West Coast Airlines

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West Coast Airlines
Founded 1941
Ceased operations 1968
Operating bases Seattle, Washington
Focus cities Seattle, Washington
Headquarters Seattle, Washington

West Coast Airlines was a regional airline (then called a "local service" airline) linking smaller cities with larger cities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana, California and north to Alberta in Canada.[1] Its headquarters was in the Westlake area of Seattle, Washington.[2]


West Coast was formed in 1941 and acquired Empire Airlines (formerly Zimmerly Airlines) in 1952.[3] The company was based at Boeing Field, Seattle, and began scheduled passenger service in 1946 with a fleet of DC-3s marketed as Scenicliners.[4]

A promotional film produced for the company in the 1960s stated that in 1946 the Civil Aeronautics Board granted the first regional airline certificate to West Coast Airlines.

In July 1953 West Coast scheduled flights to 32 airports in Washington, Oregon and Idaho; in May 1968 it flew to 36 airports including 29 in those states. Like other Local Service airlines West Coast was subsidized; in 1962 its operating "revenues" included $6.6 million from passengers and $5.4 million for "mail".[5]

West Coast was the first local service airline in the U.S. with turbine airliners when it started Fairchild F-27 flights in September 1958. In June 1968 West Coast was the first airline to order Fairchild 228s with the acquisition of three planned, but the 228, a smaller variant of the Fokker F28 Fellowship, never made it to production.[6] The only jet operated by West Coast was the Douglas DC-9-14 with 75 seats in an all coach configuration.

On July 1, 1968 West Coast merged with Pacific Air Lines and Bonanza Air Lines to form Air West, which became Hughes Airwest in 1970. In 1968 West Coast operated Douglas DC-9s, Fairchild F-27s, Douglas DC-3s and Piper Navajos. The DC-3s were not transferred to Air West and were retired. The West Coast route system then included cities in Idaho, Oregon and Washington State and several in Montana. San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento in northern California were added in 1959 with Salt Lake City being served later. West Coast's only international destination was Calgary, Alberta which was served with Fairchild F-27s from Spokane. Virtually all West Coast flights at Seattle used Boeing Field (BFI) instead of Seattle/Tacoma Airport (SEA). Following the merger of West Coast with Bonanza and Pacific, Air West continued to use Boeing Field until it moved all flights to SEA around 1971.[7]

The April 28, 1968 West Coast Airlines timetable listed the following cities served with DC-9s:

  • Boise, ID
  • Eugene, OR
  • Medford, OR
  • Pasco, WA
  • Portland, OR
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA - Boeing Field
  • Spokane, WA
  • Walla Walla, WA
  • Yakima, WA

Other cities saw Fairchild F-27s, Douglas DC-3s or Piper Navajos (or, in 1966, Aztecs).

West Coast's lineage runs through a string of mergers: In 1980 Hughes Airwest was acquired by Republic Airlines which had been created by a merger of Southern Airways and North Central Airlines in 1979. In 1986 Republic Airlines was acquired by Northwest Airlines (Northwest Orient Airlines until then). The Delta-Northwest merger with Delta Air Lines as the surviving air carrier was completed in 2010.

In 2001 an attempt was made to resurrect the West Coast Airlines name, with plans for an airline based in Concord, California, to connect several Northern California cities with Las Vegas, Reno and San Diego. The effort ended in bankruptcy.[8]

An airline with the similar name West Coast Air operates floatplanes between Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

Notable accidents[edit]


  • Douglas DC-3
  • Douglas DC-9-14
  • Fairchild F-27
  • Piper Navajo (PA-31 model)


  1. ^ West Coast Airlines routemap 1961
  2. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. April 13, 1967. 598.
  3. ^ Flight Global Archive article, March 1953
  4. ^ West Coast Airlines timetable 1950
  5. ^ Moody's Transportation Manual 1964
  6. ^ "What happened to the Fairchild 228?". AAHS Journal. Spring 1998. 
  7. ^ One exception: in 1967 three Navajo flights a day did CLM-SEA-BFI-CLM.
  8. ^ Ron Leuty (January 11, 2002). "Startup airline makes landing in bankruptcy". San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved November 1, 2009. 
  9. ^ National Transportation Safety Board: Aircraft Accident Report. West Coast Airlines, Inc DC-9 N9101. Near Wemme, Oregon, Adopted: December 11, 1967