From 1991 to 1994 Mesa purchased three airlines and started a fourth. One of these acquisitions, was Air Midwest, which at one time was one of the largest, and well-established, commuter airlines in the country. In the early days of Mesa Airlines, Air Midwest was the threatening competition to Mesa in New Mexico.
Founded by Gary Adamson in 1967 as Aviation Services, Inc. (ASI) in Wichita, Kansas using a Cessna 206 and then Twin Cessna 406s, they later purchased Beechcraft C-99 airliners and came up with an idea of having “mini-stewardesses”, which were women no taller than 4’11”, to serve customers on the C-99s. This was even though flight attendants were not required for airplanes that small. Limiting applicants to no more than 4’11” tall would be unheard of today.
Over the years, Air Midwest had codesharing arrangements with a variety of different airlines, including Ozark, Braniff International, Eastern, American Airlines, Trans World Airlines and US Air. Although many of Air Midwest’s code sharing agreements went away for various reasons, when Braniff folded in 1989, this was a major blow to the company that left Air Midwest with two-thirds of their airplanes parked and several pilots furloughed. Major investor Robert Priddy, worried about his investment in the faltering company, wrested control of the airline from Gary Adamson and he began to part the airline out piece-by-piece. Mesa had been looking to purchase Air Midwest for some time, and after Priddy sold off the St. Louis TWA Express hub (basically all of the Jetstreams and Brasilias) to Hulas Kanodia of Trans States Airlines, that left Air Midwest a much smaller airline that Mesa saw ripe for purchase. At that point, AMW only had the US Air partnership out of Kansas City.
Mesa immediately began to get rid of the SAAB 340s and decided to replace the aging Fairchild Swearingen Metroliners with Beechcraft 1900s. This Kansas City hub was Mesa’s first relationship with US Air. Mesa would go on to operate Air Midwest under its own certificate for seventeen years. The purchase of AMW wasn’t without controversy, as Mesa had their own, non-union, pilots flying Air Midwest’s airplanes while the AMW pilots sat idle. It was a page right out of the union buster’s handbook and created a lot of tension between the AMW pilot group and Mesa management.
In 2001, Mesa moved all Beechcraft 1900 flying to the Air Midwest certificate, with most of the airplanes painted in US Airways colors, but a few 1900s operating out of Mesa’s Albuquerque hub painted in the new Mesa paint scheme (white fuselage with a purple, yellow and orange sunburst tail). It seemed odd having an airplane painted in Mesa’s colors operating out of the Albuquerque hub under the call sign “Air Midwest”. In 2008, Mesa decided to get rid of the BE1900s and the company closed the doors at Air Midwest for good.