It had one airplane, a Piper Cub purchased for
$1,300, and it was used to shuttle employees of
the Blandin Paper Mill Company from Grand
Rapids, Minnesota to Minneapolis. In 1950
Newstrom moved the company to Grand Rapids. In
1970, the Halverson family of Duluth, Minnesota
bought Mesaba from Newstrom. On 4 February 1973,
they started regularly scheduled airline
services serving rural Minnesota communities.
The Swenson family of Thief River Falls,
Minnesota purchased Mesaba Aviation in 1977.
They took the company public in 1982 as the
airline began flying to Iowa, North Dakota and
South Dakota, using a fleet of Beech 99s.
In 1983, Mesaba became a codeshare partner of
Republic Airlines, flying turboprop aircraft
from small regional communities to the
Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. In
1986, after the merger of Republic Airlines and
Northwest Orient Airlines, Mesaba transitioned
their codeshare partnership, and began
operations as a Northwest Airlink carrier.
Mesaba began feeder service from Detroit
Metropolitan Wayne County Airport to small
airports across the east and midwest using
Fokker F27 and Fairchild Metro aircraft in 1988.
Maintenance bases were established both in
Detroit and Wausau, Wisconsin.
In 1991, Mesaba began adding the first of 25 De
Havilland Canada Dash 8 aircraft (leased from
Northwest Airlines) to begin replacing the
Fokker F-27's. In 1995, Mesaba and Northwest
reached an agreement to provide service with
Saab 340 turboprop aircraft.