Air21 Airlines


March 1996







Air 21 (Fresno)(A7) Air21 stared out as an idea by the founder of Wings West Airlines Mark Morrow and David Miller an airline captain in early 1994. Originally to be named MVP Air, the name Air21 was settled on as an airline to bring in the 21st century with the slogan; “Your Low-Cost Airline for the Twenty-First century.” Initial plans were to use leased Douglas DC-9s from a Fresno, California base. Fresno, the fifth largest city in the state, was a logical choice due to lack of regular air service as well as the City of Fresno providing initial subsidies for the start-up carrier. As designed, the new airline was focused on a low fare, ticketless operation with high service. In an effort to secure funding for start-up and subsequent operations, the new airline after receiving its operating certificate in May 1995, filed an Initial Public Offering.

Looking for the right aircraft to fill its needs, the airline signed a lease agreement with USAir for two of the carriers Fokker F-28 twin-jet airplanes. USAir was looking for a potential buyer as the aircraft had been phased out of their fleet plans and Air21 saw a lucrative deal for the planes in which the first two were delivered in October and November 1995. The 65-passenger plane, was painted in an all silver body accented by “winged” blues and golds. Revenue passenger flights were finally started on December 20, 1995, from Fresno to Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Palm Springs. With the arrival of a third Fokker F-28 a month later, Los Angeles was added to route map with non-stop flights to Fresno.

In March 1996, Air21 added another two F-28 airplanes and extended services to Colorado Springs and Grand Junction, Colorado as well as Salt Lake City, Utah. However after a few months, both Colorado Springs and Salt Lake City service was cancelled, but Durango, Colorado was inaugurated on a Las Vegas-Durango-Grand Junction routing. Air21 forged an interline agreement with Reno Air to transfer passengers from the carriers operations at LAX into the Air21 system. The airline after being in operation almost a year struggled financially, even though one-way airfares in certain markets were only $39 one-way. By December 1996, the airline had carried 250,000 passengers and had made $12 million in revenue, quite a feat for a small start-up, however debt was incurring and upper management was starting to change. Reno Air cancelled the interline agreement and ground handling disputes with Delta Airlines compounded the status of the airline. With growing uncertainty, flights were suspended on December 20, 1996, exactly one year after the airline had started service. In a last ditch effort to save the carrier, the assets were to be sold to David Walsh an investment banker in San Diego, California. This sale didn’t occur and Air21 filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on December 31, 1996.

Air21 was the only provider of jet service to Fresno, California from the Bay Area during the 1990s. Awaiting taxi clearance from ground control at San Francisco International Airport in June 1996, is  N496US, a Fokker F-28-4000, delivered to Air21 in November 1995.


Wearing a striking color scheme of royal blue accented by gold, N496US, a Fokker F-28-4000, taxis out toward Runway 24 Left for a morning departure at Los Angeles International Airport in March 1996.


Seen about to touch down on Runway 25 with the unique rear air-brakes deployed at Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport in September 1996 is N498US,a Fokker F-28-4000.


Still wearing the base colors of the former aircraft operator, USAir and taxiing out for takeoff at Fresno Air Terminal in October 1996, is N499US, a Fokker F-28-4000.


Being pushed back from the gate for another regional flight at Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport in December 1996, is N496US, a Fokker F-28-4000.



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