October 2, 2022
Today in Aviation: Air California is Rebranded Air Cal
Today in Aviation

Today in Aviation: Air California is Rebranded Air Cal

DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (SNA)-based Air California (OC) was rebranded as Air Cal in 1981.

The rebranding coincided with the arrival of new owners, Orange County businessmen William Lyon and George Argyros. Along with a new name came a bright and dynamic new livery, plus new crew uniforms designed by renowned fashion designer Mary McFadden.

The Lockheed Electra would return to the fleet in 1975 to operate flights to Lake Tahoe (TVL), which at the time would not accept jet airliners. Photo: Richard Silagi (GFDL http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html or GFDL http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), via Wikimedia Commons

Taking to the Skies

OC commenced operations in January 1967. A pair of ex-American Airlines (AA) Lockheed L-188 Electras were sourced, and the first flight departed SNA bound for San Francisco (SFO). Soon after, flights to San Jose (SJC) and Oakland (OAK) were launched.

Jet equipment arrived in March 1968 with a pair of leased Douglas DC-9-10s. These were supplemented by larger Boeing 737-200s, which began to join the fleet in July 1968.

When the Airline Deregulation Act was passed in 1978, OC was allowed to grow its network outside of California. Its first trans-state service began on November 9, 1979, between SNA and Reno (RNO), Nevada.

The MD-82 proved to be a poor fit for the OC fleet and was quickly replaced by 737-300s. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Eighties Expansion

In May 1981, Air Cal received its first McDonnell Douglas MD-82. Seven would go on to join the airline by June 1983. However, the type was quickly replaced by the Boeing 737-300. Twelve -300s had been ordered to facilitate the airline’s expansion plans. This included international flights, the first of which was operated from SJC to Vancouver (YVR) on June 1, 1985.

Sadly, Air Cal was unable to compete with the major airlines. Merger discussions had taken place with Piedmont Airlines in 1986. But talks had fallen through, paving the way for AA to swoop in and offer US$225m for the company in November 1986. The deal gave AA an extensive West Coast operation that it had previously lacked. Air Cal disappeared from the skies on July 1, 1987.

Featured image: N463GB would go on to serve with AA following the merger in 1987. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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