Postwar America was filled with opportunities. Ken Friedkin was a flight instructor who had run a flight training school for Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots during the war. Friedkin went on to fly for Convair's airline, Consairways, but did not enjoy it and left to form a flying school with his old friend, Joe "Bud" Plosser.
The first two instructors hired for the Plosser-Friedkin school were Eleanor "Fergie" Fulmer, hired to run the Link trainer, and Betty Lambert for Ground School. The school grew quickly, tapping into the large numbers of G.I.s who discovered flying during the war. To handle the demand, J. Floyd "Andy" Andrews, Leo Leonard, Gordon Tinker, and Hugh Wood were hired.
The school quickly gained nationwide name recognition. But, there were only so many G.I.s, and the flow of them started to dry up. Plosser's share was bought by Friedkin and renamed to Friedkin School of Aeronautics, occupying a classroom building next to the Terminal at Lindbergh Field, and a WW2 hangar next to the Ryan Aircraft plant.
By 1948, the flow of veterans had slowed to a trickle, and Friedkin (with his group of instructors) started experimenting with ways to make money. Some of the ideas tried were banner towing, aerial photography, gasoline sales, aircraft sales, and maintenance. Leo Leonard was dispatched to fly Mudsuckers from Mexico to the Colorado River, and had to water them mid-flight to keep them alive!
Friedkin started an airline - Friedkin Airlines - flying from San Diego to El Centro. The first passenger was flown by Andy from El Centro to San Diego. He was afraid to fly back because it was raining, so he said he would send a check when back in El Centro, and drove back...skidding off the wet road, killing himself. So much for revenue.
Friedkin Airlines gave Kenny experience for his next try - Pacific Southwest Airlines. This time, he asked for advice, and received it from a Travel Agent - 'fly to San Francisco!' Friedkin had never been there, so he and Andy flew up and visited nightclubs. On return, they decided they would fly from San Diego - Burbank - Oakland. The name was formed by mixing the names of 2 operating airlines - Pacific and Southwest - and Fergie thinks it was "to confuse the passengers."
A 6' X 12' Marine Corps Latrine was purchased to serve as the first res center. Since PSA had no facilities in Lindbergh's terminal, they weighed the baggage on a bathroom scale and checked passengers in at the lobby of the flying school. Bud Plosser, Jr. was captain, and Leo Leonard was copilot on May 6, 1949 - with 24 passengers paying $15.60 to fly PSA's DC-3. The weekly flights (Friday up, Sunday back) proved successful - $11,984 was the first-year profit, and 50 people were on the PSA payroll. For those living in Burbank, it was only $9.95 to Oakland.
The whole operation was very cooperative. Pilots loaded baggage, Flight attendants cleaned aircraft, and when winter weather struck, everyone helped put on the de-icing boots. But, it also hung on by a string - a long string of Sailors and Marines from nearby bases, leading to the term "Poor Sailor's Airline." In-flight service was better than today's - Coffee, Peanuts, and Donuts! (Granted, the donuts were bought based on how close the shop was to the airport.)
With the success of PSA (and the steady string of leased DC-3s), frequency was increased and more planes were leased. The competition took notice - United and Western (who's fares PSA was undercutting by over 50%), and California Central, a startup based in Burbank flying the same type of planes at the same fares. CCA would not last much longer, as they replaced the DC-3s and DC-4s with Martin 2-0-2s, increasing their costs and going bankrupt in 1954.
Friedkin believed that if the fares were low enough, people would be diverted from trains and cars, to his service running every half hour from San Francisco to Burbank. His first attempts at entering San Francisco failed, but were successful in July 1951. It was only $17.25 to San Francisco from San Diego, and $11.70 from Burbank. But, with United and Western matching the fares, and an increased DC-3 fleet for the now-daily service, PSA started hitting rocky times financially. One good thing - with those low fares, people thought PSA was not maintaining their planes properly. With United and Western matching them, PSA gained credibility. The workforce had grown to 119, and employees even got married aboard the planes.
Facing further competition and executing further expansion, PSA had purchased it's 2 leased DC-3s and purchased 2 more in 1952 at $25,000 each. Service to Long Beach from Burbank and San Diego was inaugurated in 1953, only to be dropped (along with Oakland) in 1954, shortly before the advent of the DC-4s.
Friedkin purchased 2 70 seat DC-4s from Capital Airlines in 1955, and simply painted PSA titles and the new PSA shield over Capital's titles. Square boxes were painted around the windows, to make passengers think they were flying DC-6s. The DC-4s brought in more business passengers, and PSA started catering to them with themed flights and cocktail services. Profitability returned to PSA, even with fares 20% less than the competition's.
Further fleet expansion, in the form of 2 more DC-4s, followed in 1956 and 1957. The last DC-4 purchased help start service to Los Angeles (LAX) airport. Fares were $5.45 from San Diego to Los Angeles/Burbank, and $11.81 from Burbank/Los Angeles to San Francisco. It was still a small operation, with around 200 employees and small reservation offices in each city PSA served.
The PSA family was a very real thing, with around 220 employees by 1959. Skylines (the company newsletter) referred to everyone by their first name, company picnics happened yearly (a tradition revived in 1981 with the annual PSA old-timers picnics), and each department of the airline was given their own page(s) in the newsletter. Passengers felt the pampering, with lost baggage claims treated promptly (Andy noted "we didn't have enough money to buy our way out"). If Lindbergh was fogged in, passengers were flown to Miramar, 15 miles from Lindbergh, and bussed to the airport - most other airlines bussed from LAX.
Friedkin saw the writing on the wall after Pan Am's initial jet orders, and ordered 2 French-built Caravelles in 1957 at $1.95 million each. However, financing problems and negotiations with French authorities changed PSA's mind, and the order was cancelled. Lockheed came in with an interesting financing agreement for their Electra - the airframes would be leased from Barron Hilton's ElectraHilt corporation, and engines from Allison for 3 1/2 years. The first three airplanes arrived in time for Christmas 1959, putting the DC-4s out to pasture.
1960 was the first full year of PSA's operations with the Lockheed Electra. One DC-6B was acquired to fly to Oakland, and PSA had a C-47 under contract for Convair. Maintenance complained they had to work on 'state of the art' vs. the ancient DC-3s. The late Allan Lindemann wrote in March 1960's 'Classified Rumor Mill':
It can now be told that Kenny has set up a motivation program which will allow each pilot to fly a C-47 at least once a month. A C-47 is like a DC-3 with stronger glue and larger openings forward of the yoke, in order to allow more water to enter without restricting it's flow. Actually, it is similar to an airborne shower, without towels. Flying this relic, I mean gem, is like a vacation because it takes you two weeks to go anywhere. How soon we can be spoiled.
Fares were still low, at 1958 levels, but profits fell along with them to $499 in 1960. Passengers loved the new Electras, with interiors designed by Jean Friedkin (Kenny's wife and VP of PSA), and the reduced travel time they allowed. PSA was setting trends for the entire industry - they were the first airline to have to send engines back to Allison for overhaul, and first to get more hours permitted between overhauls. PSA was called "the most efficient carrier in the country" by the CAB. Lockheed timed their turnarounds and boasted about the shortest delivery flight (taxi across Runway 7/25 at BUR.)
PR was also included. Charity flights were introduced. PSA sponsored contests asking "What would you do with your own Electra Jet?" Expansion took place with 2 more Electras ordered. "First Class care...at a Reasonable Fare" was the advertising slogan - with a few spoofs appearing in Skylines. The complaints were few and far between - 83,000 passengers flew in August 1961 and only 5 complained. 1962 brought over a million passengers for the first time - and a $1.3 million profit. December 1962 brought a fogged-in SFO...and PSA flew passengers to Half Moon Bay and bussed them up, making sure they made it home for the holidays.
But the family was growing larger (and weirder.) Mike Bogle ably filled in as a belly dancer at the 1960 Pilots Christmas party. (This is NOT a joke.) PSA's offices were expanded at San Diego, with the latrine long gone. Employees wrote about passengers (and interesting reservations) in Skylines. PSA's stations competed with each other in numbers of reservations and on the sports field. However, the end of an era occurred when Kenny suddenly died in March 1962. Andy took over, and started re-shaping the airline to become more flamboyant - like him.
Andrews' first objective was to expand. He sold 292,000 shares of stock to the public, and 21,000 shares to the employees, at $19 each. The first use of the proceeds were to pay off the financing on the first 5 Electras. Further expansion brought enhanced facilities at SAN with an engine overhaul shop. May 28 (1963) brought Electra #6, N376PS. March 12 brought the new TelPak reservations system, combined with an NCR computer, and the combination of all 3 reservation offices (BUR, SAN, SFO) into one at SAN. Santa even made his first appearance on PSA.
PSA even had bumper stickers...yes, the famous Orange & Black bumper sticker which appeared in 1964. PSA employees, after painting a USAF T-38, stuck a sticker on the inside of the access door. Rumor has it another employee was up at Del Mar handicapping horses to decide which ones deserved the sticker. Dale Alpert served her special "Espresso" mix of coffee out of SFO, consisting of a few drops of fruit punch mixed into the coffee. The airline had such a good on-time record that the president was even left on the tarmac once.
July 1964 - PSA announced their $27.5 million order for 5 Boeing 727s, one option, and spare engines. Andy boasted about flight times being cut to 51 minutes non-stop San Diego to San Francisco. Monthly load factors continued to increase, records broken, and happy passengers continued to fly PSA. The airline had doubled in size, to 500 employees.
The 727s started arriving in April 1965, and were immediately placed into service to supplement the Electra fleet. PSA was one of the first intrastate airlines to order jets - with the traffic base to support it, and no interference from the CAB (as other airlines in California had.) Stewardesses dressed in the 'banana-skin' uniform (it was definitely form-fitting) served the passengers.
PSA's stewardesses were legendary, and were a major part of the airline's success. Word was so widespread about the California beauties that a squadron in Vietnam named themselves after Judy Bailey. Andrews, seizing the opportunity, sent her to Vietnam to meet her squadron, in her celery-green uniform. Girls flocked to PSA to be a stew, with the average employment only being 9 months. All stewardesses were female until 1968, when the first stewards (hand-picked by Andrews) came on-line.
1966 saw another aircraft order - the first of PSA's Boeing 727-214s. The first one was delivered in December 1967, joining the 727-14, Electra, and DC-9. Four Boeing 737-214s were part of the $53 million order. PSA even hired stewards - the first in their history - to serve drinks on the 727-214s. To keep the airplanes busy, service was expanded to Sacramento in 1967, adding to the system which Oakland had re-joined (again) in 1965, along with San Jose in 1966.
The PSA family was still real, but had grown to 1400 employees. Las Vegas trips were organized by management in 1966, and again in mid-1967 "to recoup the losses from the last trip." Skylines still reported on new business ventures, each department, and the passengers got to read it now.
The famous PSA smile was born in the 1960's. Stories diverge on the creation of the smile - PSA's slogan in the early 1960's was "World's Friendliest Airline." Advertising man Len Gross took to it immediately, and over much protest from Andrews, started putting the smile in advertisements. One day, he needed an airplane painted with a smile to shoot some more ads. Gross told Andrews that he didn't have enough time to finish shooting, and wanted to keep the smile on until the next day. Andrews, thinking it was "unprofessional" and "Our pilots aren't going to like piloting something with a smile on it," reluctantly allowed it. The phone lines were so busy by that night with calls of support that Andrews had to leave the smile on.
One other story credits the smile to maintenance. The radio shop guys were replacing a radome in the late 1960's, back when they had to work outdoors - this was at night, and they had trouble lining the radome up. One of them suggested painting an alignment line - which ended up looking like a smile. Gross saw it, and ran from there. Which story is right? Possibly both - but the end result was the second most recognizable airline logo (second only to the Pan Am globe.)
1968 was a banner year for the airline. Further innovations, such as a new IBM 360 computer which replaced the NCR one - featuring TV screens, was introduced to the reservations department. PSA was the first airline to have this type of system. $69 million worth of aircraft were ordered, including 9 727-214s and 6 737-214s. One of the DC-9s was disposed to Ozark. The new PSA Hangar was fully opened at Lindbergh Field, consolidating the various offices in one spot. The trusty Lockheed Electras were removed from the system, after being replaced with jets.
1969 continued the growth. Over at Sea World, PSA sponsored the construction of the new Skytower, rising 320 feet into the air (costing nearly $530,000.) Profits and image continued to rise. Ontario joined the PSA system, early in the year. All but one of the 727-14s were sold off. Some of the -14s were traded on for a new aircraft.
By 1970, PSA had ten years of solid growth and 15 years of profits. Management took a look and decided on a new aircraft - the Lockheed 1011 Tristar. PSA ordered two, and traded in some 727-14s for a down payment, but cancelled the order when Rolls-Royce went into bankruptcy. They re-ordered the 1011 (after looking at the Airbus 300 and DC-10) in December 1972 and started service with them in August 1974. Just 8 months later, they were parked in Marana. (The 1011s were originally scheduled to return in June 1975, but were not returned to service.)
In a phone discussion, Jim Patterson recalled the L-1011s. "I purchased the fuel along with Wescott...when the 1011 was ordered, fuel was 9-11 cents per gallon. In October 1973, when the first fuel crisis hit, it went up to 33 cents per gallon, and (PSA's) allocation was cut by 20%. The whole L-1011 purchase had been based on the original fuel price, and with this increase, there was no way it would become profitable on short-haul flights."
In 1973, a Texan came out to San Diego. His name was Herb Kelleher, and he worked for Southwest. PSA showed him the entire operation, and told all their department heads to 'open up everything' for Herb. (Tom Irwin was sent to Dallas with manuals in hand. Southwest was so impressed that they took PSA's name off the manual, stuck their name on, and made it their manual.) In return, PSA got a lot of heartache in the 1980's.
Back in 1967, PSA started the "Fly! Drive! Sleep!" campaign. The goal was to fly people, have them get a PSA rent-a-car, and stay in a PSA hotel - similar to United's 1987 'Allegis' plan. So PSA bought ValCar rent-a-car from it's owners, who bought the former division of Hertz. ValCar was never profitable, and shuttered in 1971.
The plan was expanded with hotel purchases. The Islandia in San Diego, San Franciscan in SFO, Queen Mary Hotel at LGB (Long Beach service started in 1971), and PSA Hollywood Park hotel were all acquired or built. Again, the hotels lost money and were leased to Hyatt in 1974 (later divested.) PSA's checkbook was used toward other acquisitions, like 4 radio stations, 2 background music creation companies, and even a 70-foot long catamaran (catering to J. Floyd Andrews' love of fishing). Two jet leasing firms were created to dispose of PSA's excess aircraft. All of the acquisitions took their toll, causing a $16.7 million loss in 1975 (even after most were disposed of.)
Why the acquisition fever? After new authorities from the PUC to Stockton and Fresno in 1972, PSA did not receive any new service. The PUC wanted each intrastate carrier to have a monopoly on certain routes - so PSA was denied entry into SNA, Air California's home. PSA decided to expand via acquisitions of non-airline companies. PSA did try to acquire Air California, when San Diegan C. Arnholt Smith (who owned them) ran into financial difficulties.
By now, the board decided it was time for a management change, and promoted Bill Shimp (one of the earliest pilots) into President. Andrews' job was to lobby for out-of-state routes. By 1976, he was unceremoniously forced out by the board, with Shimp promoted and Paul Barkley becoming President.
One positive note in this dark time was Airmotive (the new name for the engine-rebuilding facility) moving about 15 miles north to Miramar road. However, the Teamsters struck on November 16, 1973 over salary - taking 620 maintenence personnel and 700 operation personnel off the jobs. PSA reduced the flight schedule further (it had already been reduced due to the fuel shortages), and pilots were seen loading bags. The strike ended on December 24.
By 1977, PSA had cancelled the remaining 3 Lockheeds on order, spurring lawsuits between PSA and Lockheed. One of the settlements was an around-the-world-tour of one of the PSA aircraft, crewed by PSA, as a promotional flight for the jet. Ten McDonnell Douglas DC-9-80s (MD-80s) were ordered, at $15 million each and $3 million in parts for each. The fleet was simplified with the final DC-9 disposal in 1972 (scheduled service ended in 1969), and the 737-214 disposal in 1974-76. The Electras were brought back for Lake Tahoe service, replacing Holiday Airlines which had just ceased operations.
October 1976 brought the Catch Us! campaign, as a sign of the revitalized PSA. 1977 brought an expanded maintenance operation in SFO, using a leased portion of an American Airlines hangar. New interiors were installed in the 727-200s, featuring the 'wide-bodied' look. Five used 727-51s arrived into the fleet, from Northwest. The 'shocking pink' scheme was repainted into the red/orange 'fruit stripe' scheme.
A major setback was suffered on September 25, 1978, at 9:02 AM. PSA Flight 182, on approach to SAN from LAX and SMF, collided mid-air with a Cessna 172 on climb-out from Runway 9 (the 727 was approaching 27.) 144 died in the crash, both on the ground and in the air.
Shortly after the black spot came a new opportunity - PSA's first service out of California, to Las Vegas (from SAN) on December 15. OAK-Reno service was inagurated at the same time. Phoenix came on the following March, and Salt Lake City in November 1979. On another note, PSA eliminated the Electras (again), and with them service to Monterey (started in 1978) and Lake Tahoe ended. 8.6 million passengers gave PSA record profits of $23 million. The Bright Lights would dim on PSA later in the year, with the FAA saying PSA had the worst safety record of the top 11 US Airlines (PSA was #11) and being cited for 46 violations.
1978 brought another PSA innovation - the Automatic Ticketing Machine. Shortly after this innovation, PSA had to fight a hostile takeover attempt from Harold Simmons' ValHi corporation. Part of the settlement included disposal of the Jetair leasing subsidiary and four 727-200s, in February 1979.
1980 brought more new service, culminating in PSA's international entry to Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta on April 27. Labor relations, already low because of PSA's admission of guilt for the 1978 crash, dropped further when negotiations with the SFCA (the pilot's union) over a new contract went nowhere. The Pilots struck on September 25, 1980 - with some feeling PSA timed the strike to occur on the anniversary of 182, making the pilots look worse. The strike also occured in the slack part of the travel year. Every plane was grounded, every flight cancelled, and 3000 employees were furloughed.
The pilots struck over working conditions, salary, and cutbacks being planned (PSA was planning on cutting all service to Stockton, and reducing Ontario service.) 52 days passed without a flight - and the impasse ended when PSA advertised for new pilots. Few concessions were obtained by the SFCA. Fresno, Long Beach, Mazatlan, Reno, and Stockton were all victims of the strike. Profits and passengers were affected, with only half the profits of 1979 ($12.6 million) and 6.6 million passengers. The SFCA was another victim, for the next year PSA's pilots joined ALPA.
PSA had become the first US airline to order the MD-80 back in 1978, and after delays they were delivered starting in December 1980. Early training was done in the air, as the simulator was late being delivered. (The MD-80 simulator, later converted to an -82 one, was moved by USAir to PIT after the merger.) In 1981, the new flight training building was opened in Scripps Ranch. Service was resumed to Fresno, Long Beach, and Reno in April.
PSA had nearly recovered from the blow of one strike when another hit - the PATCO Air Traffic Controllers strike. PSA was forced to reduce service and spread out their flights - before the strike there was a large group of flights leaving around 5 PM, for PSA catered to the commuter. PSA benefited in one way - Pacific Express, a startup founded to compete with PSA, could not get slots and was forced to delay service. United launched their "Friendship Express" to compete with PSA and other startups. Only 6 million flew PSA, with a $3.3 million profit. The one bright spot was new service to SNA (Orange County), but of course AirCal struck back with service to LAX.
Service was slightly expanded in December 1981 to Tucson from Burbank, and Seattle from LAX, now becoming PSA's main hub. Deliveries of the MD-80s accelerated, allowing the 727s to be sold off - many went to Piedmont for their deregulation push out of CLT. PSA had been looking at expansion in the Southwest, and Braniff's collapse offered a chance to expand into Dallas. PSA and Braniff came out with a plan to hire 300 Braniff pilots, use 30 BN 727s, but pay the employees much less than PSA's scale and have them give up their seniority. Braniff pilots rejected the plan.
Due to bloody fare wars in PSA's turf, the end of the L-1011 sublease to AeroPeru, and amount spent on the Braniff plan, PSA lost $17 million in 1982. The Braniff deal would not die until 1983, when PSA & Braniff came back with a PSA subsidiary company plan. 26 727s would be leased and 1500 employees would be hired. This plan passed DFW airport, and the bankruptcy courts, only to be shot down by the FAA, who claimed PSA was not a corporate successor to Braniff, and therefore had no right to their landing slots.
After the Braniff plan was dead, killing PSA's plans to expand east, they turned their attention northward, and started service to Albuquerque, Spokane, and Portland in June. Four DC-9-30s were bought from Air Canada to inagurate this service. Seat assignments were introduced, and a Frequent Flyer Program, to compete with AirCal. Meals showed up on the longer flights shortly thereafter. PSA became the official airline of Disneyland to bolster the marketing image. New aircraft were considered, to keep up the frequency and increase load factors.
After looking at aircraft, PSA decided to order 20 BAe-146-200s (and 25 options) for $300 million. The story from some employees (as they can figure out) for the quick delivery is that Golden Gate, another California startup, had just ceased operations - and British Aerospace had their delivery slots. PSA simply picked them up. The aircraft started being delivered in June 1984. Other sources have stated they were intended for Pacific Express.
Bill Shimp died suddenly of a heart attack in May 1984, promoting Paul Barkley to CEO. Russell Ray was brought in as President in August 1985. On Halloween, Barkley announced the employees would have to take concessions (15% of pay, 15% extra productivity, 15% of equity) to see the airline survive - which the employees did, after recieving a cost-of-living increase. PSA made money ($2.2 million) in 1984, only through this help. The last 727 was disposed of a few weeks later, on November 26. Stockton service was resumed in the summer, with the 146s.
By April 1985, service to Albuquerque was suspended to concentrate on frequencies elsewhere. SNA flights were the biggest beneficiary, from 7 to 10 daily departures. The PSA Expressway was another beneficiary, with flights every half hour during peak times between LAX and SFO in June. Most other cities received increased frequencies.
In November, PSA moved to SFO's terminal A (concourse A), the first one as you enter the airport. PSA had already moved into LAX's new Terminal 1 the previous year. December brought the largest service expansion in PSA's history - 7 cities with the BAe-146s. Pasco, Yakima, Medford, Eugene, Boise, Eureka, and Los Cabos (Cabo San Lucas) received the Smiliners, marking PSA's return to Mexico. Comfort was enhanced when the 146s had 24 seats removed, making the seating 5-abreast. The 'NASA-designed seats' were lowered when passengers complained about their height (restricting headroom.)
Competiton was increasing. Pacific Express folded in 1984, but Continental moved in (as CO West) in 1985, unleashing a new round of fare wars. Nobody predicted what would happen in 1986, though.
1986 was the year of the merger. Northwest bought Republic (part was the old Hughes Air West) in 1986 and merged in October, Delta bought Western and merged in 1987, American bought AirCal and merged in 1987, and USAir bought PSA. Republic and Western had been predominantly driven out of the LAX-SFO routes (the California Corridor), but now had the strength to move in. Ray signed code-sharing agreements with Northwest and Air Canada out of LAX and SFO, and added their flights to the PSA schedule. Concord (CA) service was started in May, followed by Redmond/Bend in October. Eureka and Boise lost PSA's jets.
The PSA network, 1986
American bought PSA's #1 competitor, AirCal, in 1986. OC now had the backing of Sabre, Robert Crandall, lots of resources, and power. One hour after this merger was announced, USAir called. USAir had been calling since 1978, but until then PSA had said no. That day they said yes.
May 29, 1987 - PSA became a division of USAir. Seasonal services occured - to Steamboat Springs in 1987, and Palm Springs in 1988. The planes started losing the smile as USAir repainted them. Some of the more interesting schemes are located on the BAe-146 and MD-80 fleet pages. Most employees wondered "What will happen to the smile?", then "What will happen to us?" Most of the employees went on in the April 1988 absorption of PSA.
December 7, 1987, Flight 1771 was on its daily run on the 'PSA Expressway' between LAX and SFO, piloted by Gregg N. Lindamood. David Burke, a disgruntled ex-USAir employee, made his way past security using his badge (which hadn't been returned yet) and brought a gun aboard. He shot the crew, and then himself, causing the plane to nosedive from 23,000 feet, go supersonic, and hit a cattle ranch at 4:14 PM near Harmony, CA, killing 44. People thought it may have been an engine failure (since in February 1987, a BAe going to Reno had to land in Fresno after an engine disintegrated.) Burke had been fired from USAir over $69 in missing Liquor receipts.
April 8, 1988 - the last flights. PSA 1486 departed SAN for LAS at 10:35 PM, ending 39 years on an airline. The next day, PSA signs were removed from the stations, PSA uniforms were gone, and it was...USAir. Shortly thereafter, USAir cleaned out the Hangar at SAN and threw everything PSA-related away. Many executives were included in the house-cleaning, either by choice or by money, and USAir's management team replaced them.
USAir moved the MD-80s shortly thereafter back East and moved 737s in their place. The BAe-146s stayed here. Frequencies were cut, fares went up, spirit was removed, and popular PSA programs (Smile High Club, and self-ticketing) ended. USAir decided to shutter most of the division in May 1991, parking the BAe-146s in Mohave and transferring the crew over to other aircraft (mostly 737s.) LAX-SFO flights, the last of PSA's network, were slashed in 1994.
All that remains is employee spirit - manifested in the annual employee reunions. Many of the PSA employees were laid off in numerous cutbacks from USAir, but those who have hung on are generally very senior now (mostly in the operational areas). Closures by USAir include the San Diego crew base in 1991, San Francisco crew base in 1994, Reno reservations in 1995, Los Angeles base in 1998, and San Diego reservations in 2001.
In the ultimate twist of irony, America West Airlines announced a merger with US Airways on May 19, 2005. The smaller, west coast airline purchased the larger, east coast airline which purchased another small, West Coast airline 17 years earlier.
PSA Hangar/Commuter Terminal, June 7, 2002.
PSA's Hangar is now the Commuter Terminal at SAN (USAir sold it for $3.6 million in 1995) and holds the airport's office complex, on the third floor. PSA's concourse now holds United, Alaska, Air Canada, and US Airways. The USAir Club, built in the 1990 SAN terminal renovation, is now the United Red Carpet Club. (PSA's San Diego Terminal did not have jetways until 1990.) At LAX, Terminal One is dominated by Southwest and US Airways. At SFO, terminal 'A' has been demolished to make room for the new International Terminal. San Diego's Airmotive complex, vacant from 1991, is now occupied by Pacific Gas Turbines, an engine rebuilding center. San Diego Reservations is now Horizon Christian Fellowship.
Pockets of PSA memorabilia can be found in the areas they served. On May 6, 2000, the San Diego Aerospace Museum unveiled their first PSA exhibit, after years of hard work led by the late Capt. Art Steck. Capt. Randy Prine continued Art's work, leading to the new PSA exhibit placed prominently in the museum's new commercial aviation section - this new exhibit opened on September 26, 2003.
The New US Airways has painted five throwback airplanes, one of which is in full 1977 PSA colors (albeit with US Airways titles). This airplane was dedicated on March 30, 2006, on the former SAN Hangar ramp.
Las Vegas, Boise and Albuquerque have PSA models on display in their respective ticketing lobbies (LAS across from the America West counter, ABQ on the right side as you walk toward the gates.) Finally, smiles have been known to mysteriously appear on USAir planes...
Want more information about PSA? The late PR director Gary Kissel's book, "Poor Sailor's Airline", is available from Paladwr Press. The book is now out of print, but may still be available.