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By 1953 5 DC-3s were flying the 'Route of the Gold Strikes' and in 1955 3 more were added followed by another in 1956. Aeroclassics have made a couple of nice DC-3s in Bonanza colours of which I own one. I've always thought that for the era Bonanza had a very modern livery:
In May 1956 Bonanza placed an order that showed it to be streets ahead of most of the other locals service carriers. It purchased its first jet in the form of 3 Fairchild F-27As (with 3 more optioned) for delivery in 1959. These new turboprops were a giant leap forward from the trusty Daks and were named Silver Darts in service.
At the same time as the F-27s were coming onboard the CAB was beginning to grant longer routes to local service airlines in an effort to reduce subsidies and Bonanza gained the Vegas-Reno non-stop route which at over 340 miles was long for an LSA routing.
By 1964 the fleet was at 14 F-27s and the airline was the most profitable it had ever been however a note of sadness was added when one of the F-27s was written off in a fatal crash late that year (the airline's only fatal accident).
The first DC-9 'Fanjet' finally arrived in December 1965 and looked great in Bonanza's orange:
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The 3 DC-9s required new facilities and the city of Phoenix was willing to help provide them which led to the airline moving its headquarters there in mid 1966.
Despite the addition of non-stop routes linking Phoenix-Reno and Phoenix-Salt Lake City it was the Vegas routes that were most profitable. However they didn't make enough to keep the airline itself profitable and by mid-1967 discussion with West-Coast and Pacific were ongoing. These came to fruition in August and in April 1968 the merger was agreed by the CAB and the President.
Still Bonanza went out in style starting its first international routes (to Mexico) in April of that year and passing onto the new Air West a young and modern fleet of 7 DC-9-14/15s and 14 F-27s when the new carrier was formed on July 1, 1968.
The new headquarters would be Pacific's in San Francisco and Bonanza's HQ would become a maintenance base. Still Bonanza should be seen as a trend-setter in the local service scene and a successful carrier that served its home region well.
Ed Coates great website: Air Line Collection
Bonanza History Site: Bonanza Airlines Historical site
Aeromoe's always excellent fleet site: http://www.geocities.com/~aeromoe/fleets/bonanza.html
AirTimes: Bonanza Air Lines
Wikipedia: Bonanza Air Lines - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia