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Mesa buys Centennial Airlines

Mesa made their first airline acquisition on June 1, 1987 when they bought Centennial Airlines of Wyoming. Rolly Bergeson, the General Manager of Centennial Airlines first approached Larry Risley in 1984 as Centennial’s owner was hoping to acquire Mesa. Larry Risley turned down the offer, but a few years later when the owner of Centennial, Milt Woods, decided to sell, Rolly went back to Farmington this time with an offer to sell.

Centennial had been shrinking and by the time Mesa bought them they had a fleet of only two BE1900s and two Beech C-99. Centennial was known for a varied livery with different multiple colors for each airplane. Like the pre-United Express Aspen Airways, who was known for having the same design and logo on their airplanes but painted in different color combinations, Centennial airplanes all had the same stripe scheme, name, and the big “C” logo on the tail, but with the stripes and logos painted in different colors on each airplane. One of the Centennial BE1900s with registration N106BE (serial number UB61) that Mesa acquired in the deal, ended up being leased to Air LA. It was the only airplane Mesa had with Collins radios, while every other Mesa airplane had King radios. From an avionics standpoint, it was not compatible with the rest of the fleet.

Centennial had two pilot bases in Worland and Cody Wyoming. Risley shut down all of the Centennial bases about a year after buying them and the pilots were moved to Farmington. They also had a maintenance hangar in Worland, which was eventually shut down. About a year later, Risley decided that getting crews and airplanes to the far reaches of Wyoming was challenging, so he reopened the Worland domicile much to the dismay of the previously displaced Worland pilots. Very few Centennial pilots went to Mesa and most that did left soon thereafter. Pilot Ken Kyle was the last Centennial pilot left standing at Mesa when he was hired by America West Airlines in October 1990. Mike Lewis was the Denver station manager at Centennial when Mesa bought them. He worked his way up through management and when Jonathan Ornstein took over Mesa, he was the President of the Mountain West Airlines. He also returned later to manage the Frontier Jet Express codeshare and to work on the United Airlines code share with regional jets out of the Denver, Chicago and Dulles Airports.

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