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Location: Stratford, CT.
Occupation: Police Officer (retired)
|#40603 12-29-2011 GMT-5 hours|
Using Mickey Mouse and an airline in the same sentence is usually not a good thing but in the case of the then intra-state Air California, it was the inspiration for their creation!
It was the arrival of DisneyLand in 1955 that turned the mostly bean & celery fields of Orange County, California into a fast growing metropolitan area. Just after it's first (6) months, one million visitors had stopped by to see Mickey and his friends! Though new expressways were added, the now famous 'California traffic jams' soon followed. By the mid-60's, it was taking local businessmen longer to get to airport than their actual flight would take. In 1966, a new intra-state carrier was incorporated under the FAA Part 121 rules instead of the normal FAR Part 135 commuter airline rules. This would allow for the larger than usual (19) seats allowed. It wouldn't be until January 16, 1967, that the new Air California was ready for it's first service, Santa Ana-San Francisco.
(2) ex-American Airlines L-188 Electra's were purchased to provide the (6) weekday flights. It would be hard to miss the distinctive Yellow-Black-Red colors of Air California! The airline's Sun logo would soon become a familiar sight.
Since Air California was a 'no-frills' airline, the Electra galleys were removed to add a few more seats and to save some weight. Initial load factors were about 50%. In the Summer of '67, (2) more L-188's arrived, this time from Qantas.
(interestingly, the A/C arrived w/o 'Sun' logos, instead having 'Air California' titles added to the tail-not known if the  entered service in the 'Sun'-less scheme?)
With now (4) L-188's, some additional stops were added to the route map.
In an era that still had distinctive uniforms, Air California's 'gaucho' flight attendants
were perfectly out-fitted!
Air California ads began to appear in national magazines as 1967 was coming to an end.
As the fortunes of Air California continued to grow, the airline knew it had to eventually upgrade the Electras.
It would be fellow California's Douglas Aircraft that would come to the rescue with a proposed lease agreement for a pair of recently returned DC-9-14's. The 1st (N8961) was delivered in March 1968.
(for some reason the 1st DC-9 wore these 'square' titles but would soon get the better looking L-188 style)
The 2nd -14 (N8962) would arrive with the corrected titles. Later the Reg #'s would be moved the engine nacelles
At least now, Air California could compete, to some degree, with fellow intra-state carrier PSA. The (2) Air California DC-9's were a big hit with passengers, so much so in fact that the airline placed an order for (4) of the new DC-9 Srs 40's in June '68!
What looked like a long-time MDC family member would change almost overnight, thanks to a canceled A/C order. When Bonanza, West Coast & Pacific Airlines merger in early 1968, the (6) Pacific 737-293's suddenly became available and the A/C's owner GATX-ARMCO BOOTHE was able to make the airline an offer that they couldn't refuse of an 'instant' brand new 737 fleet! On July 10, 1968, Air California took delivery of the 1st of (5) 737-293's.
The (2) DC-9's were returned, the Srs 40's were canceled and the beloved L-188's would finish out the year before being sold.
Thanks to the new 737's, 1969 would be a great year for Air California, adding such cities as Sacramento, Ontario, Palm Springs and most significantly San Diego-home base of PSA.
Pacific Southwest Airlines first move was try to buy Air California but after that failed an uneasy truce would result. In 1970, Air California was in fact be sold to Westgate-California, a real estate company. As usual, the new owners planned a mild color scheme changed that initially just removed all the Black paint.
A few more 'tweaks' would take place until the final look was accomplished.
This 2nd scheme would carry the airline through the 'quiet-years' as it's owner Westgate-California was in Chapter 11, beginning in 1974, due to the housing 'bust'. The airline itself was not in Chapter 11 but was not allowed gain financially during the next few years. The only new addition was Lake Tahoe, which due to airport restrictions, would see the return of Electra service with (3) new 2nd -hand purchases.
With the U.S. Airline Deregulation Act looming, Air California would awaken from it's 'quiet' years. It's first interstate application was for a San Jose-Reno (NV) route. San Diego was dropped (making PSA happy!) for Las Vegas. A new look was created with a brighter Yellow & Red, along with a Black-outlined 'Sun' logo!
(The above -247 was purchased from Western Airlines and was (1) of the Air France leased 737's featured in "LS"s-Air California would actually purchase both 737's used in the Air France leases)
Sadly, the late 70's was the end of the distinctive F/A uniforms, as the (2) F/M's shown here could easily fit in with any US airline.
In 1978, Air California placed an order for several de Havilland DHC-7's for the restrictive airports but this order lapsed as adding jets became a priority (eventually commuter airlines would take over these routes). Air California began acquiring and leasing all types of 737's; -159's, -222's & -248's. According to a former Air California pilot, the ex-Avianca -159's were a bit less stable than the larger -200's. In 1979, Air California went back to MDC to order (11) DC-9-80's (2-81's & 9-82's- main image).
Just prior to the 1981 Super 80 deliveries, the airline had been up for sale and the battle was between Air Florida and a local businessman William Lyon, with the local winning for $45 million. On February 21, 1981, Air California became Air Cal and a new color scheme was introduced but for this "LS" we pay tribute to Air California.............John3(Thanks to John Irby, Chuck Gowing/Airlinecolors.com, BillDemarest.com, SEA Flickr album, Cris Sloan/Archive.com, Airliners.net, Jetphotos.net, John P. Stewart/Zortek Gallery, Rene Dannies/Airlines-Airliners.de, Jerry Search/A View From The SNA Ramp website, Aussie Airliners.net & AirlineFan.com. Photographers: Clint Groves, Jon Proctor, John Wegg & Wernher Krutein).
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