THE AIRPORTS

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

SACRAMENTO

SMF 

The State of California, capital city location, Sacramento is located within the center of the states Central Valley. Commercial air service started in the 1930s when Sacramento Municipal Airport opened just south of the city.


December 1967
United Air Lines was the first national airline to start service into Sacramento in the 1930s as a destination on the carriers multi-stop Los Angeles to Seattle route. Over the next 30 years, the airline then served Sacramento as an intermediate stop between San Francisco and Reno. As many of the pistion-engined aircraft were replaced by jet aircraft during the early 1960s, a few flights survived until eventually being replaced by 1970. Seen being turned-around for a morning flight to Reno is N37544, a Douglas DC-6, delivered new to the airline in May 1950.

 

 

May 1968
Skymark Airlines was a small regional airline started in February 1968 to provide a "commuter" service for cities in the north and central valley areas of California. Although based in Sacramento, the airline focused its services from a San Francisco "hub" with flights to six cities using the de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter. Sacramento had flights to South Lake Tahoe, Bakersfield, Oakland and Chico which provided feeder service for main-line flights at the airport. Only after a year after starting service, Skymark was purchased by Long Beach based Aero Commuter and was eventually absorbed into the Golden West Airlines banner in 1969. Parked on the tarmac and awaiting passengers for another local flight is N950SM, a de Havilland DHC-6-100 Twin Otter, delivered to Skymark Airlines in December 1967.

 

 

August 1977
Swift Aire was established in 1969, as a local commuter to provide service from San Luis Obispo, California when services to the airport were reduced by regional carrier Airwest. Early service connected San Luis Obispo with Sacramento via San Jose and was flown with a Piper Navajo aircraft. Realizing the need for increased passenger capacity a few years later, the airline settled on purchasing two used de Havilland Riley Heron four-engined airplanes with a capacity of 15 passengers. The two planes were delivered in late 1970 with services starting in February 1971, and brought a new level of comfort and service to the airline, including the introduction of their first flight attendants. Parked on the ramp, awaiting a southbound flight later in the day is N416SA, a de Havilland DH.114 Riley Heron.

 

 

August 1977
As Swift Aire continued to grow they added better equipment was needed to compete with other commuter and regional carriers on similar routes. To handle more passengers and longer flight segments, the company purchased the rather unique Aerospatiale high-winged turbo-prop. With a passenger capacity of 26, the plane was able to easily cover some of the longer routes in the system including San Luis Obispo-Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo-San Jose, and Sacramento-Fresno. Seen starting her engines and getting ready to depart the ramp in the "new" Swift Aire color scheme is N419SA, an Aerospatial Nord.262A.

 

 
August 1977
One of the more unique visitors to the Sacramento International Airport was the VIP version of the DC-9 used by Vice President Walter Mondale at the time. The United States Air Force VC-9, was operated by the 89th Military Airlift Wing based at Andrews Air Force base in Maryland and used for executive transport. When operating with the Vice President on board the aircraft had the familiar call sign Air Force 2. Parked on the ramp during a visit by Mondale to the Sacramento area is USAF 31681, a Douglas VC-9C (DC-9-32), delivered new to the Air Force on February 21, 1975.

 

 

March 1978
Western Airlines started service to Sacramento in May 1962 with non-stop flights to Los Angeles using a Lockheed Electra. Over the next ten years, the airline expanded routes from the airport and introduced jet services. By 1978, Western had flights from Sacramento to Los Angeles, Ontario, Salt Lake City, and Seattle using a mixed fleet of both the Boeing 727 and 737 equipment. Taxiing up to the passenger terminal in the 70s era "Swizzle Stick" scheme is N2826W, a Boeing 727-247, delivered new to the airline on May 24, 1977.

 

 

April 1978
Hughes Airwest assumed the routes of carrier Airwest when the airline was purchased in 1970, by Howard Hughes. Previous to Airwest, both Pacific Air Lines and West Coast Airlines had provided flights to Sacramento. When Pacific Air Lines, West Coast Airlines and Bonanza Air Lines were merged to form Airwest in 1968, the airline had flights to five cities in both California and Oregon. By 1978, Hughes Airwest had flights from Sacramento to Fresno, San Francisco and Eugene, Oregon and added service a year later to both Seattle and Las Vegas. Pulling into its parking slot on a soggy ramp is N912RW, a Douglas DC-9-31, originally delivered to Hawaiian Airlines in April 1968, and subsequently purchased by Hughes Airwest in March 1976.

 

 

May 1978
Oakland, California based World Airways was a leading U.S. supplemental carrier started in 1948 to focus on contract passenger and cargo operations, especially military contract flights through the 1960s and 1970s. On occasion World Airways gold and red accented aircraft were seen at Sacramento for charter flights or pilot training opportunities. Taxiing inbound to the passenger terminal tarmac is N103WA, a Douglas DC-10-30CF, delivered new to the airline on March 7, 1978.

 

 

May 1978
Although not a regular visitor for passenger services into Sacramento, Western Airlines DC-10s were occasionally seen using the long, single 8,600-foot runway for pilot training activities out of their Los Angeles base. Taxiing toward Runway 16 for departure is N906WA, a Douglas DC-10-10, delivered new to the airline on June 3, 1975.

 


December 1979
Supplemental airline Transamerica provided extensive military and government charter flights with its fleet of Douglas DC-8s, Douglas DC-10 and Boeing 747 aircraft. The Sacramento area was host to numerous military bases including McClellan, Beale, and Mather Air Force Bases and personnel were occasional routed through the civilian airport. Seen starting to turn away from the passenger terminal for a charter flight is N4864T, a Douglas DC-8-63(CF), originally delivered new to Transamerica predecessor, Trans International in April 1969, and after various leases was returned to Transamerica in November 1979..

 

 

December 1979
Legendary carrier Braniff International Airways which started flights in 1930, had become a formidable airline in the United States and Latin America by the mid-1970s. With the introduction of the deregulation legislation in 1978, Braniff took advantage of the new "open" market and expanded its domestic route network by 50%. On December 15, 1978, the airline added sixteen new cities and thirty-two new routes, most to secondary cities where Braniff hoped its signature service would be welcome. Sacramento was one of those cities and service was started to Las Vegas (continuing on to Dallas-Ft. Worth) using both the Boeing 727 and Douglas DC-8. Braniff quickly realized its massive expansion hurt the airline financially and many cities were dropped a year later, including Sacramento. Taxiing up to the passenger terminal after having landing is a Douglas DC-8-50 in the two-tone, blue "Flying Colors" scheme.

 

 

 
April 1981
Inland Empire was a Southern California regional commuter that was started in 1978, to provide services between Los Angeles and Grand Canyon. The airline acquired Swearingen Metroliner turboprops and extended its reach across the state. Flights eventually went as far north as Sacramento when services were started in 1980 to Fresno. Seen taxiing inbound toward the terminal complex is N5457M, a Swearingen SA-226TC Metro II, leased to Inland Empire in 1979.

 

 

May 1982
After the purchase of Hughes Airwest by Republic Airlines in September 1980, the new carrier continued to serve Sacramento with daily flights to Fresno, Phoenix and San Francisco using a mix of Douglas DC-9 and Boeing 727 equipment. Seen rolling out on Runway 16 in reverse thrust after having landed is N948L, a Douglas DC-9-14, originally with Bonanza Air Lines.

 

 

June 1982
American Airlines became the second national airline to inaugurate service to Sacramento when flights were started in early 1981 to Dallas-Ft. Worth. The twice daily non-stop service allowed passengers hundreds of connections through its Dallas-Ft. Worth hub. Seen being pushed back from the terminal for a morning departure is N1932, a Boeing 727-23, delivered new to the airline in January 1967.

 

 

June 1982
WestAir Airlines was a commuter airline that had started service as STOL Air Commuter based in San Rafael, California and changed its operating name in 1978. WestAir provided commuter flights across smaller communities in Northern California with connections to the larger Bay Area airports. Sacramento had service to Chico, Redding, and San Francisco using the airlines small fleet of Cessna aircraft. Parked on the ramp and being readied for another flight is N2716L, a Cessna 402C "Businessliner."

 

 

December 1982
Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) was the first U.S. airline to order the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft in 1978, as a replacement for its fleet of Boeing 727s. The first MD-80 was delivered to the airline in December 1980 and the 156-passenger airplanes were soon seen throughout the PSA network. Sacramento first saw the "Super 80" introduced in 1981 on flights between the carriers home base of San Diego. Having just been pushed back from the gate for a morning departure is N939PS, a McDonnell Douglas MD-81, delivered new to the airline on June 17, 1982.

 

 

May 1984
It took only a few years for WestAir Airlines to expand services and add turboprop equipment to its fleet, as the airline took advantage of other commuters that had merged or gone bankrupt and left many communities without air service. The airline added additional cities served from Sacramento including Concord, San Jose, and Fresno using both de Havilland DHC-6 and Short SH-330 equipment. Seen taxiing outbound for takeoff is N54AN, a de Havilland DHC-6-100 Twin Otter.

 

 

May 1984
Sierra Pacific was originally founded as a commuter airline to provide services from various points in California to the Mammoth ski resort in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. After deregulation in 1978, the airline refocused its efforts in contract charters for military, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Marshall Service using a variety of aircraft including the de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter, Convair 440 and 580s, and the Boeing 737-200. Parked on the ramp during a charter operation is N73121, a Convair CV-580, originally with United Air Lines as a Convair CV-340-31, and converted to turboprop in 1964.

 

 

June 1984
By 1984, Western had consolidated services to Sacramento to only six daily departures to both Los Angeles (4) and Salt Lake City (2) using both the Boeing 727 and 737 aircraft. Being pushed back from the gate for a morning flight is N4569N, a Boeing 737-2T4.

 

 

July 1985
AirCal introduced the -300 "space-age" upgrade to the Boeing 737 family in February 1985. Initial service saw the -300s on flights between Orange County and San Francisco as well as on services to the Pacific Northwest. As additional aircraft were delivered they replaced the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 and Boeing 737-200 on southbound flights. Seen taxiing away from the terminal and outbound for departure is N301AC, a Boeing 737-3A4, delivered new to the airline just two month earlier in May 1985.

 

 

July 1985
Frontier Airlines received permission to start service between Sacramento and Denver in January 1978 using Boeing 737s. A year later an extension was added to serve Redding, just 130 miles to the north. By 1985, Frontier was flying from Sacramento to Oakland, Reno, and Denver with daily 737 service. Taxiing in toward the terminal after having landed is N7340F, a Boeing 737-291, delivered new to Frontier Airlines on March 30, 1978.

 

 

Back to: The Airports