Pacific Air Lines

Pacific Air Lines

Pacific Air Lines In 1925 Pacific Air Lines, an air mail carrier with an occasional passenger riding uncomfortably atop the mail sacks, was founded by Vern Gorst in the North Bend Hotel. In 1931, Pacific Air Lines merged with several other companies to form United Airlines, which later broke off to become Southwest Airlines.During its quarter-century of operation the company served as a feeder airline, linking smaller communities in California and Oregon with major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland.

Founded with an influx of money largely from wealthy Hollywood investors, from the 1940's onward, the airline employed operational procedures and safety practices that were innovative for the time. Even so, the company endured two fatal crashes; the cause of the first remains a mystery, and the second occurred when a suicidal passenger took the lives of all 44 on board, likely the first such instance of a deliberate murder/suicide on a U.S. passenger flight. Rebounding from that incident, a need for bigger and faster planes resulted in the ordering of modern turbojet aircraft, but within several years an unconventional ad campaign resulted in discord between stockholders and executives. The controversy subsided after a management shake-up, but the name Pacific Air Lines passed into history in 1968 when it merged with Bonanza Air Lines and West Coast Airlines, forming what was to become [Hughes Airwest.

outhwest Airways (1946-1958)

The origins of the formal airline began in early 1941, when John Howard Connelly and noted Hollywood agent/producer Leland Hayward formed a business partnership. Neither man was a stranger to aviation; Connelly was a former test pilot, airplane salesman, and inspector for the 1930s-era Civil Aviation Authority. Hayward was an active private pilot and was on the board of directors of Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA). Together, under the name Southwest Airways, the two men founded the Thunderbird I, Thunderbird II, and Falcon cadet flying schools in Arizona, as well as a maintenance depot for overhauling training aircraft, and a wartime air cargo line. [,8816,774206,00.html Thunderbird Man] . [ "Time"] , February 8, 1943. Retrieved on January 29, 2007] By the end of World War II, Southwest Airways was the largest training contractor in the United States, and trained more than 17,000 pilots from over two dozen countries. [ Stars and the Sky, Hollywood and the Makings of Thunderbird] . Duncan Boothby, [ Das Tor Online, The Garvin School of International Management] , May 15, 2005. Retrieved on January 31, 2007]

After the war Connelly and Hayward saw the time was right for starting a scheduled service airline, and after raising $2,000,000 (in 1946 dollars) from investors, including Hollywood notables such as Jimmy Stewart and Darryl Zanuck, they were awarded a three-year experimental charter from the Civil Aeronautics Board on May 22, 1946 for their feeder service. [,8816,799355,00.html Small-Town Big-Timer] . [ "Time"] , October 18, 1948. Retrieved on January 29, 2007]

Scheduled passenger service under the name Southwest Airways began on December 2, 1946, using plentiful and affordable war surplus C-47s (the military version of the Douglas DC-3) converted to civilian standards. Early bases of operation were the California cities of San Bernardino, Sacramento and San Francisco, [ Profile for Pacific Air Lines] . [ AeroTransport Data Bank] . Retrieved on January 29, 2007] with feeder flights to other communities in California, and a smaller number of flights to Oregon.

Connelly, president, and Hayward, board chairman, were the majority owners of the airline, and as such could hold sway on how the company would operate. Running on slim operating margins, Southwest Airways was a "no-frills" airline in its earliest years; quoting from a 1948 issue of "Time" magazine:

Southwest knew that keeping a plane on the ground meant less revenue, so they optimized ground operations to the point where it was claimed a DC-3 could discharge passengers, load new ones, and begin taxing to take off again 90 seconds after coming to a stop (adding six more minutes if refueling is required). In a cost-saving move, the airline had their own pilots do the refueling, instead of paying airport personnel to do it. To reduce the time on the ground, one engine was kept running while a male purser hurried the passengers off the plane. The airline also shaved time off their ground operations by modifying their DC-3s to include an 'airstair', a door that doubled as a staircase for the passengers ( [] ). The airstair eliminated waiting for a ground crew to roll a wheeled staircase up to the plane.

The airline's innovative spirit extended into the safety realm as well; in December 1947 a Southwest Airways DC-3 flying into the coastal town of Arcata, California made the world's first blind landing on a scheduled commercial airliner using Ground-Controlled Approach (GCA) radar, Instrument Landing System (ILS) devices and Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation (FIDO) oil-burning units adjacent to the runway. By the following year the airline had made 1,200 routine instrument landings at the often fog-shrouded Arcata airport.

Southwest had a fleet of ten planes by 1948, all of them DC-3s, flying between 24 California and Oregon small towns, becoming the second biggest feeder airline in the United States.For a brief period circa 1950, flights to southern Arizona were included on the company's schedule.

The airline flew without any fatal mishaps until the evening of April 6, 1951, when Southwest Airways Flight 7 crashed, killing all 22 aboard. The DC-3 was flying too low and struck a ridge in the Refugio Pass region near Santa Barbara, California. The plane had impacted into an upward slope of the Santa Ynez Mountains at a height of Convert|2740|ft|m|0|abbr=on, far below the minimum nighttime altitude of Convert|4000|ft|m|0|abbr=on prescribed for the plane's route over that rugged stretch of mountains. An investigation by the Civil Aeronautics Board was unable to determine a reason why the plane's altitude was too low. [ [ Southwest Airways Flight 7] . [ Aviation Safety Network] . Retrieved on January 29, 2007]

To handle the post-war increase in passenger travel, the airline's inventory grew in late 1952 to include the piston-engined Martin 2-0-2, which carried more passengers than the DC-3. [The Martin 2-0-2s had airstairs, like their DC-3 counterparts, but unlike the DC-3 the Martin planes used tricycle landing gear, making it necessary to move the airstair underneath the tail section ( [] ).] By 1953 the airline decided it could do better by concentrating on California routes, so the flights to Oregon and Arizona were dropped. The airline's literature from that period stated it was serving 33 California locales, and flight timetables published by the company in the mid-1950s boasted that Southwest Airways "serves more California cities than any other scheduled airline." [ [] [] . Retrieved on January 29, 2007]

Pacific Air Lines (1958-1968)

To better reflect the territory covered by their flights, the company name was changed to Pacific Air Lines on May 6, 1958. In a move possibly designed to prevent the flying public from confusing the newly-named Pacific Air Lines for a brand-new airline, company timetables published in 1959 [ [] [] . Retrieved on January 29, 2007] asserted that the company was in its "17th year of scheduled service". [The airline may have been engaging in some creative license, overstating by several years the actual amount of time they had been in scheduled passenger service. This reminder to the public of the airline's longevity, accurate or not, continued until mid-1964, when it disappeared from the timetable covers.fact|date=June 2008]

Before the advent of the 1960s, the company had made San Francisco International Airport their hub of operations, and at about this time operations outside of California were resumed, with flights to Nevada added to the schedule. In 1959 the fleet of airplanes was increased with the addition of the pressurized Martin 4-0-4 airliner, and Pacific's first non-piston-engined aircraft, the turboprop-powered Fairchild F-27 (a U.S.-built version of the Fokker F-27 Friendship.) . The slow and unpressurized DC-3s and Martin 2-0-2s were of an earlier generation and were now showing their age, so in 1960 a gradual phase-out of the venerable planes began; the last of them were gone from Pacific's fleet by mid-1964. [ Southwest Airways / Pacific Air Lines fleet list] . [ Aeromoe's U.S. Airlines Fleets] . Retrieved on February 5, 2007]

A dark day in the airline's history was May 7, 1964, when Pacific Air Lines Flight 773 crashed near San Ramon, California. All 44 aboard the Fairchild F-27 were killed when the aircraft dove into a hillside at nearly a 90 degree angle. Investigators found a gun in the wreckage, and the FBI determined that a suicidal passenger shot both of the pilots, and them himself, causing the plane to dive out of control [ [ - The Crash of Pacific Air Lines Flight #773] ] . The traveling public kept their faith in the airline that served as an important lifeline for many smaller communities, and on September 13, 1965, Pacific Air Lines announced that it would acquire six Boeing jets, leasing two and placing orders for the remainder, to be delivered in early 1968. [ [ Pacific Will Fly Short-range Jets; Coast Airline to Acquire 6 Planes From Boeing] . [ "The New York Times"] . September 14, 1965. Retrieved on January 29, 2007]

In 1967 the airline embarked on a controversial advertisement campaign, including a full-page ad in the "New York Times" on April 28, 1967, that highlighted the fear of flying, a subject not commonly emphasized by the commercial aviation industry. Philip H. Dougherty, writing in the Business and Finance section of the May 1 edition of "The New York Times", described the full-page advertisement as "rather shocking". [ [ Advertising: On How to Get Talked About] . Philip H. Dougherty, [ "The New York Times"] , May 1, 1967. Retrieved on January 29, 2007] Objections to the unorthodox campaign were raised at a May 1967 stockholders meeting, and two Pacific Air Lines executives resigned in the wake of the controversy. [ [ Pacific Executives Quit] . [ "The New York Times"] , May 9, 1967. Retrieved on January 29, 2007]


When the Boeing jet order was optimistically announced by the airline in 1965, it was unforeseen that a change in the business climate was on the horizon, and economic realities would dictate that some of the jets would not actually end up flying under the Pacific Air Lines banner. Stiff competition from large rival Pacific Southwest Airlines was a factor in Pacific Air Lines joining forces with Bonanza Air Lines and West Coast Airlines in a three-way merger, forming Air West in 1968. Air West, later Hughes Airwest, merged into Republic Airlines in 1980, which later became part of Northwest Airlines. At the time of the Air West merger, Pacific's fleet included 11 of their workhorse Fairchild F-27s, five Martin 4-0-4s, and three turbojet-powered Boeing 727s. The increasingly-obsolete Martins were not carried forward into the Air West fleet. [ [ Air West fleet list] . [ Aeromoe's U.S. Airlines Fleets] . Retrieved on February 5, 2007]

The two co-founders of Southwest Airways died within nine months of each other in 1971. John (Jack) Connelly was 71, [John H. Connelly, 71 dies. "Phoenix Arizona Republic", December 30, 1971, Obituaries p.53] and Leland Hayward was 68.

References and notes

External links

* [,8816,774206,00.html Thunderbird Man, "Time", February 8, 1943] - describes the early efforts in financing Southwest Airways
* [,8816,799355,00.html Small-Town Big-Timer, "Time", October 18, 1948] - article about the earliest years of Southwest Airways
* [ Stars and the Sky, Hollywood and the Makings of Thunderbird] - describes the Hollywood connections in the founding of the flight schools run by Southwest Airways
*Period photographs from the [ Ed Coates collection:]
**Southwest Airways — [ DC-3] , [ DC-3s] , [ Martin 2-0-2 ]
**Pacific Air Lines — [ DC-3] , [ Martin 2-0-2] , [ Martin 4-0-4] , [ Fairchild F-27] , [ Boeing 727 ]
* [ Photographs of Pacific Air Lines planes] -
* [ Gallery of timetable covers for Southwest Airways and Pacific Air Lines] -
*Southwest Airways and Pacific Air Lines timetable covers from the [ 1940s] [ 1950s] [ 1960s] -
* [ Southwest Airways / Pacific Air Lines aircraft fleet] - lists registration numbers, aircraft types, dates of service
* [ Southwest Airways records] - inventory of artifacts stored at the Minnesota Historical Society
* [ Pacific Air Lines records] - inventory of artifacts stored at the Minnesota Historical Society

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