What Happened To Mesa Airlines’ Dash 8 Aircraft?

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Mesa Airlines used to operate 17 De Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8s, but what happened to them? And where did they end up?

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A United Express Dash 8. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Who is Mesa Airlines?

You may have never heard of Mesa Airlines, but if you have flown regionally on American Eagle or United Express then very likely you have traveled onboard their aircraft. Specifically, Mesa Airlines operates all regional services:

As American Eagle:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

As United Express:

  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport
  • Dulles International Airport

With a fleet of 145 aircraft, 64 Bombardier CRJ900s for American Eagle and 60 Embraer 175s / 20 Bombardier CRJ700 for United Express. Of the latter, they also have an order for 20 more Bombardier CRJ700s as well as a very unique order for 50 Mitsubishi SpaceJet M100s.

A Mesa Airlines United Express CRJ700. Photo:  Ibagli via Wikipedia

But the airline actually previously operated 17 Dash 8 aircraft (16 -200 versions and a single -300 version) which disappeared from company books back in 2012. What happened to these aircraft and where did they go? Let us explore.

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The history of the Dash 8 in Mesa Airlines

Mesa Airlines first started operating a single -300 Dash 8 back in Feb 1996, before expanding to a fleet of aircraft by mid-1997. They used the aircraft to fly between Phoenix and Grand Junction for American West Express. The aircraft worked well for the airline, so they expanded to other states such as Colorado, New Mexico, and California from the hub in Arizona.

Then in 2003, Mesa Airlines signed an agreement with United to operate United Express from Chicago-O’Hare, Denver, and Washington-Dulles. As part of their service, they also used the Dash 8 for part of the routes.

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An American Eagle Dash 8 -100. Photo: TweedFacts via Wikimedia

What happened to the aircraft?

The story of the Dash 8 at Mesa actually comes to a close when the airline decided to file for bankruptcy. As these aircraft were rented, they were given back to their leaseholders from 2010 until late 2011.

Dash 8 aircraft were retired from its Phoenix hub until late 2011 when, during Mesa’s restructuring in bankruptcy, coinciding with United’s cancelation of any further CRJ 200 service by Mesa, the CRJ 200’s and Dash 8’s were removed from service.

Of these 16 aircraft, their fate is as follows:

  • One ended up operating for Air Greenland
  • Six went to LC Peru which after becoming bankrupt, three moved to the airline Amaszonas and one to Airworks Kenya. The last remaining one has been stored away.
  • Another five stayed in the USA, three of which are used by Berry Aviation for charter travel around the world and another two for a private flying company.
  • One flew back to Canada and is used to run regional flights up there.
  • Two now operates for Flugfelag Islands – Air Iceland in the far north.
  • And the last remaining two Dash 8s actually got contracted for the US Special Operations Command (which is pretty cool).

Mesa Airlines would replace the Dash 8s with jet engine aircraft, such as the Bombardier CRJ series.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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