This year’s RAA Convention couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time and place for Memphis, Tenn.’s hometown airline. The proud new owner of a second operating subsidiary and revamped service contract with Northwest Airlines, Pinnacle Airlines has officially shed the manacles of a highly restrictive code-share deal and joined the open market for regional services.
Manassas, Va.-based Colgan Air will fly fifteen 74-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprops under a 10-year capacity purchase agreement that Colgan’s new owner, Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines, signed with Continental Airlines last month. The deal will see Colgan fly the new airplanes, scheduled for delivery from this December through June of next year, from Continental’s Newark, N.J. hub starting next January.
Northwest Airlines pilots last month voted to allow Northwest Airlink partner Pinnacle Airlines to add more 50-seat regional jets to its fleet and open talks over a new pay scale for 70-seat regional jets at the mainline. Part of a concessionary contract that calls for a 15-percent pay cut among pilots and management, the new deal will allow Pinnacle to convert its remaining orders and options on 44-seat Bombardier CRJs to 50-seat CRJ200s.
Transcripts released by the FAA early last month reveal that the pilots of the Pinnacle Airlines CRJ200 that crashed in Jefferson City, Mo., on October 18 purposely climbed to 41,000 feet to “have a little fun” before the jet, its 50 passenger seats empty, lost power and began a rapid descent. “We don’t have any passengers on board so we decided to have a little fun and come on up here,” said one of the pilots.
Bombardier announced plans to cut this year’s CRJ200 production by another 20 percent just days after Standard & Poor’s lowered the company’s credit rating to junk status and issued a “negative” outlook for Bombardier’s regional jet prospects.
Northwest Airlines will have to add a third regional partner if it wants more 50-seat jets for its Northwest Airlink division, according to an agreement with its pilots to limit the number of regional jets it leases to Pinnacle and Mesaba Airlines.
Pinnacle Airlines bought Manassas, Va.-based Colgan Air for $20 million last month. The deal gives Memphis-based Pinnacle, which has flown exclusively for Northwest Airlines during its entire existence, immediate access to code-share revenue from Colgan partners Continental Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways.
A new code-share contract with Northwest Airlines (NWA) will allow Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines to keep its fleet of 124 Bombardier CRJs, potentially fly 76-seat jets and enter code-share deals with other major airlines. Under the 10-year deal, Northwest will also assign Pinnacle another 17 CRJ200s and/or CRJ440s by the end of the year.
A lack of professionalism, discipline and knowledge exhibited by the two pilots flying the Pinnacle Airlines Bombardier CRJ200 that crashed in Jefferson City, Mo., on Oct. 14, 2004, directly led to the tragedy that took their lives, the NTSB has determined after more than two years of investigation.
The NTSB concluded that the “unprofessional behavior” and “poor airmanship” of the pilots caused the Oct. 14, 2004 crash of a Pinnacle Airlines Bombardier CRJ. The two pilots (the only people aboard) were killed. After the pilots took the regional jet to its maximum operating altitude of 41,000 feet, both engines quit.