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FBF (Flashback Friday) in Aviation History: Pacific Wings
Pacific Wings was founded in 1974 as Air Nevada. The carrier, based in Las Vegas, originally offered on-demand charter services using dual engine Cessna 402s. Like many small carriers in the Las Vegas area, flights involved charters to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Four years after launch, the airline began scheduled services to Grand Canyon National Park Airport in Arizona. In 1998, Eagle Canyon Airways, the predecessor to Scenic Airlines, purchased Air Nevada’s operations in Nevada and Arizona, and closed Air Nevada. The company was renamed Pacific Wings and began island hopping in Hawaii.
The airline offered flights to Honolulu, Kahului, Kona, Molokai, Hana, Kalaupapa, and Kamuela during its history. Eventually the Cessna 402s were replaced with newer single engine Cessna 208 Grand Caravans. Service in Hawaii became the backbone for Pacific Wings, and continued until the airline ceased operations.
In January 2007, the airline applied for Essential Air Service in New Mexico to serve Clovis, Silver City, Hobbs, and Carlsbad from Albuquerque. The airline announced plans to eventually serve the routes without the government subsidy and to start new routes from Albuquerque with no subsidy. The routes would be operated by Grand Caravans and under the branding of New Mexico Airlines. In March of the same year, the US Government approved Pacific Wings for EAS service to Hobbs and Carlsbad. The airline began operations on July 1st, 2007 and operated unsubsidized service from Albuquerque to Midland, Texas and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Service in New Mexico ended in December of 2014. At its peak the operation also served El Paso, Texas, Los Alamos, and White Plains, New Mexico before shutting down.
The next EAS venture for Pacific Wings started in August of 2008, when the airline had been awarded routes in Georgia. Two months earlier the airline was awarded service from Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport to Macon and Athens. The service was operated with two Grand Caravans and was operated under the name of GeorgiaSkies. The service lasted until 2013, when the airline attempted to pull out of the service early in the year. However the airline was forced to continue service till the replacement carrier, Sun Air International, could begin operations on the routes.
In mid-2009, Pacific Wings was again awarded EAS service in the South, this time to Kentucky and Tennessee. The airline operated between Memphis, Tennessee and Jackson, Tennessee and Owensboro, Kentucky. Service began on the 30th of August, 2009 with service to Owensboro operated under the KentuckySkies brand and service to Jackson operated under the TennesseeSkies brand. The service was short lived however when, in 2011, the airline gave the Department of Transportation 90 day notice that they would end service due to an inability to secure gate and counter space at Memphis International Airport.
Hawaii services ended in 2013 and with the end of New Mexico Airlines in 2014, Pacific Wings officially ended service. Routes operated under the EAS contracts were given to other airlines such as Cape Air and Sun Air International. Inter-island service in Hawaii has been taken over by Island Air and fellow Grand Caravan operator Mokulele Airlines.
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