NM, and Merced and Visalia, CA.[8] The Las Vegas hub was closed in April 2013.

In 2013 a new government ruling requiring first officers to have a minimum of 1500 flight hours and restrictions on crew rest and duty times created a severe hardship for Great Lakes as well as many other commuter airlines. The airline was then forced to pull ten seats out of most of its 19-seat Beech 1900D aircraft. Many flights had to be cancelled as well as all service to several cities. On April 1, 2015, service to Sheridan, WY was dropped leaving that remote city with no air service. Sheridan had been served since the early days of aviation by many airlines, some with jets including Boeing 737's by Western Airlines. Most routes Great Lakes now serves are subsidized through Essential Air Service. Through its history the airline is known to have served at least 118 cities and 120 airports (three at Chicago) but was down to 21 cities as of October 1, 2015.

Great Lakes had a rather unique theme where many of their Beech 1900D aircraft have their tails painted advertising cities that they fly too as well as National Parks in their territory. Some of the tails advertise the cities of Laramie, WY, Alamosa and Telluride, CO, Scottsbluff, NE, Ponca City, OK, Garden City, Dodge City, and Liberal KS, Sierra Vista, AZ, Pierre, SD, Miles City MT, as well as the White Mountains of Arizona and the Grand Tetons and Devils Tower in Wyoming. Most of these aircraft have since been retired and the airline no longer flies to several cities of these cities.


Great Lakes Embraer EMB-120

Great Lakes Airlines serves 13 of its destinations through the Essential Air Service program and is the largest Essential Air Service provider in the United States. Great Lakes Airline also offers service to 4 non EAS Communities.


A Beech 1900D at Denver International Airport

During the 1980s Great Lakes operated Beechcraft C99 and Beechcraft 1900C aircraft . Now the carrier operates two types of aircraft, the Beechcraft 1900D and the Embraer 120 Brasilia. Great Lakes was once the world's largest single operator of the Beechcraft 1900.

As of October 2012, the Great Lakes Airlines fleet includes the following aircraft:[9]

Great Lakes Airlines fleet
Aircraft Total Passengers
Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia 6 30
Beechcraft Beech 1900D Airliner 4 19
Beechcraft Beech 1900D Airliner 9 Seat 18 9

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On November 16, 1996, United Express Flight 5925 operated by Great Lakes Airlines, a Beechcraft 1900 collided with a King Air during landing at Quincy Regional Airport. The ten passengers and two crew members onboard were killed. The pilots of the King Air were blamed for failing to effectively monitor both the common frequency and to scan for traffic.[10]
  • On August 19, 1998, United Express flight 1605 operated by Great Lakes Airlines, a Beechcraft 1900 was substantially damaged. Shortly after the airplane took off, the crew heard a loud noise and felt a slight vibration from the left propeller. They returned and landed. It was discovered that the propeller erosion shield had debonded and a portion had penetrated the passenger cabin just aft of the airstair door, knocked ajar Seat 1A Passenger Service Unit, ricocheted off the ceiling, and penetrated the inner window pane at Seat 2C. One passenger was injured. [11]


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