Pinnacle Airlines

Pinnacle Airlines
Pinnacle Airlines, Inc.
Founded 1985 (as Express Airlines I)
Hubs As Delta Connection
Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Memphis International Airport
Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Focus cities Indianapolis International Airport
Frequent-flyer program SkyMiles
Airport lounge Delta Sky Club
Alliance SkyTeam
Fleet size 142
Parent company Pinnacle Airlines Corp.
Headquarters Memphis, Tennessee
Key people Sean Menke (President and CEO)

Pinnacle Airlines, Inc. (formerly Express Airlines I) is an American regional airline, which is a subsidiary of Pinnacle Airlines Corp.,[1] and operates as Delta Connection for Delta Air Lines. It is based in Memphis, Tennessee, with its main flying operations based at Memphis International Airport, with hubs at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.[2]



The airline was established in February 1985 as Express Airlines I with the intent of offering regional airline passenger feed to a code sharing, major airline’s hub.[3] Express I began its first code sharing agreement with Republic Airlines in May 1985.[4] Republic was the dominant carrier in Memphis but, in keeping with the hub-and-spoke concept, wanted to add more smaller cities and free up its larger DC-9 jets to serve longer stage-length routes. Express I was able to accomplish this by beginning service on June 1, 1985, to 3 cities using BAe Jetstream 31 aircraft. Within six months, Express Airlines I was operating in ten markets using nine Jetstream 31s and two Saab 340 aircraft.

On December 15, 1985, a second contract opened operations at a Republic Airlines home base at Minneapolis-St. Paul. By its first anniversary, Republic Express was operating 20 Jetstream 31s and seven Saab 340s in 32 markets. In Spring 1986, Northwest Airlines announced the acquisition of Republic, which was completed on October 1, 1986, following regulatory and shareholder approvals.

Over the next decade, Express I provided airline services to 56 cities in the Southeast and upper Mid-West. In 1997, Northwest Airlines elected to make changes in the structure of Express I, which was a privately held company. On April 1, 1997, Express I became a wholly owned subsidiary of Northwest Airlines. In order to consolidate the many Airlink systems operated at that time, Express I transferred flying at Minneapolis-St. Paul, allowing it to concentrate on the Memphis Hub.

In August 1997, Express I moved its corporate headquarters to Memphis, allowing all the various departments to function from its main base of operations. On 7 May 1999, Express I announced a major transition into the jet age as its parent company announced that Express would be the launch operator of the Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) at Northwest. This award was for a minimum of 42 CRJs designated to operate as Northwest Jet Airlink. Delivery of the CRJs began in April 2000 and the first Northwest CRJ lifted into the sky on June 1, 2000, bound for Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP). The first CRJ (N8390A) was named "The Spirit of Memphis Belle," although it has since been repainted into Delta Connection colors, but the title "The Spirit of Memphis Belle" still remains painted on the forward part of the fuselage. Express I changed its name to Pinnacle Airlines on May 8, 2002.

Current operations

Northwest agreed with Pinnacle on a new Air Service Agreement (ASA) on December 21, 2006. The agreement contracts Pinnacle to fly 124 CRJs until 2017. A clause within the ASA stipulates that if Pinnacle and Air Line Pilots Association did not agree on a new pilot contract by 31 March 2007, then Northwest could remove up to 17 CRJs from Pinnacle's fleet. After the deadline passed with no new pilot contract, Northwest exercised its right to remove 17 CRJs from Pinnacle, starting in September 2008 at a rate of two CRJs per month. Ironically, these 17 CRJs were removed from Pinnacle and handed over to Mesaba Airlines in 2008, which Pinnacle acquired in 2010.

Northwest has also allowed Pinnacle to seek flying from other carriers. On April 30, 2007, Pinnacle Airlines Corp. signed a 10 year contract with Delta Air Lines to be a Delta Connection carrier. The 16 Bombardier CRJ 900's began delivery in November 2007 and the deliveries are scheduled to be complete by May 2009. The first batch of delivered aircraft are based in Atlanta and began service in December 2007. As of July 2008, Pinnacle has 11 CRJ-900 operating for Delta Air Lines. On June 10, 2008 Pinnacle announced that Delta planned to withdraw from the contract by 31 July 2008 for failure to make its timetable. However, on July 18, 2008 Delta announced that an agreement had been reached that would allow Pinnacle to continue flying for Delta under the terms of the initial contract. The remaining 4 CRJ-900s will be delivered between January and May 2009, at which point all 15 CRJ-900s will be in service for Delta Connection.[5]

The airline has 3,436 employees (at March 2007).[2]


Pinnacle flies out of five hubs, Detroit MI, Memphis TN, Minneapolis-St. Paul MN, New York, NY (JFK) and Atlanta GA. Pinnacle currently serves over 110 cities in 39 states and Canadian provinces. It operates well over 800 flights a day.[6]


Pinnacle Airlines is currently in the process of painting all of its CRJ-200 fleet from Northwest Airlink to Delta Connection. 2 aircraft are being painted per 8–10 days and the project should take about 16 months.

The CRJ-200 is operated by a flight crew of 2: a pilot and a co-pilot. It also requires only 1 cabin crew member or flight attendant. This airframe is the smallest airframe that Pinnacle operates, with a seating capacity of 50. The inside cabin of the aircraft is approximately 48 feet long, with a height of six feet. The exterior of the plane is 87 feet long with a wing span of 69 feet. The plane is powered by two General Electric CF34-B1 jet engines. The planes cruise speed is .81 mach.

The CRJ-900 is the larger of the two airframes that Pinnacle operates. The seating is broken up into two sections a first class which usually seats 12 and a coach class that seats 64 for a total seating of 76. For this aircraft the seating is set up with four seats abreast with the center isle down the middle. The interior of the cabin measures 69 feet long and six feet high. The exterior of the plane is 119 feet long and a wing span of 81 and half feet. The aircraft is powered by two General Electric CF34-8C5 Turbofan engines with a cruise speed of .83 or 547 mph.

The Pinnacle Airlines fleet includes the following aircraft as of December 2009:[7]

A Pinnacle Airlines CRJ 200
Aircraft Total Passengers
F Y Total
Bombardier CRJ-200LR 126 50 50
Bombardier CRJ-900 16 12 64 76

Incidents and accidents

  • Flight 3701 was a Bombardier CRJ200 with a crew of two operating a re-position flight (with no passengers) from Little Rock, Arkansas to Minneapolis, Minnesota. It crashed on October 14, 2004 in a residential area in Jefferson City, Missouri due to the flight crew pushing the plane past its capabilities and ignoring warnings. Both pilots were killed.[8]
  • Flight 4712 was a Bombardier CRJ200LR from Traverse City, Michigan that overran the runway when landing at Cherry Capital Airport (TVC), Traverse City, Michigan. The plane was damaged, but nobody was hurt. The NTSB determined that the cause of the accident was the "pilots’ decision to land at TVC without performing a landing distance assessment" which in turn was caused by fatigued pilots and unclear directions from the TVC controller tower. The report recommended more landing distance training, post-accident drug testing, and further criteria for runway closures in snow and ice conditions.[9]
  • FAA fines pinacle over $1million for allegedly operating two canadaair jets in 2009 and 2010 wen they were not in compliance with FAA regulations. On one of the aircraft, flight crew performed procedures which should have been conducted by maintenance personnel; FAA inspectors had denied a request to make the work an operations task. On a second aircraft, Pinnacle is accused of failing to conduct proper monitoring of a cracked low-pressure turbine case.


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