Utah-based SkyWest Inc. has acquired a minority shareholding in Southern Airways Corporation (SAC), the parent firm of US regional carriers Southern Airways Express and Mokulele Airlines, as it looks to alleviate a shortage of qualified flight crews. The size of the shareholding and its value were not revealed.

Florida-based SAC said in a statement that SkyWest's investment was a strategic move in that it would give the US capacity provider access to a pool of more than 200 pilots, many of whom are looking to advance their aviation careers to regional and mainline carriers.

"This strategic investment by SkyWest will enhance Southern’s recruiting capabilities by providing a career pathway from flight school through Southern’s cadet program and ultimately to SkyWest," Stan Little, chairman and CEO of Southern Airways, said.

“SkyWest is pleased to acquire a minority equity interest in Southern Airways,” Wade Steel, chief commercial officer of SkyWest, Inc., added. “Putting a pilot pathway program in place with Southern enhances our pipeline of future Part 121 professional aviators.”

SkyWest, Inc. is the holding company for SkyWest Leasing, an aircraft lessor, and SkyWest Airlines (United States of America) (OO, Salt Lake City), a capacity provider whose inventory of 480 Regional Jets is operated for all four of the US's largest carriers namely Alaska Airlines (as Alaska SkyWest), American Airlines (as American Eagle), Delta Air Lines (as Delta Connection), and United Airlines (as United Express).

For its part, Southern Air Express operates nineteen Cessna Grand Caravan 208Bs and two Piper (twin piston) PA-31s on scheduled flights in the Southern Gulf, the mid-Atlantic, and South Florida. Mokulele Airlines, SAC's most recent acquisition, provides scheduled services throughout the Hawaiian Islands and in Southern California using a fleet of fourteen Cessna (single turboprop) 208B Grand Caravans and two PC-12s.

Once the integration of SAE and Mokulele is completed, expected to take place by mid-summer, the new Southern Airways will operate 1,380 weekly flights.