Golden West Airlines

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Golden West Airlines
Golden West Airlines logo
IATA ICAO Callsign
GW GWA Golden West
Commenced operations 1967
Ceased operations April 1983
Fleet size de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter; HFB-320 Hansa Jet; Short 330; de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7
Destinations See below
Headquarters Long Beach, California, United States
Golden West De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter at Los Angeles International Airport in 1970
Golden West Airlines De Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7, 1981
Golden West Airlines Short 330, 1982

Golden West Airlines (IATA: GWICAO: GWACall sign: Golden West) was a commuter airline that operated flights on a high volume schedule in California. It ceased operations in 1983.


The original Golden West Airlines, headquartered at Van Nuys, California, was founded in 1968 and operated out of Terminal 4 at Los Angeles International Airport with a fleet of de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter and HFB-320 Hansa Jet aircraft, serving Pomona, Riverside, Santa Ana, and Ventura. This airline ceased operations on March 11, 1969 .

Aero Commuter, founded in December 1967 and based in Long Beach, operated flights between Long Beach, Los Angeles International Airport, Avalon, Burbank, and Fullerton. It also acquired Catalina Air Lines (which had been founded in 1953 as Avalon Air Transport). By 1968 service had expanded to include Apple Valley, Bakersfield, El Monte, Ontario, Oceanside, Palm Springs, Palmdale, San Diego, and Santa Ana. In 1969, it merged with Skymark Airlines (a Sacramento-based charter and commuter airline founded in February 1968) and Cable Commuter Airlines (an Upland general aviation concern that had entered the commuter business in 1968, serving alm Springs, Palmdale, Santa Ana, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Ventura). Upon the demise of Golden West Airlines (above) in early 1969, Aero Commuter acquired several assets from Golden West, including its name.

As Golden West Airlines it continued to expand aggressively through the 1970s, adding service to San Francisco (SFO), Oakland, Bakersfield, Fresno, Oxnard, Santa Rosa, Merced, Modesto, Monterey, San Jose, Stockton and other smaller airports—many of which no longer have commercial service—such as Van Nuys Airport, Fullerton Municipal Airport, and the Airport in the Sky on Santa Catalina Island. In 1971 it attempted to acquire Los Angeles Airways, a local helicopter commuter airline, but the deal fell through. Golden West did acquire Catalina Air Lines, a seaplane operator that served Catalina Island off the coast of southern California with the Grumman G-21 Goose. These Grumman amphibious aircraft were operated as Catalina Golden West which was a division of Golden West.[1]

Because of California's growth and tourist appeal, Golden West was able to become an interline partner with a number of domestic and international airlines. According to the January 1, 1973 Golden West system timetable, these airlines included Aer Lingus, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeroméxico, Air Canada, Air France, Alaska Airlines, Allegheny Airlines, Aloha Airlines, American, Braniff International, Continental Airlines, Delta, Eastern, Finnair, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Hughes Airwest, Japan Airlines (JAL), Lufthansa, National Airlines, Northeast Airlines, Ozark Air Lines, Pan American World Airways (Pan Am), Piedmont Airlines, Scandinavian Airline System (SAS), Southern Airways, Trans World Airlines (TWA), United Airlines, Western Airlines, Wien Air Alaska and other air carriers.[2]

By the early 1980s, Golden West was the largest commuter airline in California, with a heavy schedule from LAX to Santa Barbara and San Diego. Its fleet had grown to include larger aircraft such as the Short 330 and 50-passenger de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7. The Dash 7 was the largest aircraft ever operated by the airline. A huge debt service, among other factors, drove Golden West Airlines out of business in April 1983.[3]


The Golden West fleet consisted of:

Destinations in 1982[edit]

According to the July 1, 1982 Golden West system timetable route map, the airline was serving the following destinations in California:[4]

  • Bakersfield (BFL)
  • Fresno (FAT)
  • Lake Tahoe (TVL)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Monterey (MRY)
  • Ontario (ONT)
  • Orange County (SNA) (now John Wayne Airport)
  • Oxnard (OXR)
  • San Diego (SAN)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Santa Barbara (SBA)

Former destinations[edit]

Prior to 1982, Golden West served the following destinations in California at various times during its existence:[5][6][7]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

On January 9, 1975, Golden West Airlines Flight 261, a de Havilland Twin Otter, collided with a Cessna 150 over Whittier, California, killing 14 people in both aircraft (all 12 aboard the Golden West plane and the 2 occupants of the Cessna).


  • R.E.G. Davies and I.E. Quastler, Commuter Airlines of the United States (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995), ISBN 1-56098-404-X


  1. ^, photos of Golden West Grumman Goose aircraft
  2. ^, Jan. 1, 1973 Golden West Airlines system timetable
  3. ^
  4. ^, July 1, 1982 Golden West Airlines route map
  5. ^, Golden West Airlines system timetables
  6. ^, Golden West Airlines system timetables and route maps
  7. ^, Golden West Airlines system timetables