Great Lakes Airlines began scheduled services in 1981 flying between Spencer, Iowa, and Des Moines. In 1992, they formed a relationship with United Express and subsequently picked up hundreds of routes over the following years. Their largest presence was in Denver, Colorado.
Great Lakes was at one time the world's largest operator of the Beechcraft 1900, flying 24 "D" models. By the time the airline shut its doors, it was only flying to 7 destinations.
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Great Lakes relied heavily on the government Essential Air Service subsidies. However, the government ended up placing a huge burden on the airline when it passed legislation in 2013 requiring all airline first officers to have 1,500 hours of total flight time and to hold an airline transport rating.
Lakes Air, as the airline was often called, essentially shut down in March of 2018. At the time, their services had dwindled to serving only 7 cities.