Home Medical Factors Facing Pilots Aviation Stories Of Interest FAA Exam Aviation News Maintenance and Aircraft Mechanics General Aviation Helicopters
Aviation History Legal Issues In Aviation Links To Other Sites Editorials Hot Air Balloon Aviation Training Handbooks Read Online Upcoming Events Editorials


Pacific Southwest Airlines

Pacific Southwest Airlines was a United States airline headquartered in San Diego, California, that operated from 1949 to 1988. It was one of the first large discount airlines in the United States and is considered a precursor to Southwest Airlines.

PSA was known by its slogan "The World's Friendliest Airline" and for the iconic smile painted on the nose of its airplanes, the PSA Grinningbirds Opinion L.A. of the Los Angeles Times stated that PSA was "practically the unofficial flag carrier airline of California for almost 40 years." 

PSA is one of the four heritage airlines that form US Airways, the other airlines being America West Airlines, Piedmont Airlines and Allegheny Airlines. Its Boeing customer number was 14. Following the merger with USAir, the PSA name was given to Jetstream International Airlines in order to preserve the PSA name and trademarks. 


Kenny Friedkin founded the airline in 1949 with a $1,000-a-month leased Douglas DC-3. Friedkin obtained information from a travel agent upon starting the airline due to lessons learned from the failed precursor airline (Friedkin Airlines). That aircraft inaugurated a weekly round trip from San Diego to Oakland via Burbank. Reservations were initially taken from a World War II surplus latrine refitted as a ticket office.  

In 1951 PSA crossed the San Francisco Bay and began flying to San Francisco. In 1955 PSA purchased two Douglas DC-4 aircraft from Capital Airlines and painted boxes around the windows to make the planes resemble the more advanced Douglas DC-6. In January 1958 they scheduled 37 DC-4s a week Burbank to San Francisco (29 of which originated in San Diego) and four nonstops SAN-SFO; at the time United, Western and TWA scheduled 226 nonstops a week LAX-SFO and 49 a week BUR-SFO. Later that year PSA shifted some schedules from Burbank to LAX. 

PSA started flying the Electra in 1959; they were replaced with Boeing 727-114s, Boeing 727-214s and Boeing 737-214s by 1970. The May 1965 OAG shows 103 Electras a week LAX-SFO, 32/week LAX-OAK, 34/week BUR-SFO and 5/week SAN-SFO. LAX-SFO was scheduled 60 minutes, BUR-SFO was 55. In 1966 PSA started flying to San Jose, and in 1967 to Sacramento (SAC, that is; later that year they and everyone else moved to SMF.) They added Ontario in 1968 and Long Beach, Fresno and Stockton in 1971-72. Starting 1974 PSA briefly operated Lockheed L-1011 aircraft before deeming them unprofitable and selling them; PSA's L-1011-1's were unique in having lower deck seating.



After airline deregulation California's major intrastate airlines (PSA, Air California (later rebranded AirCal), Western Airlines and United Airlines) became embroiled in intense airfare wars. PSA attempted to extend its route network beyond California with flights to Reno, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Tucson, and Albuquerque. The airline also introduced automated ticketing and check-in machines at several major airports, and briefly operated flights to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. 

When PSA's plan to buy out the assets of Dallas/Fort Worth-based Braniff International Airways fell flat, the airline expanded its route network north to Washington, Oregon and Idaho. PSA used a new fleet of BAe 146 regional jets to serve smaller airports on the West Coast, such as Eureka, California and Concord, California. PSA held a contest, publicized in full-page newspaper ads, to name the fleet. The winning entry was Smiliner. 

In 1986 Western and AirCal were purchased by out-of-state airlines (Delta Air Lines and American Airlines respectively). Some who believe USAir was actually pursuing AirCal because of fleet commonality (Boeing 737-300s) but that American Airlines spoiled the deal and PSA was its second choice. Upon hearing that USAir was interested in AirCal, American Airlines aggressively courted the AirCal Board of Directors. It made more sense for American Airlines to purchase PSA due to fleet commonality, but American Airlines was determined not to concede market share. Therefore, many who believe the American–AirCal deal was essentially an attempt to impede USAir's expansion. However, this plan did not work.

An hour after the AirCal deal was announced, PSA agreed to merge with USAir, which was completed in 1987. PSA's last flight took place on April 8, 1988. The PSA route network slowly disintegrated within USAir and was completely gone by 1994: most of the former airline's assets were scrapped or moved to USAir's hubs on the East Coast. PSA's operations base at San Diego International Airport was gutted and now serves as that airport's commuter terminal. 


PSA had planned from the start to become a nationwide carrier, but this never came to fruition. By the time of the merger, PSA's route system covered only the western United States, extending only as far east as Colorado and New Mexico. Southwest Airlines has since duplicated many of PSA's former San Diego routes. In the San Diego Aerospace Museum, there is a display showcasing PSA, the city's hometown airline. 

PSA was one of the sponsors of the original The Dating Game TV show on ABC from 1965 to 1973. Following the 2005 merger of US Airways and America West, a US Airways Airbus A319 was repainted in PSA's livery as one of four heritage aircraft commemorating the airlines that merged to form the present-day US Airways. The aircraft was dedicated at San Diego International Airport's commuter terminal (PSA's former operations base) on March 30, 2006, and flew similar flight patterns to the ones actually operated by PSA, as another commemorative bonus.
(For the latest news please checkout our home page)
blog comments powered by Disqus  
Home Aviation News Aviation Stories Of Interest FAA Exam Upcoming Events Links To Other Sites General Aviation Helicopters Medical Factors Facing Pilots
Maintenance and Aircraft Mechanics Hot Air Balloon Aviation Training Handbooks Read Online Aviation History Legal Issues In Aviation Sea Planes Editorials
 ©AvStop Online Magazine                                                                 Contact Us                                                  Return To News                                          Bookmark and Share

AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine