(St. George, UT) - With a water cannon salute, a SkyWest flight took off from St. George Tuesday, bound for Salt Lake City. It was an on-time departure, just like founder Ralph Atkin envisioned it 40 years ago on a much smaller scale.
At the birthday celebration, Ralph Atkin said he created the airline because wanted better transportation between St. George and Salt Lake. But he never could have imagined his company would one day service over 100 markets.
"No, we could never have envisioned where we are today," Ralph Atkin said. "SkyWest today has done so well and expanded all over the country."
"We've grown to the third largest fleet of aircraft in the entire world," said Jerry Atkin, the company's current CEO.
SkyWest has had its troubles lately. The airline lost money last year and its stock prices tumbled this year. But Jerry Atkin, who's also the founder's nephew, is optimistic that the trends are turning around.
"We did have, five quarters of losses," he admitted. "That's unusual for our company. We've been through tough times before and we've got a plan that's getting us through that and we're a little ahead of plan so far this year.
Although St. George has only seven flights a day to Salt Lake, SkyWest now flies to 159 cities in the US, Mexico and Canada. But the airline still calls its birthplace home.
"We really turned a hobby into a real business, and it's become the biggest regional airline in the country," Ralph Atkin said.
There are no immediate plans for more flights in St. George. But if the company growth curve goes up, the company may go up with it.
SkyWest History, An Extraordinary Journey