Evaluating the use of Strategic Management in Air Wisconsin



Many companies take their strategic planning to new heights, searching for ways to enhance a corporation's growth and potential. A company who has done just that is Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation. The regional airline company has taken the right steps in becoming the leader of regional airline companies. Air Wisconsin has faced many endeavors throughout their time but has made a strong, long lasting history. The company has a great strategic management team that has developed a strategy for the company's success. Air Wisconsin has come up with the right aircraft for their fleet to be a successful regional airline company. The organization has also developed ways to conserve time and money during their daily operations; giving the company a strong financial status in the aviation industry. Developing a history, strategy, aircraft, conservation methods, and creating a strong financial status has been a difficult task. Air Wisconsin has created the right steps to accomplish each objective.


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Air Wisconsin began its operations in August of 1965 as a regional airline company. The company was created in order to support direct flights between Air Wisconsin's home base, Appleton, Wisconsin, and Chicago. Much thought process went into the creation of Air Wisconsin and in 1970 the organization decided to go public. Deciding to take the company public turned out to be a great success and brought much attention to the young organization. This newly equipped airline company progressed very quickly to become the leader of regional airlines. Air Wisconsin changed the airline industry in many ways throughout the first few years of its existence. "Its pioneering code share arrangements created a new marketing tool that eventually would come to be used by nearly all scheduled airlines of any size around the world," (AWAC). With the impact Air Wisconsin had on the airline industry, it is no surprise how this company has benefited greatly by their decision making and strategic management.

Many years had gone by, but in 1985, Air Wisconsin had become the nation's largest regional airline company. Also that year, Air Wisconsin decided to merge with Mississippi Valley Airlines but operating under the Air Wisconsin name. "The two had combined annual revenues of $115 million and together served two million passengers a year," (AWAC). This had become a successful partnership between the two airline companies. Later that year, the company became associated with United Airlines to create a marketing agreement. "The arrangement gave Air Wisconsin access to United's all-important computer reservations system," (AWAC). Air Wisconsin had become a very profitable company for more than two decades. After a few years of the merge, Air Wisconsin was incorporated by Aspen Airways in 1990.

In 1991, the airline industry had crippled due to the first Gulf War and Air Wisconsin had seen its first major loss of revenue which was more than thirty-one million dollars. A year later, United Airlines purchased Air Wisconsin's service. Air Wisconsin was on the edge of bankruptcy when a group of investors came along, CJT Holdings, and decided to purchase the operations of Air Wisconsin in 1993. "The newly independent company, which employed about 550 people, was named Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation," (AWAC). After a decade of service, Air Wisconsin began flying routes for Air Tran but after a year, United Airlines had filed for bankruptcy protection and had to drop the regional company. This incident had drawn a major issue for Air Wisconsin. There was no longer a mainline carrier to provide routes for Air Wisconsin. The strategic management team for Air Wisconsin needed to come up with new resources for the company to maintain flights.

Top Managers

Air Wisconsin has put in place the right managers in the most appropriate positions to reach their full potential in the company. The president of Air Wisconsin, Jim Rankin, has helped build the company in recent years and helped the organization progress in the market. "He is responsible for leading the organization by establishing short and long-range objectives, primary goals, operating plans and policies; and by directing and coordinating activities that result in profit, return on capital and achievement of stakeholders' needs," (Leadership). Jim Rankin has developed Air Wisconsin into a more successful business with his strategic strategies. Rankin is not the only leader in the organization helping to better the company and its future.

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Other top managers that have been placed in certain positions throughout the organization are Gary Pratt who is director of maintenance and Mark Niebauer who is director of systems operation control. "Mr. Pratt will be responsible for decisions relevant to the company's maintenance operations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Norfolk, Virginia, as well as oversight of sourced maintenance providers," (Key Developments). Gary Pratt has had a very successful background in the aviation industry which allowed him to be perfect for the position at Air Wisconsin. Mark Niebauer has all authority over Air Wisconsin's dispatch group and making decision on daily operational control of the company.

The last manager that has helped Air Wisconsin be the successful business that it is today is Chris White. "Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation announced it has promoted Chris White to the position of managing director of safety, reporting directly to President and CEO Jim Rankin," (Key Development). Air Wisconsin has developed a very good safety record throughout their history and Mr. White has some credit to take for the successful safety rating. Since the beginning of Air Wisconsin, there have only been two accidents which were both pilot error. Air Wisconsin has transformed into a strong, successful business due to the actions of their top managers.


Air Wisconsin is a well known regional airline company who has made its business of wealth by bidding on airline routes. Air Wisconsin bids against other regional companies to get the routes. The contract with mainline carriers last on average of five years. Depending on the size of the aircraft the company has to offer and how much the organization is willing to pay, determines which company is awarded the routes. Air Wisconsin is currently operating under U.S. Airways; U.S. Airways then pays Air Wisconsin for each takeoff.

Even if Air Wisconsin has to come back for weather or mechanical issues, Air Wisconsin still receives payment from U.S. Airways for an attempt to complete the flight. Air Wisconsin is currently flying over three hundred routes a day to more than seventy cities to the eastern half of the United States. Air Wisconsin is able to land their aircraft into smaller airports and can help handle the large workload of transporting passengers. Air Wisconsin has created a strategy that fits their desires and creates growth in the organization.


Air Wisconsin has offered many different aircraft throughout their time of existence. "The workhorse of Air Wisconsin's fleet was the 50-seat de Havilland of Canada DHC-7, or Dash 7," (AWAC). Another aircraft that Air Wisconsin liked to use was the British Aerospace BAe-146, which was a hundred seat aircraft. The BAe-146 was a very efficient aircraft which allowed Air Wisconsin to fly into noise-sensitive cities, due to the quietness of that jet. "The jets also boasted high enough performance to operate from high-altitude airports with runways too short for larger airliners," (AWAC). In the late 1990s Air Wisconsin acquired other aircraft to their fleet such as the CL-65 and the DO-328. Air Wisconsin's management felt the need to provide only one type of aircraft for their company use rather than others in their fleet.

Air Wisconsin's team was looking for a way to have an efficient aircraft that would cut down on cost of fuel and ticket prices. "Air Wisconsin maintains a fleet of about 70 aircraft, consisting of 50-seat Canadair regional jets (CRJs) made by Bombarier," (Daniels). The CRJ-200 burns about twenty-five hundred pounds of fuel per hour in normal cruise which is roughly four hundred gallons. The aircraft is equipped with a computer system that above certain power settings and altitudes can regulate the fuel flow to be as accurate as possible, while still being efficient. Air Wisconsin has come up with the best solution for their fleet of aircraft.


Air Wisconsin's strategic management has developed many new ideas and ways to save the company as much money as possible. For instance, when a jet is taxing to the runway, the pilots may only taxi using one engine instead of both. When it comes time for takeoff the pilots will then start the second engine. Another way Air Wisconsin saves money is conserving fuel in the air. Pilots work on staying at a higher altitude as long as air traffic control will allow, conserving fuel. Pilots also try to get direct routing to airports in order to minimize flight time.

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Air Wisconsin also works on keeping their aircraft at lower weights by carry half a tank of potable water for such things as, coffee and washing hands in the lavatory. Another way for keeping weight down on the aircraft is by not taking extra fuel and carrying only what is necessary. All of these money saving techniques save about two hundred to five hundred dollars a flight. When the company is flying over three hundred routes a day, savings can reach well over fifty thousand dollars. Air Wisconsin's strategic management team has developed a system to benefit the company's growth and revenue.

Financial Status

Air Wisconsin has shown great progress in the aviation industry since their start in 1965. The company has gained much revenue with their flight and ground operations. Like every airline corporation, Air Wisconsin took a big loss in 1991. This was the first major loss the company experienced since its existence as an airline company. Although the company had a loss that year, its growth is still a success in the airline industry. Air Wisconsin became a private corporation in 1993 which keeps the company from having to report their gains and losses. With the organization's progress throughout time, it is only logical to believe that the company is still on top and growing more each day.


Air Wisconsin has worked its way to becoming a leader in the regional airline industry. The company has faced some hardships, but with the right strategic planning, the organization will continue to grow as it has always. Air Wisconsin has a good reputation and has placed the right people in positions where the corporation can be an important aspect of the aviation industry. Strategic management will be an important detail in Air Wisconsin's future goals and opportunities. All of these steps have made Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation what it is today. With the right strategic management decisions, Air Wisconsin will continue to be a success and leader of regional airlines in time to come.