Sierra Pacific Airlines

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Sierra Pacific Airlines
Sierra Pacific Airlines Logo, NEW.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1971; 51 years ago (1971) original Calif. based company, 1976 re-opened in AZ.
AOC #SPAA024B[2]
HubsTucson International Airport
Secondary hubsYuma International Airport
Fleet size2
Parent companySierra Pacific Group
HeadquartersTucson, Arizona, USA
de Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter of Sierra Pacific Airlines at Marana/Pinal, 1982
A Boeing 737-200 takes off from Meadows Field, Bakersfield, California

Sierra Pacific Airlines is an American charter airline based in Tucson, Arizona, USA. It operates passenger charters and sub-charters for other airlines, as well as for the United States Forest Service, United States Military and the United States Marshals Service with jet aircraft.[3] Sierra Pacific also previously operated scheduled passenger service in the western U.S. with prop and turboprop aircraft.


The airline was initially founded as Trans Sierra Airlines in 1970 by Chris Condon and Allan Silliphant with profits from their box office hit soft X and later R rated 3-D film The Stewardesses.[4] It was renamed Sierra Pacific Airlines when the FAA granted permission to operate aircraft weighing over 12,500 lbs. in 1971. Using Aspen Airways as an aspirational model,[5] the original aircraft were one four-passenger, normally aspirated twin engine Piper Aztec, two eight-passenger turbo-charged twin engine Cessna 402s, followed by the 1973 post ski season introduction of a 44-passenger Convair 440 twin radial engine airliner.[5] The aircraft were operated out of Hollywood Burbank Airport in southern California. Destinations served included Burbank (BUR), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), Fresno (FAT), Bishop (BIH), Mammoth Lakes (MMH) and San Jose (SJC). In 1973, Sierra Pacific was purchased by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. During the winter ski season of 1975-1976, the airline was flying nonstop service from Mammoth Lakes to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Fresno with direct, one stop service to Burbank with 50 passenger seat Convair 580 turboprops and 19 passenger seat Handley Page Jetstream turboprops.[6] The Mammoth Mountain Ski Area subsequently sold the airline.

Sierra Pacific also flew de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft as a scheduled intrastate State of California Public Utilities Commission airline while also having interstate CAB exemption to cross state lines. In February 1976 it became Mountain West Aviation. It is wholly owned by the Sierra Pacific Group.[3]

Until his death in November 2014, the long-time President of Sierra Pacific was Garfield Thorsrud, the founder of Mountain West Aviation.[7] Thorsrud was a smokejumper early in his career and later served in the CIA, including with Intermountain Aviation.


In April 2021, the Sierra Pacific Airlines fleet included:[8]

Other aircraft types operated by Sierra Pacific in the past included the Cessna 402 twin prop, Convair 440 propliner, Convair 580 turboprop, de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprop and the Handley Page Jetstream (model HP.137) turboprops and Boeing 737-200.[9]

Destinations in 1976[edit]

Convair CV-580 at Marana/Pinal, 1987

According to its November 22, 1976, system timetable, Sierra Pacific was operating scheduled passenger service flown with Convair 580 and Handley Page Jetstream turboprop aircraft to the following destinations:[10]

The airline also served Burbank, CA (BUR) and Las Vegas, NV (LAS) earlier in 1976.[6]


On March 13, 1974, a film crew for Wolper Productions filming a Bell Telephone Hour special about Ice Age Neanderthal cavemen filmed at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, was killed when a Convair 440 plane crashed into the nearby crest of the White Mountains during its climb out from Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop, California. All 36 on board were killed, including 31 Wolper crew and cast members, although David Wolper was not aboard the aircraft.

The filmed segment was recovered in the tail section wreckage and was broadcast as the television documentary Primal Man. As of July 2012, the NTSB has not been able to determine the cause of the crash. There were no indications of technical problems during takeoff, but no plausible explanation of pilot error could be given. It is one of only three uncleared NTSB cases.[11]


  1. ^ "IATA - Airline and Airport Code Search". Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Federal Aviation Administration - Airline Certificate Information - Detail View". Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  3. ^ a b Flight International 12–18 April 2005
  4. ^ "Chris J. Condon, Pioneer of 3-D". Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  5. ^ a b Lew Parker, Director of Passenger Services, Assistant to the President, Sierra Pacific Airlines 1971-1973
  6. ^ a b Official Airline Guide (OAG), Feb. 1, 1976 edition
  7. ^ Obituary. Retrieved May 20, 2015
  8. ^ "Sierra Pacific Airlines Fleet Details and History". 2021-04-07.
  9. ^, Sierra Pacific Airlines aircraft photos
  10. ^, Nov. 22, 1976 Sierra Pacific Airlines timetable
  11. ^ "'Primal Man' Crash". July 11, 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-18.

External links[edit]