Pacific Air Lines era (1958–1968).

Pacific Air Lines logo from March 1958.

 

To better reflect the coastal territory over flown by the majority of their flights, and having called themselves “the Pacific Air Line” for many years, the company name was changed to Pacific Air Lines on March 6, 1958.  The corporate logo was also changed at this time from an earth-toned Thunderbird reminiscent of a Navajo sand painting to a simpler, modernized design with bright colors. 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  asserted that the company was in its “17th year of scheduled service”.

 

Turboprop transition

Before the advent of the 1960s, the company had made San Francisco International Airport their corporate headquarters and hub of operations, and at about this time operations outside of California were resumed, with flights to Nevada added to the schedule.

Martin 4-0-4 in Pacific Air Lines colors at Camarillo, California, January 3, 2008. A lowered air stair is seen below the tail.

 

In 1959 the fleet of airplanes was increased with the addition of the first of fourteen secondhand pressurized Martin 4-0-4 airliner and Pacific’s first non-piston-engined aircraft, the turboprop-poweredFairchild F-27 (a U.S.-built version of the Fokker F27 Friendship.). The reliable but slow and unpressurized DC-3s were increasingly obsolete so in 1960 a gradual phase-out of the venerable planes began; the last of thirteen operated were gone from Pacific’s fleet by mid-1964,[ and the last Martin 2-0-2s were retired in March 1964.

 

Skyjacking attempt

The first U.S. skyjacking attempt was aboard a Pacific Air Lines plane on the ground at the Chico, CA airport on July 31, 1961. The pilot and a ticket agent were shot, however the assailant was overpowered by the copilot and passengers while the plane was still on the ground.

 

Crash of Flight 773

Main article: Pacific Air Lines Flight 773

On May 7, 1964 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 a nearly 90 degree angle. Investigators found a gun in the wreckage, and the FBI determined that a suicidal passenger shot both of the pilots, and then himself, causing the plane to dive out of control.

 

Turbojets prove uneconomical

When turbojet aircraft were added to Pacific’s fleet, the design of the bird that has always been the airline’s symbol was transformed into a more streamlined silhouette of a bird in flight.

 

On September 13, 1965, Pacific Air Lines announced that it would acquire six Boeing jets, leasing two immediately and placing orders for the remainder, to be delivered in early 1968.  The jets were ordered during a prosperous time for the airline, but by 1966 the West Coast market was contested by seven other airlines, and net income for Pacific dropped from $700,337 in 1965 to $150,716,  chiefly because the three-engined Boeing 727 was uneconomical for Pacific’s short routes. Two of the jets were removed from Pacific’s flight schedule and temporarily leased to National Airlines.

 

Controversial ad campaign

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 rarely emphasized by the commercial aviation industry. The airline had hired award-winning advertising executive and comedian Stan Freberg for the ad campaign, knowing that unconventional ideas were his forté. Under his direction print advertisements stated:

 

“Hey there! You with the sweat in your palms. It’s about time an airline faced up to something: Most people are scared witless of flying. Deep down inside, every time that big plane lifts off that runway, they wonder if this is it, right? You want to know something, fella? So does the pilot, deep down inside.[

 

The copy from another ad said:

“Hey there, you with the sweat in your palms. Do you wish the pilot would knock off all that jazz about ‘That’s Crater Lake on the left, ladies and gentlemen,’ and tell you instead what the devil that funny noise was you just heard?

 

To complement the ad campaign flight attendants handed out “survival kits” featuring hot-pink lunch pails containing a small security blanket, a “lucky” rabbit’s foot, the best-selling book The Power of Positive Thinking, and a fortune cookie containing the slogan “It could be worse. The pilot could be whistling The High and the Mighty.”  The attendants were also encouraged to exclaim “We made it! How about that!” upon landing.  Freberg had unfulfilled plans to paint a Pacific Boeing 727 to resemble a locomotive, with wheels on the fuselage and a cowcatcher on the nose.  Inside the cabin, passengers would have heard a recording of a steam locomotive over the loudspeakers.

 

Matthew E. McCarthy, Pacific’s chief executive and biggest shareholder, explained the campaign: “It’s basically honest. We spoof the passengers’ concern, but at least we admit they have it.” [ Philip H. Dougherty, writing in the Business and Finance section of the May 1 edition of The New York Times, described the advertisements as “rather shocking”.[ 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.

 

Merger

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 andWest Coast Airlines in a three-way merger, forming Air West in 1968. Air West, later Hughes Airwest, merged into Republic Airlines in 1980, which became part of Northwest Airlines in 1987, and finally part of Delta Airlines in 2008. 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 Boeing 727s, one of which was still leased-out but returned to Air West in late 1968.  The last of the increasingly obsolete Martins were not carried forward into the Air West fleet and were disposed of in August 1968.

 

The two co-founders of Southwest Airways died within nine months of each other in 1971. John Connelly was 71,  and Leland Hayward was 68.

 

 

Note: The above information is from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia