2011 was an interesting year for me. In a year where most everyone was getting more insecure about their jobs mine hired more people and I got to help train them. I also was able to use my job to relocate cross country from my adopted home-state of Georgia to my birth-state of Michigan to be with my family whom I’ve been away from for about 20 years.
My parents retired up here early in the year though my dad is still working for Piedmont Airlines and as a result, twice a week I make the trip from our home in Lapeer to Detroit Metro Airport to either pick him up or drop him off. I’ve flown in and out of Detroit Metro many times in my life both in real life as I’ve come to visit family and virtually.
As I sat just off of runway 22L waiting for my dads RJ to come in a few days ago I watched as planes came and landed. There was a 747, god those things look like they’ll fall out of the sky they move so slow compared to how big they are on short final, some 737’s, and then in came an airbus 319 and for a moment in my head I could almost see it in the green and grey colors of MetroAir. What was funny was just behind it was a plane you don’t often see anymore. It was an older 737, had to be a 200 from the pod like engines it had and it too I could almost see in Metro’s Green and White colors.
I wonder how many of our current pilots know that MetroAir was originally based in DTW. Our headquarters was a few miles off the airfield in the city of Romulus. When we started we had a handful of aircraft, some used 737-200’s and a few Q200’s. Some of the 200’s weren’t even painted in the full scheme. Two of the aircraft had gotten caught in a hail storm or something and we didn’t have any radomes available. We called over to a United Hanger and asked if they had any. Ended up buying 2 slapping it on right there, we never got around to repainting them until the aircraft were painted in the MetroAir Shuttle Livery a few years later.
Um.. You got something on your nose….
That’s how we rolled in the early days. We didn’t have a huge maintenance budget and we didn’t over think things. I would later find out in an interview I did with one of the airline’s founders that “MetroAir”, rather than being a long drawn out naming process, was the result of a Skype conversation where they basically said “well we’re based out of Detroit Metro lets just call it MetroAir.” That was it, and they moved on. Funny how some things that become big brands start out fairly simple or abstract thoughts.
My own, sometimes sorted, history with MetroAir began about 6 months after it was founded. I was looking for a US based airline and picked metro because of it’s realistic nature, small start up status, and the fact it was based in my home state. There was also the fact they fly the Q200 which has always been one of my favorite aircraft. As I stayed with the airline it grew. As we grew we had to make decisions. It’s funny how I can look back and see various turning points. Where we had to make a decision and went one way, but could easily have gone the other. At one point we needed to grow the mainline fleet and we wanted to pick up more 737’s but none of the older 200 Series was available and the costs of picking up a classic -300, -400, or -500 was about the same as picking up any of the NG’s that were on the market at the time. We didn’t want to buy new aircraft and we wern’t sure at metro was at a point were this kind of expense would be a good idea. There were talks about maybe getting a new aircraft type. Someone actually looked at getting some MD-80’s or MD-83’s. Someone even painted up a concept image to see what it would look like in Metro’s Green and White Scheme. We eventually leased a -500 and some -700 NG’s I think though the research in the old McDonnell Douglas jets stuck with me and eventually manifested in a start up airline of my own I ran for a year and then had to shut down.
The expense paid off. The new NG’s were better than we could have hoped. So much so the older -500’s didn’t stay with us very long and eventually were subleased out. They allowed MetroAir to expand its network well out onto the West Coast. We also eventually purchased a couple 767’s to try our hand at some over-sea’s markets. It was a great time at MetroAir.
Ex-Air Canada 767 Departing on Ferry Flight with temporary markings.
However over the next year some big issues began to develop. There were issues with MetroAir’s aging mainline fleet. There were also several shakeups in MetroAir’s leadership when Mark McCoy stepped down and was replaced by then COO Stewart Johnson. Johnson would serve for only a month or so before being replaced first by Mark McCoy and then by Tom Collins. Even with the NG’s we still did the bulk of our operations with the older -200’s and the MX costs were bad enough. But this was also when the housing crash happened. Air Travel dropped, Fuel Costs Soared. The -200’s that had been making us money hand over fist in the space of a few short months became a challenge to just break even with.
Other airlines were having similar troubles. Like others we tried to purpose the older fleet and start a “Shuttle” service. Similar to what United did with TED and other airlines tried to do with other marketing ideas. However just like those examples MetroAir Shuttle didn’t fair well in the market place either. No one wanted to do it. But the market conditions forced the executive team to make a hard choice. The decision was made to retire the -200 from service.
MetroAir’s “Two Mike Tango”, the first aircraft purchased and the first to enter revenue service for MetroAir. This aircraft is now on permanent display at MetroAir’s Ontario California Hub still in it’s final MetroAir Shuttle livery.
The story doesn’t end there…. but… this article has gone on long enough. MetroAir has a relatively short but detailed history. I invite you all to research some of the older posts in the forums and discover some of this history for yourselves.
Also, did you know MetroAir’s Virtual Kansas City headquarters has a real telephone number? Dial 1-816 301-4157* and leave your name, your pilot ID and a short message for MetroAir (pilots, staff, whatever!) and you will receive a MetroMiles BONUS!* This is not a toll free number. Long Distance charges from your phone company if any may apply, you also agree that your recording becomes the property of MetroAir Virtual and that we may use it in further marketing and media campaigns.