In the early-1990s Mesa Airlines was the largest independently owned regional airline in the USA. It already operated multiple separate divisions (Air Midwest, America West Express, CalPac, FloridaGulf Airlines, Skyway Airlines etc). Mesa had started code-sharing with America West (AWA) at Phoenix in late 1992 bringing its Essential Air Services routes under the AWA Express banner and replacing AWA's unusual mainline DHC-8 flights.
As America West prepared to leave bankruptcy protection in 1993 Mesa was one of the four partners in AmWest Partners which controlled over 75% of the airline's stock. As part of the deal to leave bankruptcy it was agreed that Mesa would setup a new airline division to operate F70s on America West's behalf and two were ordered in December 1993. They would be the first F70s in the USA and the new airline would be named Desert Sun Airlines.
The 78 seater F70s would replace existing mainline America West 737s. Initial routes were Phoenix - Des Moines, Phoenix - Spokane and Las Vegas - Des Moines. Operations began in April 1995 and by October Phoenix-Montrose had been added.
Mesa also took up six further options (ultimately unexercised) for the F70 which was to be aimed at longer secondary markets of 1,000 miles or more into AWA hubs. In the end Desert Sun was the only airline in North America to take delivery of the F70 of which only 48 were ever produced due to Fokker's bankruptcy in March 1996.
At the time of the F70s delivery Mesa was expanding its fleet and rolling over Beechcraft 1900Cs and Short 360s for new Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia's, DHC-8s and B1900Ds. By the end of 1995 the fleet totalled almost 200 regional propliners plus the two F70s. The Fokker 70s were registered N528YV and N537YV and proved themselves fine in service. By October 1996 the routes the F70s were on had been modified to only Phoenix - Des Moines and Phoenix - Fresno.
Both aircraft had been leased from Fokker Services rather than bought outright and Mesa had a no-penalty returns clause in the contract. With Fokker out of business (Fokker Services continued to operate) Mesa found it couldn't source further aircraft and as orphans the F70s were not economical. In July 1997 both aircraft were returned to the lessor and replaced by Canadair CRJs. Desert Sun Airlines was merged into Mesa's America West Express Phoenix division and ceased to exist also.
The pair of F70s joined Austrian in September 1997 where this frame, N528YV, became OE-LFS. As with over half of the global F70 fleet she eventually found her way to KLM Cityhopper where she became PH-JCH in September 2002. In July 2014 she was sold to Insel Air Aruba and served with them until October 2018.
1995. Norris, Guy. Flight Global. Mesa considers Continental Express takeover proposal
2000. Airliners.net - America West Fokker 70s
America West Airlines History site
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: