DALLAS — Today, in 1998, Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (COS) based low-cost carrier Western Pacific Airlines (W7) ceased operations.
The airline, often referred to as WestPac, can trace its history back to 1994 when a team led by America West Airlines (HP) founder Ed Beauvais looked to create a new low-cost carrier.
Flights commenced on April 28, 1995, from COS to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Oklahoma City. To operate the flights, eight second-hand Boeing 737-300s were sourced.
WestPac was also one of the first airlines in the world to use its aircraft as a flying billboard. Known as the “AirLogo Program,” the carrier promoted businesses with whom they cooperated and those that were part of its network.
One of the most famous was the bright yellow ‘Simpsons jet.’ Fox Television had needed an advertising coup for that month’s Nielsen ratings sweeps for their long-running animated sitcom, The Simpsons. WestPac’s marketing staff met with Fox, who would pay $1 million for the color scheme.
Westpac was operating up to 80 flights per day from COS at the height of its success. Its fleet would swell to 18 737-300s.
In October 1996, WestPac placed an order with Boeing for six Boeing 737-300s with options for six next-generation -700 models. Deliveries would begin in May 1997.
Sadly, financial success was not forthcoming for the airline, and in its first three years, it lost US$90m. Operations were transferred from COS to Denver’s new International Airport (DEN) in 1997 in an attempt to turn around its fortunes.
Despite hopes of a merger with fellow DEN carrier Frontier Airlines (F9), the airline entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy Protection In December 1997. Reorganization plans that hoped for an “imminent” turnaround in its fortunes failed, and the “flying billboard” was grounded.