Air Transport World

WestAir east: after a rocky start, WestAir's gamble on East Coast subsidiary, Atlantic Coast Airlines, appears to have paid off.

Many first-time airline presidents would not like to duplicate Kerry Skeen's first six months on the job as head of United Express carrier Atlantic Coast Airlines. Consider this short history: in October, 1989, Presidential Airlines, the United E press carrier operating out of Washington Dulles, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The following month, Skeen, then senior VP-marketing and sales for WestAir Holdings inc., ACA's Fresno, Calif.-based parent, traveled east to see how bad Presidential's situation was and whether WestAir could find a home there for another United Express child. In 1987, WestAir, at the request of United, formed a regional airline, NPA, in the Northwest after Alaska Air Group, Inc., bought Seattle-based regional airline Horizon Air. On Dec. 4, 1989, Presidential ceased operations entirely. it was time to act. Immediately, WestAir ferried four Jetstreams and three Brasilias to Dulles. A skeleton staff was transferred to Washington on a temporary basis to help out with start-up operations. Surprisingly, only a few employees came over from Presidential; most had obtained other employment earlier upon learning that Presidential was not long for this industry. ACA secured gates and ticket counters in the main terminal and was able to put its schedule in United Airlines' Apollo CRS.

Apply the paint later

Nevertheless, the airline looked, well, comical in those early days, living and operating out of a nearby Holiday inn. …

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