By Patrick Mondout
Air California started out in 1967 as intrastate airline flying in and
out of what is now John Wayne International Airport in Orange County and
was run by Robert Clifford. Important routes included the heavily
travelled San Francisco to Los Angeles.
The Deregulation Act of 1978 brought new
routes and challengers. On November 9, 1979 it began servicing its first
interstate routes to Reno, Nevada. However, competition coupled with a
recession and rising fuel costs (a common combination in that era) left
Air California's parent company, Westgate-California bankrupt.
A bidding war between Air Florida and a
group of investors led by William Lyon and George Argyros left the latter
in charge. Baseball fans in Seattle will recall Argyros was once the owner
of the Mariners. Argyros and company officially changed the name to AirCal
on April 6, 1981. AirCal expanded as far east as Chicago and as far north
as Anchorage by the mid-Awesome80s.
N471GB - an Air
California Boeing 737-159 as seen in Santa Ana in
November 1977. It was scrapped in 1990.
Image courtesy of AirNikon.
Merger negotiations with Piedmont fell
through in 1986 and AirCal, the last surviving independent airline from
California, was purchased for $250M by AMR Corp, the parent company of American
Airlines. Bob Crandall of American had heard that Frank Lorenzo of United
was planning a bid for AirCal and bested him with the quarter-of-a-billion
dollar bid. Lorenzo crowed that American overpaid but American picked up a
hub in San Jose and by 1988 had regained the title of "largest
American airline" - a title it had lost in 1961.
Slogans: "Watch Us Grow." "You get more with
AirCal!" "We're Fresh From The Ground Up." (From the time
they changed their name to AirCal.)
Known Fleet: Lockheed
Electras, Boeing 737s,
McDonnell Douglas DC-9
Super 80s, BAe 146s.