THE AIRPORTS

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

SAN DIEGO

SAN

The San Diego International Airport claim to fame can be based upon the fact the Charles Lindbergh tested the Spirit of St. Louis on the spot destined to become the city's airport.  After the historic trans-Atlantic flight, the city purchased the land and built a municipal airport and christened it San Diego-Lindbergh Field in recognition of Lindbergh's San Diego history. In June 1930, regular Air Mail service was started to Los Angeles and passenger flights began under United Air Transport (later United Airlines.) Airlines slowly added San Diego as a destination, especially due to the large military presence in the region. Hometown airline, Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA), started flying in 1949 and placed San Diego as a destination firmly on the map. By 1957, the airport was being served by five airlines including two national carriers, American Airlines and United Airlines. In 1967, a new, modern terminal was constructed and expansion of flights and airlines serving the airport commenced. By the 1970s, San Diego had added two more nation carriers, both National Airlines and Delta Airlines had over one-hundred flights daily and had non-stop flights to thirteen cities including Honolulu and Mexico City. The 1980s saw a surge of new airlines both international and national serve the airport as the destination of "America's Finest City" had finally come to fruition.

 

June 1962
National Airlines was able to trace its roots back to 1937 and its start as an air mail carrier between St. Petersburg and Daytona Beach, Florida. Over the next twenty-years, National Airlines evolved to become a formidable carrier along the Eastern Seaboard and Southeastern regions of the U.S. Seeking to extend its wings, the airline signed a interchange agreement with both Delta Airlines and American Airlines in 1951, to provide "one-plane" service between Miami and San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The National aircraft would travel as far west as New Orleans when the Delta crew would take over, followed by a change of crew in Dallas-Ft. Worth for which American Airlines would complete the flight west. During 1960, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) recommended that National be awarded routes as part of the Southern Transcontinental Service Case. This award gave National the rights to fly its own aircraft on west coast services directly from Miami and Houston. San Diego had National Airlines services start on June 11, 1961, to both Los Angeles and Houston, Texas, using a Lockheed Electra Turboprop. Only a year later on June 1, 1962, did National upgrade equipment on the route by introducing the Douglas DC-8 Jet on non-stop services from San Diego to both Los Angeles and Houston. For the next seventeen years, National Airlines proved a popular carrier at San Diego, eventually introducing the Douglas DC-10 Tri-jet on routes to Los Angeles, Houston and New Orleans, before its purchase by Pan Am in January 1980. Departing the ramp at the original passenger terminal building located on Pacific Coast Highway at San Diego Municipal Airport is N6573C, a Douglas DC-8-21, wearing the classic "Airline of the Stars" colors and delivered new to National in December 1960.

 

 

October 1967
Las Vegas based local carrier Bonanza Air Lines started service into San Diego in 1952, using a Douglas DC-3 as in intermediate station on its new multi-stop Phoenix-Los Angeles service. During April 1959, Bonanza Air Lines started the first jet-powered passenger service into San Diego using Fokker F-27A turboprop aircraft. In an effort to better compete with the mainline carriers on flights between major city pairs, Bonanza purchased the Douglas DC-9 with the first plane being delivered 1966. San Diego was introduced to the new DC-9, dubbed "Fun Jet," in early 1967, with flights to both Tucson and Los Angeles. The Bonanza DC-9s continued to serve San Diego until the airline was merged with Pacific Air Lines and West Coast Airlines a year later in 1968, with the formation of AirWest. Climbing out into an azure sky after taking off from Runway 27 is N948L, a Douglas DC-9-14, delivered new to Bonanza on June 29, 1967.

 

 

1968
San Diego International Airport had used a passenger terminal on the east side of the airport along Pacific Coast Highway. That original terminal had been in use since 1931, and with the growing demand for air travel was becoming rather inadequate to host the increase of traffic. When the jet age dawned at San Diego in 1960, the original terminal ramp became even more congested and the eight existing passenger gates increasingly crowded. The Port Commission issued a bond to construct a new airport terminal and related facilities. The new terminal would be on the southern end of the airport complex along Harbor Drive and would have over 1,000 parking spaces and twenty passenger boarding positions. The new terminal was placed into service on March 5, 1967, and the older one finally retired. Seen from the air, the new San Diego International Airport terminal is busy with activity. Seen on the ramp is two Western Airlines Boeing 707s (bottom left), an American Airlines Boeing 727, a United Airlines Douglas DC-8 and in the upper left of the terminal a lone Pacific Airlines Fokker F-27 sits awaiting passengers. (Postcard)


 

February 1968
American Airlines was one of the first commercial airlines to start service into San Diego. American became the first airline to start "jet" service into San Diego in August 1960, using their brand new Boeing 707 aircraft. Initial services were between San Diego and both Dallas and Los Angeles. By 1970, American had placed the 707 on most of the medium and transcontinental routes from San Diego including flights to Albuquerque, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson and Washington Dulles. Parked on the ramp at the new terminal and being serviced before another flight is a Boeing 707-123B.

 

 

April 1968
United Airlines was one of the first airlines to start passenger service into San Diego in 1930 as the last southern destination on its pioneering multi-city Pacific Coast service. For the next thirty years, United served San Diego from Los Angeles only, providing passengers convenient connections for flights continuing in the United system. United become the second airline (American was the first) to introduce jet flights in San Diego in September 1960, using the Boeing 720 on "Jet Mainliner" services to Los Angeles. When the airline received its first medium-range Boeing 727 in October 1963, the new planes were quickly rotated into the fleet replacing the larger jets on short and medium range services. San Diego saw the new tri-jet in 1964, and would be a familiar site at the airport for the next thirty years. Rolling out on Runway 27 after having just landed after a quick flight from Los Angeles is N693WA, a Boeing 727-173C, originally delivered to World Airlines as a "Combi" in September 1967, and subsequently purchased by United Airlines a month later.

 

 

September 1970
In an effort to better compete with mainline carriers and bring the airline into the "jet" age, Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) placed an order in 1964 for six, of the new Boeing 727-100 jetliners. The first 727 was placed into service on April 9, 1965, on the San Diego-San Francisco route followed by placement on the popular yet highly competitive Los Angeles-San Francisco flights. Public reception of PSA's low fare, jet service was beyond positive, and the airline sought to increase its jet fleet. In 1967, PSA ordered seven of the larger Boeing 727-200 series airplanes with a seating capacity of 158-passengers. The first Boeing 727-200 was delivered on December 19, 1967 and PSA was the first airline to place the "stretched" 727 into service on the west coast. The trusty Boeing 727 would serve as the foundation of the PSA fleet well into the early 1980s, when the last 727 flight was flown in November 1984. Seen holding short of Runway 27 for departure at San Diego Airport in September 1970 is N545PS, a Boeing 727-214. Note the "Super" titles on the engine nacelle, surely an effective marketing technique at the time.

 

 

September 1970
Western Airlines was one of the first passenger airlines to start service into San Diego in 1930, when flights were started to Los Angeles with Fokker F-32 aircraft.  Western continued to expand at San Diego and became a well established carrier for the next fifty-seven years. When Western introduced Boeing 737 service in 1968, San Diego was one of the first airports to host the new "Twin Jet", with services to Las Vegas, Palm Springs, and Long Beach. Taxiing out to Runway 27 is N4518W, a Boeing 737-247, in the classic "Indian head" color scheme.

 

 

September 1970
Although United Airlines wasn't the largest carrier at San Diego (actually fourth in terms of flights), the airline connected San Diego to eight cities nationwide including New York-JFK, Washington Dulles and Chicago. United was also one of only two carriers to provide non-stop service to Honolulu, Hawaii from San Diego. The airline used the Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 720 on the longer routes, as well as the shorter routes north to Los Angeles, and was using the Boeing 727 on routes to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Taxiing outbound for a morning departure is N7022U, a Boeing 727-22, delivered new to United Airlines in September 1964.

 

 

May 1972
United Airlines first introduced "Jet Mainliner" service to San Diego in September 1960, using the Boeing 720 on flights to San Francisco. During 1961, United placed its DC-8 on various services from San Diego including flights to both Chicago and San Francisco. By the early 1970s, the DC-8 was being used on most of the long-range flights from San Diego to Chicago, Honolulu, New York-JFK, and Washington Dulles. Taxiing out toward Runway 27 for a morning departure is N8020U, a Douglas DC-8-21, delivered new to the airline in January 1960.

 

 

July 1972
The flag carrier of the country of Mexico, had just completed a name change in early 1972, to a shortened version of Aeronaves de Mexico becoming just Aeromexico. Along with a name change came a new black and red color scheme with the traditional bold Aztec Eagle Warrior adorning the tail. San Diego was not a regular destination for Aeromexico, however the airline occasionally provided tour group charter flights from the airport to resort destinations in Mexico. Taxiing away for departure from the charter terminal, located at the east end of the airport when the original passenger concourse was once located is XA-SOY "Sinaloa", a Douglas DC-9-15.

 

 

April 1974
National Airlines service into San Diego had proved to be rather popular since the airline stated flights into the airport in 1961. Originally flying the Lockheed Electra then Douglas DC-8 on schedules to both Los Angeles and Houston, the airline eventually upgraded to the larger Douglas DC-10 and Boeing 727 during the early 1970s. Service continued on routes from San Diego to Houston and Los Angeles with new non-stop service to New Orleans added in July 1974. National continued to serve San Diego until its purchase by Pan Am in 1979. Taxiing out toward the runway for a mid-day departure to Los Angeles is N66NA "Shirley," a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10.

 

 

August 1975
An occasional visitor into San Diego was the Denver based travel club airline, Ports of Call. The over 45,000 member strong travel club was established in 1968 to provide charter and tour-group based flights world-wide. San Diego was a popular destination for both charter and member based flights and the airline's Convair 990 and Boeing 707 aircraft were utilized for the occasional service. Parked at the overflow ramp just west of the cargo terminal is N8258C, a Convair 990A Coronado(30-A), originally built just across the airport at the Convair plant in 1962.

 

 

September 1975
Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) sought a smaller aircraft to replace the aging Electra's and provide flights into the smaller secondary cities such as Fresno and Stockton. PSA eventually ordered twelve of the "Baby" Boeings with the first being delivered in September 1968. The 737 fleet only lasted a few years, as fleet standardization with the Boeing 727 drove PSA to dispose of the lower-capacity 737s by 1976. Parked on the ramp is N379PS, a Boeing 737-214, delivered new to PSA in October 1968.

 

 

September 1976
Intra-state carrier Air California, based at Santa Ana-Orange County Airport started "Sun Jet" service into San Diego in November 1970, with flights to both Oakland and San Jose. The entry into the San Diego market was a sensitive subject as the newer start-up, Air California, had stepped into Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) territory.  Air California was able to prevail and maintain service to San Diego well into the 1980s.Taxiing toward the gate is N468AC, a Boeing 737-293. This aircraft was subsequently lost in a landing accident at Santa Ana-Orange County airport on February 17, 1981, after a missed approach go-around conducted too late resulted in a gear-up landing.

 

 

March 1977
Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) continued to have a constant growth spurt throughout the early 1970s, so much so the airline had to lease aircraft from other companies to sustain schedules and routes. The various leased out aircraft were painted in full PSA colors and remained in the fleet usually just as long as their own ordered aircraft were delivered. Lined up for takeoff on Runway 27 and wearing the "psychedelic" pink colors is N693WA, a Boeing 727-173C, Combi version originally delivered to World Airways in September 1967, then leased to PSA for just over a year between April 1976 and May 1977.
 

 

 

September 1977
A rather unique visitor to the San Diego airport was Texas International Airlines. Although Texas International did not have scheduled service in San Diego, the airline was a participant in the International Prisoner Transfer Program which was started in 1977, to transfer prisoners back to their home countries. The flights to San Diego were specific to the US-Mexico transfer agreement and usually quite full due to San Diego bordering Tijuana, Mexico. Preparing to depart on Runway 27 is N3504T, "City of Albuquerque," a Douglas DC-9-32.

 

 

April 1977
Western Airlines ordered the Boeing 720 jet airplane in early 1960 to better compete with the major carriers (such as United) along the popular Pacific Coastal routes. Due to delivery delays, Western purchased two Boeing 707-139s, originally destined for Cubana Airlines (but withdrawn due to the US-Cuba tensions). Western's first jet service started on June 1, 1960, from Los Angeles to Seattle via San Francisco and Portland. San Diego was introduced to Western's Boeing 707 service in 1963 when the plane was used on services to Phoenix, then continuing on to Denver and Minneapolis. Eventually the Boeing 707 was placed on services between San Diego and Honolulu in 1970. Seen taxiing out to Runway 27 on an overcast morning is N93149, a Boeing 720-047B, originally delivered to the airline in April 1963.

 

 

August 1977
The first Boeing 727 received by Hughes Airwest in August 1977, was named "Spirit of Gamma," after Howard Hughes's Northrop Gamma aircraft he used to set three world speed records in 1936. This Boeing 727 was one of three, originally ordered, by Hughes Airwest for increased distance, performance and passenger capacity on new longer range routes. Although not a frequent visitor to San Diego, the Boeing 727 was occasionally used on routes between San Diego and Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, as well as being used for various sports charters. Seen turning onto the active Runway 27 for an afternoon departure is N721RW "Spirit of Gamma," a Boeing 727-2M7.

 

 

September 1977
Hughes Airwest was formed when eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes purchased AirWest airlines in 1970, adding his last name to the carrier. Prior to the Hughes purchase, AirWest had been formed by the 1968, merger of three "local service" airlines in the west, Bonanza Air Lines, Pacific Air Lines, and West Coast Airlines. San Diego saw service by two of the previous carriers, Bonanza Air Lines with services to Los Angeles, Tucson and El Centro, where as Pacific Air Lines had a sole San Diego-Long Beach service. Hughes Airwest maintained a small schedule from San Diego providing flights to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Tucson until its purchase by Republic Airlines in September 1980. Seen holding in position for takeoff on Runway 27 in the vibrant yellow "banana" color scheme is N920RW, a Douglas DC-9-31, originally delivered to Eastern Airlines in May 1968.

 

 

July 1978
Western Airlines introduced the Boeing 727 in October 1969, to supplement the existing Boeing 707 and 737 fleet. The airline specified the newer "stretch" series-200 version with a capacity of 135-passengers. The new 727s would be used on trunk services throughout the Western network and during the early 1970s saw service into San Diego from Denver, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Rolling for takeoff on Runway 27 for a flight to Salt Lake City is N2808W, a Boeing 727-247 Advanced, originally delivered to Western Airlines on June 13, 1972.

 


August 1978
Continental Airlines started service into San Diego in September 1976, using Boeing 727s on flights to both Denver and Houston. This new destination for Continental was in direct competition with United's flights to Denver and National's flights to Houston, however, Continental's signature service made it a viable choice for both business and pleasure travelers. Seen taxiing out to Runway 27 for a mid-day departure to Denver is N69740, a Boeing 727-224.

 

 


December 1978
Local commuter airline received its commuter certificate in 1968, to provide service to the desert resort town of Borrego Springs, located in the Anza-Borrego desert. The airline received its first Swearingen Metroliner in 1975, and started turboprop service between Borrego Springs, Palm Springs and San Diego. By 1978, Sun Aire had added Los Angeles and Burbank to it's route map and established itself as a reliable alternative to the "jet" carriers on the popular Los Angeles-Palm Springs route. The airline provided and maintained an important link between San Diego and Borrego Springs, a route overland taking about two hours over mountainous terrain  versus a 20 minute "hop" by turboprop. Seen approaching Runway 27 for a mid-day departure is N63SA, a Swearingen SA226TC Metroliner.

 

 


March 1980
By 1980, United Airlines was operating one-hundred eighty (180) Boeing 727 airplanes and using the versatile jet on a majority of its short and medium range services. From the eleven cities United was flying to from San Diego in early 1980, nine of the city pairs were being flown by the Boeing 727. From the short-hop north to Los Angeles to the non-stop flights to Cleveland, Ohio, the Boeing 727 was a perfect fit for San Diego service. Lining up on Runway 27 for a mid-morning departure is N7060U, a Boeing 727-22, delivered new to United Airlines on March 30, 1966.

 

 

September 1980
American Airlines was one of the last of the major airlines serving San Diego to introduced "wide-body" equipment at the airport. During summer of 1979 (after the return of the grounding of the DC-10s), American replaced its non-stop Boeing 707 service between San Diego and New York City with the Douglas DC-10. With a capacity of about 270-passengers, the DC-10 proved popular on the daily, transcontinental service to the Big Apple. Having just been pushed back from the West Terminal and awaiting taxi clearance is N107AA, a Douglas DC-10-10, delivered new to American Airlines on December 15, 1971.

 

 

September 1980
Republic Airlines was formed by the merger of both North Central Airlines and Southern Airways in July 1979. Republic became the first "airline" to form after the Deregulation Legislation passed a year before in 1978. The new airline had an extensive route structure east of the Rockies providing service to over one hundred cities and communities. Seeking to extend it reach west, Republic introduced service to San Diego from Minneapolis-St. Paul via Las Vegas, Nevada in April 1980. The new service used the Douglas DC-9 and completed a transcontinental route map for Republic, whereby service was now truly coast-to-coast. Only a few months later would Republic Airlines presence on the Pacific Coast be strengthened with the purchase of Hughes Airwest in September 1980. Parked at the gate at the East Terminal and still wearing the color scheme of previous operator North Central Airlines is N949N, a Douglas DC-9-31, originally delivered new to North Central Airlines on April 10, 1973.

 

 

November 1980
San Diego's hometown airline, Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) had placed the Boeing 727 as the basis for its intra-state operations and the foundation of it's fleet. The trusty Boeing trijet, had the reliability, passenger capacity and range to easily provide frequent flights throughout its multi-city schedule. Entering the 1980s, PSA had a fleet of thirty-one 727s and each was now wearing the updated colors of the more traditional red, red-orange and orange stripes versus the "hot pink" version of the early 1970s. Taxiing outbound toward Runway 27 is N791L, a Boeing 727-2Q8 on lease from ILFC (International Lease and Finance Corporation) and delivered to PSA on January 9, 1979.

 

 

November 1980
Delta Airlines started service into San Diego in June 1961, as a result of the carriers award of the Southern Transcontinental Route Case by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). That early service used both the Douglas DC-8 and Convair 880 on flights to both Los Angeles and Dallas-Ft. Worth. By the late 1970s, Delta Airlines had seven daily flights into the airport and had added non-stop service to it's home base of Atlanta to the schedule. In 1980, Delta placed the Boeing 727 on the non-stop flight to Atlanta as well as on new services to Phoenix, Arizona. Taxiing out to Runway 27 is Delta Airlines Flight 442 with non-stop service to Atlanta continuing on to Charlotte, South Carolina, using N507DA, a Boeing 727-232, delivered new to Delta Airlines on September 15, 1977.

 

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