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Mesa: The other Yankee Victor

The prefix for aircraft registered in my home country, Venezuela, is YV (Yankee Victor if we use the phonetic alphabet). Little did I know when I was growing up that years later I would find myself flying for a regional airline in the U.S. whose IATA code was also YV: Mesa Airlines. This was reflected on many of the registrations of Mesa aircraft, which used to end in YV (N…YV).

By the time I landed a Mesa we didn’t have any aircraft with the YV included in their reg. left. We had N...MJ (for Mesa Jet), N...FJ (for Freedom Jet, *remember this name*), N...LR (for Larry Risley, the quasi-founder), and the United Express E-175s that I had the privilege to fly based out of my current hometown airport, IAH, had tail numbers that conformed to the Continental Airlines sequence. However, we all were familiar with the YV IATA code.

Years before flying for Mesa, a good friend and myself put stickers on our bumpers with the Venezuelan flag and the YV prefix. While working for Mesa I was asked more than once at the employee parking lot if I was so proud of the company to have a Mesa Airlines sticker on my car (or something along those lines, haha…). By the way, I still have that car, but I keep it in a different city as I am no longer based out of IAH. The sticker is still there, perpetually baked onto the paint thanks to more than a decade of sun and rain.

A bumper sticker that says YV.
My YV bumper sticker. YV for Venezuela, but at times mistaken for Mesa.

Recently a precious model landed in my collection, a Mesa Airlines Fokker F70, and it has a YV (sort of) registration on it! N528YV. It is a model of one of the two F70s that Mesa operated back in the 1990s for America West under the “Express” banner. The other one was registered N527YV, and they were the only two F-70s to ever enter airline service in the U.S.

A 1:400 scale model aircraft of an America West Express Fokker F70
America West Express (Mesa Airlines) Fokker F70 N528YV GeminiJets 1:400

A new airline division was created to operate these aircraft: Desert Sun Airlines. The reason the new airline was created was to circumvent obstacles presented by the respective pilot unions. This was not the first time Mesa would create a new airline for these purposes as in 2002 Freedom Airlines was also created for similar reasons, although Freedom’s story is by far much more controversial. I told you to remember that name.

During my time at Mesa, I had the pleasure to meet and fly with a handful of former Desert Sun Fokker F70 pilots. They all were very proud and spoke fondly of the F70. Since the Desert Sun operation only included two airplanes, very few pilots were needed (8 or 10 I believe), so in a way, you could say that they were the U.S. regional airline version of Concorde pilots, haha…

Jorge A. Zajia


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