Now that it has certification from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly larger planes, Shuttle America Corp. is expanding and updating its fleet and adding flights to new cities.
Three months ago, the Fort Wayne-based company had nine Saab 340 propeller aircraft in scheduled service providing connecting flights for United Airlines at a hub in Washington, D.C.
Late in May, it received certification to fly regional jets. So last month, Shuttle America added three Embraer 170 regional jets to its fleet and reduced the number of its Saab 340s to eight, said Scott Durgin, Shuttle Americas president and chief executive officer.
Regional jets can fly farther than propeller aircraft, and the Embraer 170 has 70 seats twice the number on the Saab 340s. The company plans to double the number of regional jets in its fleet this month and add four more next month.
The carriers nationwide work force has grown more than 60 percent to 427 from 265 since April. Its Fort Wayne work force has remained at 115 because most of the new hires are pilots and flight attendants staffing the new airplanes as they come on, Durgin said last week.
Last month, the company added flights to Denver and OHare Airport in Chicago from Indianapolis, and flights to Houston from Denver and to Albany and White Plaines, N.Y., and Houston from Chicago.
This month, it will begin service in Kansas City; New Orleans; Norfolk, Va.; Columbus, Ohio; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The expansion followed a change in ownership. Shuttle America was owned by Shuttle Acquisition, an affiliate of the Wexford Capital investment group, which also was the majority shareholder of Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings.
Republic Airways bought Shuttle America in April for $1 million, plus the assumption of less than $1 million in company debt. Republic operates the regional carrier Chautauqua.
In its announcement of the acquisition, Republic had said it planned to add the Embraer 170 regional jet to Shuttle Americas fleet as soon as possible and phase out all of its propeller aircraft by the end of 2005.
Executives have been too focused on the expansion to consider how the ownership change could affect the future of Shuttle America operations in Fort Wayne, Durgin said.
Headquarters: 11102 W. Perimeter Road.
Employs: 427, including 115 in Fort Wayne.
Flies: Eight Saab 340 propeller aircraft and three Embraer 170 regional jets.