November 13th, 1991 was a somber date in the city of Chicago. Midway Airlines, Chicago’s ‘hometown airline’, shut down after Northwest Airlines reneged on a buyout offer of the bankrupt airline. It was a surprising twist that resulted in mass layoffs and the temporary death of Chicago’s Midway Airport.
Midway was a carrier that at the time was the nation’s 13th largest airline in the US. They first flew in 1979 as one of the first airlines to emerge after bankruptcy. Utilizing a small fleet of former TWA DC-9-30s, they breathed life into Chicago’s second airport. At one time, Midway Airport was the busiest airport in the world. However, it was constrained by short runways and dense housing nearby that limited its growth potential.
Midway was the first airline to form after deregulation. They grew rapidly, acquiring the assets of Air Florida in 1984. The airline continued its rise in the late 1980s acquiring a fleet of MD-80s and MD-87s that allowed it to serve California and Seattle from its Midway hub. In 1990, Midway aquired the assets of Eastern’s Philadelphia hub and opened a number of routes utilizing some of Eastern’s former DC-9-30s. Shortly afterwards, the travel industry cratered due to a recession partially caused by the Gulf War. Midway declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It later reached a deal with Northwest airlines to sell its assets and keep a majority of its employees employed. Shortly before the acquisition was finalized, Northwest Airlines backed out stating that Midway misrepresented financial records. Midway folded days later. They declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The loss of Midway Airlines was devastating to Chicago’s South Side. Youtube user W Mackey posted video from WGN Channel 9 reporting on the shutdown.
Investors later bought the Midway Airlines name and attempted to restart service in Chicago in 1993. The second incarnation of Midway struggled and later relocated their hub to Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina. Midway II thrived for a bit with service mainly up and down the east coast of the US but eventually was knocked out by a combination of competition between US Airways, AirTran and Southwest and the after effects of 9/11.
Midway Airlines Failed But Look At This Incredible Final Salute
On November 16th, 1991, Midway pilots were flying their relatively new MD-80s to the Boneyard for storage in Arizona. Since the airline was insolvent, the aircraft were stored and eventually sold off as part of the bankruptcy. Many of the MD-80s went on to serve at RenoAir, AeroMexico, Spirit Airlines and Allegiant for years to come.
For years, we had heard that Midway pilots flew a formation of jets over the city of Chicago as a final salute. We’ve seen a couple of grainy photos of the flyby but never saw a video of the flight. Tracking down photos or video was almost impossible. Many thought that this three-ship flyby was just part of Chicago’s aviation folklore. That is until now… We have video proof it really happened!
We found this awesome video posted by cftmxman on Youtube. In the description he stated that he found this video in a hangar in San Francisco back when he worked at RenoAir. It makes sense as many of the former management from Midway went on to start RenoAir. That airline eventually was acquired by American Airlines in 1999.