MILWAUKEE’S HOMETOWN AIRLINE

By: Category: Air FreightersTransports

 

 

If you have spent any time around Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport then you have probably seen or heard the multi-colored turboprops coming and going. These would be the Beech’s and Embraer’s of Milwaukee based Freight Runners Express and Air Charter Express. Since 1983 Freight Runners Express has been providing scheduled and on-demand cargo charters. In 2014 Air Charter Express was formed flying passenger Embraer E-120 Brasillia’s providing on-demand passenger charters mostly for college sports teams. Milwaukee is and will continue to be its Primary Hub, Headquarters, and Maintenance Base.

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Freight Runners Express has very humble beginnings when current company president Chip Zens founded the airline with a single Piper Cherokee. A pair of Cessna 207’s joined the fleet shortly after. Cessna 402’s were added in 1990 and remained part of the fleet until 2015. Growth and prosperity ensued in the coming years with Beech 99’s being added to the fleet beginning in 1994 with the last aircraft added in 2015. A single Beech 18 was also operated between 1999 to 2001. The Beech 1900 Freighter was added in 2007. The Freighter version of the Embraer 120 was added in 2015.

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The current fleet comprises a total of 22 aircraft, with the majority of these operated on scheduled routes for UPS in the Great Lakes Region. Beech 99’s and 1900’s serve 14 cities in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois with most of the flights operating to and from the Milwaukee Base. These flights operate Monday through Saturday with extra flights flown during the busy Christmas Season. The combined airlines have operating authority in the 48 contiguous United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico and most Caribbean Islands. The current operational statistics are most impressive with 7,155,100 pounds of freight flown, 18,500 passengers, and 9,570 flights completed.

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The Beech 99 is the backbone of the scheduled routes flown with 10 aircraft currently in the fleet. The Beech 99 has a payload of 3,600 pounds and maximum range of 1,048 miles. Twin Pratt and Whitney PT6A-20 Turboprop engines give the Beech 99 a top speed of 275 mph.

N109CZ C/N U-109 built in 1969 joined the fleet in 2011. This airframe previously flew with Cascade Airways and AirPac.

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N109CZ BE-99

N199CZ C/N U-30 built in 1969 joined the fleet in 1994. This airframe previously flew with Mesaba and Bar Harbor Airlines.

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N299CZ C/N U-74 built in 1969 joined the fleet in 1996. This airframe previously flew for Suburban Airlines and Bar Harbor Airlines.

N399CZ C/N U-91 built in 1969 joined the fleet in 1996. This airframe previously flew for Golden West Airlines and Cascade Airways.

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N399CZ FRG BE-99 MKE

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N499CZ C/N U-81 built in 1969 joined the fleet in 1997. This airframe previously flew for Executive Airlines and Air Kentucky.

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N599CZ C/N U-89 built in 1969 joined the fleet in 1998. This airframe previously flew for Executive Airlines and Altair Airlines.

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N699CZ C/N U-10 built in 1968 joined the fleet in 2015. This airframe previously flew for Skydive Factory Inc, Skystream Airlines, and Air Wisconsin.

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N799CZ C/N U-68 built in 1969 joined the fleet in 2003. This airframe previously flew for Cascade Airways and Wiggins Airways.

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N899CZ C/N U-96 built in 1969 joined the fleet in 2004. This airframe previously flew with Texas International and Corporate Air.

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N999CZ C/N U-116 built in 1969 joined the fleet in 2011. This airframe previously flew with Pennsylvania Airlines and Empire Airlines.

N999CZ BE-99

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Three Beech 1900’s are part of the fleet and also fly scheduled routes and are available for on demand charters. The Beech 1900 has a maximum payload of 5,900 pounds and range of 1,726 miles. 2 Pratt and Whitney PT-6A-65B Turboprop engines give the 1900 a top speed of 310 mph.

N191CZ C/N UB-59 built in 1986 joined the fleet in 2007, This airframe previously flew with Russow Aviation and Hahn Air.

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N192CZ C/N UC-118 built in 1990 joined the fleet in 2012. This airframe previously flew with Mesa Airlines and Tropical Airlines.

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N193CZ C/N UC-73 built in 1989 joined the fleet in 2013. This airframe previously flew with Transair and Air Inter Gabon.

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Freight Runners Express and Air Charter Express both fly the EMB-120 Brasilia. The freighter version has a maximum payload of 7,500#’s and a range of 1,088 miles. The twin Pratt and Whitney PW-118 Turboprop engines give the Embraer 120 a maximum speed of 378 mph.

N124HL a 1994 built EMB-120ER C/N 120284 joined the fleet in 2015. This airframe previously flew with SkyWest Airlines.

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Air Charter Express also flies the EMB-120 in a 30-passenger configuration. These aircraft routinely fly charters for College Sports teams. Five aircraft are currently part of the fleet with three currently in use.

N120HL C/N 120111 built in 1988 joined the fleet in 2014. This airframe previously flew with Britt Airways/Continental Express.

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N121CZ C/N 120350 built in 1999 joined the fleet in 2016. This airframe previously flew with SkyWest Airlines.

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N122HL C/N 120271 built in 1993 joined the fleet in 2015. This airframe previously flew with Skywest Airlines as well.

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N580SW C/N 120348 built in 1998 joined the fleet as a source for spare parts in 2017. This airframe also flew with Skywest Airlines.

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N583SW C/N 120351 built in 1999 and just joined the fleet in 2017. This airframe also previously flew with Skywest Airlines.

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Air Charter Express also operates 3 Beechcraft King Air Turboprops.

N477JM a 1979 built 8 passenger Beechcraft King Air 200 C/N BB-538 joined the fleet in 2015. The twin Pratt and Whitney PT6A-42 Turboprop engines give the King Air 200 a maximum rage of 2,334 miles.

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N919BW a 1998 built 9 passenger Beechcraft King Air 350 C/N FL-173 joined the fleet in 2013. The twin Pratt and Whitney PT6A-60A Turboprop engines give the 350 a maximum speed of 360 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,078 miles.

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N983AR a 1999 built 9 passenger Beechcraft King Air 350 C/N FL-242 joined the fleet in 2012.

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From a one piston engine aircraft operation to its present fleet of 22 turboprop aircraft Freight Runners and Air Charter Express will continue to grow and prosper. The sky is the limit with the possibility of additional aircraft including jets being added in the future as demand exceeds capacity. Whether it is a Passenger or Cargo charter chances are Freight Runners Express or Air Charter Express handled it. If you live in Upper Wisconsin or Upper Michigan and wonder how that overnight package arrived it more than likely flew in a Freight Runners Express Aircraft. How did those truck parts arrive just in time at your production plant? Quite possibly on a Freight Runners Charter Flight. How did your family member make it to and from their College Basketball Game? You guessed it on a Air Charter Express aircraft. The next time you are around the Great Lakes Region or any other areas across this country and hear that familiar sound of Turboprop engines it will more than likely be another successful and on time Freight Runners Express or Air Charter Express flight. Until next time, “Blue Skies to All!”.

A very special thank you to Mr. Patrick Hammer, Mr. Nick Morgan, and Ms Taryn Mikel as well as the entire staff of Freight Runners Express and Air Charter Express for their time, help, and assistance in preparing this article.

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