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Monday, May 19, 2003

C/R News Awards Go To ExpressJet, Colgan Air Execs

This year, for the first time, Commuter/Regional Airline News is giving out two Executive of the Year awards - one to a regional jet airline executive and another to a turboprop airline team.

Started in 1993 by then C/R News Editor Kelly Murphy and the late Joe Murphy, the Executive of the Year award has been presented annually to a top airline manager in the regional airline industry. In the past decade, however, the industry has shifted dramatically, virtually splitting into two sectors - those primarily flying regional jets and those flying turboprop or piston engine aircraft.

As a result, C/R News now selects executives for each category. Jim Ream, president and CEO of ExpressJet, has won this year's Regional Jet Airline Executive of the Year award. And the entire Colgan family of Colgan Air has been awarded the Turboprop Airline Executive of the Year award.

The new turboprop award, available to any carrier whose fleet is 50 percent or greater propeller driven, is jointly sponsored by Raytheon Airline Aviation Services and Saab Aircraft Leasing. Those two companies provide sales and service support to Beech 1900 and Beech 99 aircraft and Saab 340 and 2000 aircraft, respectively.

The recipients will be honored at a C/R News-sponsored breakfast on May 21 at the Regional Airline Association's annual convention being held in Phoenix, Ariz.

Regional Jet Airline Executive of the Year Award

The 2003 Regional Jet Airline Executive of the Year Award goes to Jim Ream, president and CEO of ExpressJet Airlines for guiding his Continental Express carrier through a series of significant, and potentially dangerous, events during the past year.

During the year, Ream guided ExpressJet through a spin off from Continental, incurring a $552.3 million debt to Continental. He also guided his company through an initial public offering (IPO), successfully making the transition to a publicly held company at a time when other carriers were giving up on their IPOs and pulling back because of the economic climate. ExpressJet is now traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol XJT. He also managed the transition of the airline from a turboprop operator to an all- jet fleet operating close to 200 Embraer ERJ 135/145 regional jets while managing to maintain a 99.9 percent controllable completion factor. ExpressJet also became the launch customer for the extended range ERJ 145XR.

James B. Ream was appointed president of ExpressJet and Continental Express in October 1999, and named CEO in 2001. He joined Continental in 1994 from American Airlines. From 1996 to 1998, he served with Continental Micronesia as president and COO. Immediately prior to joining ExpressJet in 1999, he was senior vice president for Asia at Continental.

Turboprop Airline Executive of the Year Award

The first ever Turboprop Airline Executive of the Year Award goes not to a single individual, but to the Colgan Family of Colgan Air. This award also is not being given for a single year's accomplishments, but in recognition of the past decade during which Virginia State Senator Charles (Chuck) Colgan, his son Michael Colgan and other members of the Colgan family resurrected the airline and turned a one-airplane airline flying between Dulles International airport and Hot Springs, Va., into a 22-aircraft operation flying to 31 cities in 11 states. The airline also overcame the collapse of a code-sharing agreement with Continental, as well as a costly transition to a Part 121 operator under the Federal Aviation Administration's 1997 "single level of safety" mandate.

Today, Colgan Air has a successful operation as a US Airways code-sharing partner, operating a fleet of 15 Beech 1900s and seven Saab 340s. It is also very much a family-run operation, with five of the eight family members working full-time for the airline. Additional members, including the grandchildren of Chuck Colgan, work part-time for the carrier.

Colgan started the original Colgan Air in 1970, operating out of Manassas Airport. By 1986 he was operating nine aircraft to 18 cities from Washington's National and Dulles airports. That year he sold the airline to Presidential, one of the many "up-start" airlines following deregulation that survived only a few years before closing down. In 1991, Colgan resurrected the airline with a single Beech 1900, serving the Dulles-Hot Springs route as well as IBM as a corporate shuttle for its employees.

The Colgan Air operations include service as an Essential Air Service (EAS) provider to seven small communities. The Colgans are actively involved in supporting the EAS program.

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