Big Sky Airlines


May 1983


August 1983 






Big Sky Airlines (GQ) was a commuter airline that was established in Montana during June 1978, to fill the void left by Frontier Airlines when many of the smaller routes were dropped due to deregulation. Flights started in September 1978, from a Billings, Montana base to Helena and Kalispell, Montana using a Cessna 402. Taking advantage of the Essential Air Service (EAS) subsidy, Big Sky leased a Swearing Metroliner and continued to expand in 1979, by adding Boise, Idaho and Casper, Wyoming to its route map. The airline proved quite popular, as it provided a vital service to cities in the northwest that had seen the traditional airlines disappear. The airline acquired three Handley Page Jetstream turboprops in 1981, and extended services into North Dakota with flights as far east as Minneapolis-St. Paul. In December 1983, the first international service was started with flights between Kalispell, Montana and Calgary, Canada.

During 1987, Big Sky Airlines became a Northwest Airlink partner on behalf of Northwest Airlines from its Billings hub helping boost passenger numbers. For the next ten years, Big Sky operated in a very niche market, it being one of the only established passenger carriers in the region. During 1998, the airline took over operation of the routes of defunct carrier Lone Star Airlines/Aspen Mountain Airís routes in Texas. The airline continued to add and drop EAS routes throughout the west and central portions of the United States, eventually having a route map that covered Seattle to the west, Bismarck to the east, and down as far south as Brownwood, Texas and El Dorado, Arkansas. With such a large territory it covered, as well as loss of various subsidies, Big Sky began to suffer financially. A short stint as a Delta Connection carrier couldnít help the airline and with the USDOT giving Great Lakes Airlines the approval to fly EAS routes from Billings, Montana, Big Sky Airlines had to file bankruptcy in December 2007, with the last service flown on March 8, 2008.



Big Sky.