Mesa said it has reached an agreement in principle to buy the 76-seat planes and operate them for an undisclosed major U.S. airline.
The planes, to be delivered later this year, are valued at about US$320 million based on list prices. The Phoenix-based company also has an undisclosed number of options.
Mesa CEO and chairman Jonathan Ornstein said the planes are the perfect size for hub-to-hub service. With the order it will have 64 CRJ900s in its fleet of 115 planes.
Ornstein said the company couldn't consider the larger CRJ1000s or CSeries planes because they have too many seats to be flown under pilot agreements for regional carriers.
And while Mesa is aware of Bombardier's financial challenges, it isn't concerned about the future of the Montreal-based aerospace manufacturer.
"We know there are issues but they've stuck with us and we'll stick with them," Ornstein said in an interview.
Bombardier said it is in talks with Mesa but couldn't confirm the order until it is finalized.
"We're delighted that Mesa's enthusiastic about it. They're a 25-year-long customer of ours and . . . one of our largest customers," said spokeswoman Marianella de la Barrera.
Mesa was forced into bankruptcy protection in 2010 after airlines refused to renew contracts for 50-seat airplanes following the financial meltdown. That forced the company to shed more than 100 aircraft.
Mesa Airlines operates 400 daily departures to 91 cities as American Eagle and US Airways Express from hubs in Phoenix, Dallas/Fort Worth and Charlotte and as United Express from Washington Dulles and Houston.