The first all-jet powered airline in the United States was Las Vegas-based Bonanza Air Lines. Though the milestone was not reached until 1960, the airline began as part of an experiment in post-World War II commercial aviation service.
In 1945, Edmund Converse, Charles Keene, and June Simon founded Bonanza Air Services in Las Vegas. It began as a small charter operation known as Bonanz-Air. The name changed to Bonanza Air Lines when it became an intrastate airline in 1947, with scheduled flights between Las Vegas and Reno. Bonanza was one of the first four airlines serving McCarran Field when it opened in 1948.
Bonanza was part of the Civil Aeronautics Authority experiment known as "local service airlines." These were regional airlines assigned to a geographical area of service, as opposed to the national carriers who flew coast to coast. Bonanza served a territory bounded by Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Reno. With a fleet of DC-3s, Bonanza became an interstate airline in 1949, with flights to Phoenix. During the 1950s, Bonanza battled other airlines for routes, especially Western Airlines, which did not want to lose any of the Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas traffic. Bonanza eventually acquired the right to fly circuitous routes through other locales, including San Diego and Death Valley, until receiving a direct route in 1962.
In 1958, the company began buying Fairchild F-27A turbo-jet powered aircraft. With the retirement of its last DC-3 on November 1, 1960, Bonanza became the nation's first all-jet powered airline. Bonanza's service region became known as "Bonanzaland," and the airline was one of the earliest to begin debating whether to drop airmail from its services to allow for more passengers. Outgrowing the F-27s, Bonanza began adding DC-9s to its fleet in 1966 and moved its headquarters to Phoenix, Arizona.
Edmond Converse initiated talks to merge Bonanza with two other regional airlines in 1967. Pacific Airlines, West Coast Airlines, and Bonanza Air Lines combined to form a new regional airline, Air West. Though Converse opposed the offer, within a year Howard Hughes bought the airline and renamed it Hughes Air West. In 1980, Republic Airlines purchased Hughes Air West, which ceased to exist as a separate entity. Republic was later purchased by Northwest Airlines, which then merged with Delta Airlines in 2010.
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