Great Lakes Airlines

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Great Lakes Airlines
Great Lakes Airlines (logo).png
IATA ICAO Callsign
Fleet size 28
Destinations 11
Parent company Great Lakes Aviation, Ltd.
Headquarters Cheyenne, Wyo., USA
Key people Doug Voss and
Ivan Simpson
Chuck Howell
The former logo of the company
A Great Lakes Beechcraft 1900D taxiing at Denver International Airport.
A Great Lakes EMB 120 at Denver International Airport
See also Great Lakes Airlines (Canada)
See also Great Lakes Air

Great Lakes Airlines (OTCQBGLUX, OTCQBGLUX), is an American regional airline operating domestic scheduled and charter services. Corporate headquarters are in Cheyenne, Wyoming,[2] with a hub at Denver 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 a large United Express feeder carrier from 1992 through 2002 operating to over 100 cities. As of December 17, 2016 the carrier will only operate to 11 cities, all under its own brand.


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 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 O'Hare International Airport.

In February 1992 Great Lakes signed a codeshare 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, Arizona; Detroit to Alpena and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; and a shuttle operation between Springfield, Illinois and Chicago's Meigs Field. 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 International Airport through a marketing agreement with Midway Airlines, but this ceased in July 1997.[4] 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 International Airport to Phoenix and Page, Arizona, 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 codeshare 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 Minneapolis hub closed again by 2016. 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 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 and Los Angeles and small hubs were also operated at Milwaukee, Kansas City and St. Louis during 2008 through 2010 with EAS routes as well.

A hub operation at Ontario International Airport was established on April 7, 2009 with routes to Merced and Visalia, California; and to Kingman and Prescott, Arizona; both continuing onto Farmington, New Mexico. The operation was switched to Los Angeles, California on May 15, 2011.

The airline added service to a new hub serving Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 7, 2010 with routes to Ely, Nevada; Page, Arizona; Farmington, NM; and Merced and Visalia, California.[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, Wyoming was dropped leaving the remote city with no air service. Sheridan had been served since the early days of aviation by many airlines, some with jets including Boeing 737s by Western Airlines. Most routes Great Lakes has served 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 11 cities as of December 17, 2016.

Great Lakes had a rather unusual theme where many of their Beech 1900D aircraft have their tails painted advertising cities that they flew to as well as National Parks in their territory. Some of the tails advertise the cities of Laramie, Wyoming; Alamosa and Telluride, Colorado; Scottsbluff, Nebraska; Ponca City, Oklahoma; Garden City, Kansas, Dodge City, Kansas and Liberal, Kansas; Sierra Vista, Arizona; Pierre, South Dakota; Miles City, Montana, as well as the White Mountains of Arizona, the Teton Range 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.

On June 2, 2016 Great Lakes Airlines, Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines announced a partnership for recruiting pilots.[9]


Great Lakes Embraer EMB-120

Great Lakes Airlines was the largest Essential Air Service provider in the United States for many years but now serves only four of its eleven destinations through the Essential Air Service program.

Great Lakes Jet Express[edit]

In 2016, Great Lakes entered into a codeshare agreement named Great Lakes Jet Express where they would sell tickets: for Elite Airways to and from Denver and Houston to Branson Airport; for Aerodynamics Inc. on a route from Chicago O'Hare to Youngstown, and later an EAS route from Denver to Pierre with onward continuing service to Watertown, South Dakota. This controversial practice allows the codesharing carriers to take advantage of Great Lakes' existing distribution and interline agreements with Global Distribution Systems and other airlines. The Chicago to Youngstown route was cancelled less than two months after it began because United Airlines refused to honor its interline agreement with Great Lakes in Chicago, stating that only connections in Denver were covered under the agreement.[10]


A Beech 1900D at Denver International Airport

During the 1980s Great Lakes operated Beechcraft C99 and Beechcraft 1900C commuter turboprop aircraft. The carrier currently operates two types of turboprop aircraft, being the Beechcraft 1900D and the Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia. Great Lakes was at one time the world's largest operator of the Beechcraft 1900.

As of September 2017, the Great Lakes Airlines fleet includes the following aircraft:[11]

Great Lakes Airlines fleet
Aircraft Total Passengers
Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia 6 (as of August 2016)[12] 30
Beechcraft Beech 1900D Airliner 24 19 or 9

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On November 19, 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 on board were killed. The pilots of the King Air were blamed for failing to effectively monitor both the common frequency and to scan for traffic.[13]
  • 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.[14]


  1. ^ "Nov 2015 Route Map" (PDF). Great Lakes Airlines. Retrieved 4 December 2015. 
  2. ^ "Contact Us." Great Lakes Airlines. Retrieved on May 25, 2009.
  3. ^
  4. ^ American Express SkyGuide July 1997 issue
  5. ^ "Welcome to Great Lakes Aviation, Ltd." Great Lakes Airlines. December 5, 1998. Retrieved on May 25, 2009.
  6. ^ "Spencer city, Iowa." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 25, 2009.
  7. ^ Hilkevitch, John. "AN AIRLINE REGROUPS GREAT LAKES FLYING AGAIN, THOUGH STILL PUZZLED BY ONSET OF CRISIS." Chicago Tribune. May 25, 1997. Business 1. Retrieved on May 25, 2009.
  8. ^ "Timetable" (PDF). Great Lakes Airlines. 2010-01-25. Retrieved 2010-04-02. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Smith, Amanda & Boney, Stan. Financial support ending for Chicago flights from Youngstown, WKBN, August 17, 2016, Retrieved 2016-09-12
  11. ^ "Great Lakes Airlines". 
  12. ^ "Global Airline Guide 2016 (Part Two)". Airliner World (November 2016): 38. 
  13. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  14. ^

External links[edit]