Empire Airlines
IATA ICAO Callsign
AOC #COEA135A[1]
Focus cities
Fleet size56
HeadquartersHayden, Idaho, U.S.

Empire Airlines is a cargo and former passenger airline based in Hayden, Idaho, near Coeur d'Alene.[2] It operates over 120 scheduled cargo flights a day in 18 US states and Canada. Empire also operated passenger service within Hawaii, under the name "Ohana by Hawaiian", between 2014-2021 in partnership with Hawaiian Airlines. Its main base is Coeur d'Alene Airport with a hub at Spokane International Airport.[3] The company slogan is We Can Do That.


Empire Airlines was established and started operations in May 1977 in Orofino as a charter company. Originally named Clearwater Flying Service (thus the CFS identifier for its flights), it was purchased by Nick Chenoweth and Vick Walters on April 12. Soon thereafter, a third partner, Mel Spelde joined as a flight instructor. Clearwater Flying Service made a living doing several different things including, fire patrol, transporting outfitters into the backcountry, air ambulance, air pollution monitoring, charters and flight instruction.[4]

Empire ATR 42 in FedEx Feeder livery

On November 1, 1980, Empire Airlines purchased West Aire, Inc. at Coeur d'Alene and expanded business to include aircraft sales and maintenance. In 1981 Empire purchased Executive Aviation in Missoula, Montana, and leased Twin Otter aircraft for United States Forest Service smoke jumping contracts. In December 1983 and January 1984, Empire was awarded government contracts to transport people and materiel in Grenada, following the conflict. In the mid-1980s, Empire received contracts from several places including, a Colorado ski destination, Hughes Aircraft, and Naval Arctic Research Laboratory. In 1988 Empire signed a FedEx Express contract to fly and maintain Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft out of Portland and Spokane; Seattle was added in September. In 1989 Empire became a FAR 121 operator after the purchase of Pacific Alaska Airlines and two Fairchild F-27 aircraft. In August Empire started F27 services for FedEx Express.

In 1990, Empire added more cargo routes and performed its first heavy maintenance check on a Fairchild F-27. By 1992, the airline was operating British Aerospace BAe 146-200 jet aircraft on contract charter flights for Silverwing Holidays from Bellingham, WA and Spokane to Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Phoenix and Reno.[5] In 1993, Empire became a sustaining member of CASE (Coordinating Agency for Supplier Evaluation). From October 1993 to May 1994, it operated Fokker F27-500 aircraft in Hawaii on behalf of Mahalo Air, while the latter airline was awaiting its own operating certificate. In 1995, Empire moved corporate offices and ended passenger services, focusing on cargo, maintenance and airline startups. Empire began sending technical reps to Conair during heavy maintenance checks on Fokker F27 Friendships. In 1998, Empire started flying and maintaining Short 360 aircraft. Empire entered into a partnership agreement to begin Express Air serving FedEx in Europe.

In 2001, Empire received a Repair Station certificate. In 2002, Empire purchased Reliant Logistics as a wholly owned subsidiary. In 2003, The first ATR 42 aircraft arrived in Spokane for cargo conversion. In 2004, the first ATR 42 put on Empire's certificate made the first ATR FedEx Feeder revenue flight. In 2005, Empire moved into new hangar and office building, in Hayden, Idaho, adjacent to the Coeur d'Alene airport (COE). In 2013, Empire Airlines began drone flights under the name "Empire Unmanned", mainly serving agriculture and mining industries in the Western U.S.

On December 31, 2021, Empire Airlines acquired fellow FedEx feeder West Air, expanding its footprint to include all of California.

'Ohana by Hawaiian service

In December 2012, it was announced that Empire would begin operating three ATR 42-500 series propjet aircraft acquired by Hawaiian Airlines on routes within the state of Hawaii.[6] 'Ohana by Hawaiian launched initial service to Molokai Airport (MKK) on March 11, 2014, and Lana'i Airport on March 18, 2014.

In 2015, Hawaiian Airlines announced a new all-cargo freighter service to be operated by Empire with ATR 72 turboprop aircraft on interisland routes in Hawaii[7]

Hawaiian Airlines suspended all 'Ohana by Hawaiian service on January 14, 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic. [8][9]

On May 27, 2021, Hawaiian announced that it would discontinue the ʻOhana by Hawaiian brand and its cargo and passenger services after the pandemic and resulting quarantine significantly impacted interisland travel. The interruptions in service forced the airline to reconsider the viability of operation and determine it was no longer feasible. The carrier's ATR fleet would be moved to the mainland and be prepared for sale.[10]

Previous passenger service

Empire operated scheduled passenger flights during the early 1990s in the Pacific Northwest with Fairchild F-27 and Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner "Metro II" turboprop aircraft. In 1993, the airline was serving Boise, ID (BOI), Coeur d'Alene, ID (COE), Lewiston, ID (LWS), Olympia, WA (OLM) and Spokane, WA (GEG).[11] Empire previously served Seattle (SEA) as well.[12]

Initial scheduled service was between Boise and Coeur d'Alene, ID utilizing Cessna 441 Conquest II turboprop aircraft. Lewiston, ID was added as an enroute stop later; then the Swearingen Metro II came along.

In May 1993, Empire’s network included Boise, Lewiston, and Coeur d'Alene, ID; Portland and Astoria, OR; and Spokane, Pasco, Olympia, Seattle, and Hoquiam, WA. This was the third time Seattle had been served. Prior to the Metro propjets being introduced and new service to Lewiston, Empire had served Seattle and Missoula with the Cessna Conquest turboprop from Coeur d'Alene.


As of January 2022, the Empire Airlines fleet includes the following aircraft:[13]

Empire Air Fleet
Aircraft In service Orders Notes
ATR 42-300F 8
ATR 42-320F 3
ATR 72-212F 4
Cessna 208B Super Cargomaster 35
Cessna 408F[14] 1
Total 51

Previously operated

Empire Air formerly operated the following aircraft:

Accidents and incidents

Reconstruction of the final minutes of Empire Flight 8284 (NTSB simulation)


  1. ^ "Federal Aviation Administration - Airline Certificate Information - Detail View". av-info.faa.gov. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  2. ^ "Empire Airlines | Contact Us". Empire Airlines. 2019-11-19. Retrieved 2021-09-14.
  3. ^ "Directory: World Airlines". Flight International. 2007-04-03. p. 77.
  4. ^ "Empire Airlines | History". Empire Airlines. 2019-09-27. Retrieved 2021-09-14.
  5. ^ "Empire Airways". www.departedwings.com. Retrieved 2021-09-14.
  6. ^ "Hadden Watt to Manage Hawaiian Airlines Turboprop Operation" (Press release). December 26, 2012. Archived from the original on December 31, 2012. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
  7. ^ Hawaiian Holdings, Inc. Announces Plans to Expand Cargo Service with Purchase of Three ATR 72 Aircraft for 'Ohana by Hawaiian Interisland Network
  8. ^ "'Ohana by Hawaiian' to end on Jan. 14". 7 January 2021.
  9. ^ Newsroom, Hawaiian Airlines |. "Hawaiian Airlines Ends 'Ohana by Hawaiian Service". Hawaiian Airlines | Newsroom. Retrieved 2021-09-14.
  10. ^ "Hawaiian Airlines ends 'Ohana by Hawaiian service". Hawaiian Airlines. May 27, 2021. Archived from the original on May 28, 2021. Retrieved November 20, 2023.
  11. ^ "OAG1091itin8". www.departedflights.com. Retrieved 2021-09-14. Empire Airlines system timetable
  12. ^ "Empire Airlines system route map". Jan 16, 1990. Retrieved 2021-09-14.
  13. ^ "'Ohana by Hawaiian Fleet Details and History". www.planespotters.net. Retrieved 2021-09-14.
  14. ^ "US's Empire Airlines takes first Cessna 408 freighter". ch-aviation. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  15. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Cessna 208B Caravan I Super Cargomaster N746FE Flagstaff, AZ" (Database with input and photos from the public). Aviation Safety Network: Database. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  16. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Cessna 208B Caravan I Super Cargomaster N941FE Lummi Island, WA" (Database with input and photos from the public). Aviation Safety Network: Database. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  17. ^ Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident Final Report. National Transportation Safety Board. Retrieved 2021-08-30.
  18. ^ "Plane Crash at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport". KCBD-TV. Archived from the original on February 23, 2018. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  19. ^ CNN: FedEx plane crashes in Texas 27 January 2009