I've written about Air California and AirCal previously at a high level here:
AirCal had taken the opportunities that deregulation offered to expand beyond its traditional intra-Californian network but also to push into the core Californian routes, beginning service to Los Angeles in 1980. New owners had revitalised the airline's name and livery and it had come through a difficult 1982, where it recorded its first loss since 1972, to an improved 1983 focusing on the lucrative Los Angeles-San Francisco route, restarting services from Lake Tahoe and beginning a code-share with Texas based Muse Air.
The 737-300s would allow the replacement of the entire existing fleet including the nearly new MD-80s. Traffic growth in 1984 was up 12% and necessitated the short term lease of 10 further 737-200s sourced from amongst others Aer Lingus, Western and Aloha.
Below: I know the Dragon Wings 737-300 isn't the best but until Aeroclassics get their act together it's all we've got.
The new 737-300s began arriving in February 1985 and immediately began replacing the MD-80s. All except 3 were returned to McDonnell Douglas Finance by July and several were onward leased to competitor PSA. The three remaining were leased out to Frontier Airlines and never saw further service with AirCal. The first 737 was put into service between Los Angeles and Orange County and San Francisco.
Route expansion continued into 1986 with the 737-300s being used to inaugurate a three times daily Orange County-Chicago O'Hare service. Further expansion from Orange County was however proving problematic. Though the 737s were quieter than the MD-80s they still fell foul of Orange County's strict noise constraints and so were restricted to certain slots. PSA had gotten around this by buying the British Aerospace 146, which was so quiet it could fly, even from Orange County, whenever it liked.
Faced with PSA growing heavily at Orange County at its expense, in January 1986 AirCal was forced to eat humble pie (as it had attacked PSA's 146 purchase) and itself order 6 146-200s from the British manufacturer. "We are not going to be in a situation of being less than the dominant carrier in our hometown," AirCal President David A. Banmiller said at a news conference.
AirCal didn't make the mistake PSA did with the seating configuration and from the start the 146s seated 85 people, 5 abreast. PSA not surprisingly had some fun with the announcement PSA spokeswoman Margery Craig saying:
"AirCal, from the president on down to the flight attendants, has been bad-mouthing the aircraft. And now they are going to have to eat a little crow,"
AirCal's 146s began to arrive in March and had all arrived by October. It was then AirCal's turn to experience the reliability issues that PSA had been facing, with BAE jokingly being said to mean "Bring Another Engine". The 146s initially focused on Orange County services but were also used on thin routes like those to Burbank.
1984, June. AirCal Will Add New Boeing 737s. New York Times
1986, January. AirCal Orders British Jets to Counter PSA : Quieter Planes Give Rival the Edge at John Wayne. Los Angeles Times
1987, March. Company News: Agency Approves AirCal Takeover. New York Times
AirCal. Departed Wings
AirCal. Aeromoes Fleets
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I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: