AEROSPATIALE BROUGHT ITS ATR-42 DEMONSTRATOR TO THE UNITED STATES IN OCTOBER 1985. FIRST POTENTIAL (AND EVENTUAL) CUSTOMER WAS RANSOME AIRLINES, WHICH WAS LOOKING FOR A REPLACEMENT FOR ITS DHC-7. I WAS WRITING FOR COMMUTER AIR MAGAZINE AT THE TIME, WHICH MERITED A PHOTO FLIGHT...AND MY FIRST COVER PHOTO WITH THAT MAGAZINE
ATLANTIS AIRLINES WAS THE FIRST US OPERATOR OF THE BAE-3100, A VASTLY UPGRADED VERSION OF THE ORIGINAL HP.137 JETSTREAM. N155AA, THE SECOND PRODUCTION JETSTREAM 31, WAS LEASED TO ATLANTIS AIRLINES OF FLORENCE, SC. THE JETSTREAM 31 WENT ON TO BECOME ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL 19-SEAT PRESSURIZED COMMUTER AIRCRAFT.
PROBABLY MY MOST ICONIC PHOTO SHOOT. RANSOME AIRLINES HAD DEPARTED FROM THE ALLEGHENY COMMUTER SYSTEM AND JUST RECEIVED A BRAND NEW DASH 7 IN ITS OWN COLOR SCHEME. THE COMPANY ORGANIZED A PRESS PHOTO FLIGHT (WE WERE IN A NORD 262) AND WE MADE A COUPLE OF PASSES AROUND THE PHILADELPHIA AREA. AFTER THAT, THE DIRECTOR OF MARKETING ASKED IF ANYONE WANTED ANYTHING ELSE. I PIPED UP, "HOW ABOUT A SHOT IN FRONT OF THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING?" LIFE WAS SOOOOO0O SIMPLE 35 YEARS AGO...
The Swearingen Metro was essentially a stretched Merlin corporate transport. For many years, it was the only pressurized aircraft built for the commuter airline market. Earlier models were limited by regulations to 12,500 lbs fully loaded. As a result, the early Metros were severely weight-restricted. In 1980, weight restrictions were raised to 14,000 lbs, and Swearingen immediately began work on the Metro III. Midstate was an early operator of the Metro III
After the merger with Piedmont, USAir began dismantling the highly-successful Florida Shuttle and replaced the jets with Henson Airlines Dash 8s on heavier routes, and Embraer Brasilias on thinner routes. Florida Gulf Airlines was formed under the Mesa Airlines certificate to operate as a USAir Express carrier focused on Florida and the Southeast.
As the commuter airline industry began to mature, regulations were changed to permit operation of aircraft weighing more than the previous limit of 12,500 lbs. As aircraft manufacturers scrambled to design and build larger regional aircraft, Gulfstream Aerospace saw the potential to extend the useful life of its venerable robust Gulfstream 1. By extending the fuselage by 10'8", seating capacity was increased to 37 passengers. Sadly, baggage capacity was not similarly increased, and Gulfstream abandoned the program after converting five aircraft.
THIS IS PROBABLY MY FAVORITE VINTAGE AIR2AIR PHOTO. THE VERY LIGHT CLOUD LAYER ABOVE US DIFFUSED THE LIGHT SO THAT THIS LOOKS MORE LIKE A PAINTING THAN A PHOTO. N421SA WAS ORIGINALLY DELIVERED TO SWIFT AIR ON THE WEST COAST, AND WAS LATER SOLD TO AIR NORTH. WHEN IT WAS PAINTED IN PIEDMONT COMMUTER COLORS, THAT WAS MY CUE TO WRITE AN ARTICLE...AND, OH YEAH, TAKE A FEW PHOTOS AS WELL.
Not only was Henson Airlines the first commuter to forge a partnership with an airline, it was later the first regional airline to partner with Piedmont Airlines. By January 1984, N900HA, Henson's first DHC-7, was painted in Piedmont Regional colors. I was invited to Salisbury for a very special photo shoot. Mr. Henson was in the left seat of the Dash.
Replendant over the Rockies. Pioneer Airlines was an early operator of the Metro III, and this represented one of my more challenging photo shoots. I was in a Beech 99 with the emergency exit door removed, and we were flying at an altitude of some 12,000 feet. I didn't realize I was hyperventilating until my backup slapped an oxygen mask over my face! The effort was worth it, however.