Bonanza Air Lines was an airline (known at the time as a "local service" air carrier as defined by the federal Civil Aeronautics Board) with routes in the Western United States (and eventually Mexico) from 1945 until it was merged with two other local service air carriers to form Air West in 1968. Its headquarters was initially located in Las Vegas, Nevada, and was later moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1966.
The airline began scheduled flights in 1945 with a single-engine Cessna between Nevada cities Las Vegas, Reno, Tonopah and Hawthorne. During the 1950s and early 1960s the airline expanded into Arizona, Southern California and Utah, including Phoenix, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Until 1978 Bonanza operated the only scheduled nonstop flights between Las Vegas and Reno. It became an international airline soon before it merged with Pacific Air Lines and West Coast Airlines to form Air West with flights to Mexico operated with Douglas DC-9 jetliners from Phoenix and Tucson to La Paz, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta. Air West would later be renamed Hughes Airwest.
The company began operations in 1945 and was based in Las Vegas. It was known as Bonanza Air Services in Las Vegas. Bonanza was part of a Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) effort to develop "local service airlines." Interstate flights started in December 1949 and Bonanza's flight schedules then appeared in the Official Airline Guide (OAG) at that time.
In October 1951 its Douglas DC-3 prop aircraft served eight airports from Reno to Phoenix. By July 1952 Bonanza added seven airports west from Phoenix to Los Angeles. In 1968 it began flights to Mexico from Tucson, and by that May the airline was operating scheduled flights to 22 airports system wide.
Like other local service air carriers, Bonanza was subsidized by the federal government. In 1962, its operating revenues of $11.0 million included $3.2 million "Pub. serv. rev." subsidies.
In 1959 Bonanza introduced Fairchild F-27 turboprops (nicknamed the Silver Dart) and unsuccessfully applied for routes to Texas. The F-27 was a U.S. manufactured version of the Dutch built Fokker F27 Friendship. F-27s were used to replace DC-3s in airline's fleet and the last scheduled DC-3 flight occurred in late 1960. Following retirement of its DC-3s, Bonanza became the first scheduled airline to operate an all turbine powered fleet in the U.S. At this time, Bonanza was operating the F-27 to Grand Canyon National Park Airport (GCN) in northern Arizona with flights to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Tucson.
Bonanza ordered three British Aircraft Corporation BAC One-Eleven twin jets in October 1962; however, this request was denied by the federal Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), although U.S. authorities allowed American Airlines, Braniff International Airways, Aloha Airlines and Mohawk Airlines to purchase the same aircraft. An order was then placed for the U.S. manufactured twin jet equivalent, the Douglas DC-9 series 10. Deliveries of the DC-9 began in late 1965 and flights commenced on March 1, 1966. The DC-9s, dubbed Funjets, flew the following routes within the first year: Las Vegas—Reno, Las Vegas—Los Angeles, Reno—Los Angeles, Salt Lake City—Phoenix, and Reno—Las Vegas—Phoenix. The headquarters were moved to Phoenix during 1966.
Bonanza's April 28, 1968 timetable listed DC-9 jet flights on the following routes:
With Civil Aeronautics Board approval on April 17, 1968 Bonanza Air Lines merged with Pacific Air Lines and West Coast Airlines to form Air West on July 1. Bonanza's DC-9-10s and F-27As joined the new Air West fleet. Air West would be renamed Hughes Airwest in 1970 and then would be acquired in 1980 by Republic Airlines (the result of the 1979 merger of North Central Airlines and Southern Airways), with Republic in turn then being acquired by Northwest Airlines in 1986. Northwest merged with Delta Air Lines in 2008.
A stretched McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 (construction number 47246/registration N9333) was ordered by Bonanza but was delivered to Air West after the merger. It flew with Bonanza's successors until about 2009.
According to the Bonanza system route map which appeared in the airline's April 28, 1968 timetable, the following destinations were being served. Those destinations noted in bold typeface received DC-9 jet service while other destinations were served with F-27 turboprops:
Guaymas, Mexico (GYM) also appears on this route map; however, Bonanza was not serving Guaymas at this time although it had the authority to do so. Earlier in 1968, the airline also served Apple Valley, California (APV) with F-27 flights; however, service to this destination was then discontinued.
The airline's only fatal incident was on November 15, 1964, when Bonanza Air Lines Flight 114, flying from Phoenix, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada, crashed into a mountain south of Las Vegas during poor weather. There were no survivors among the 26 passengers and three crew on board the F-27.
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