By William Lehman - US Airways Flight Attendant
The Story of Piedmont Airlines starts in the 1930s with a man who would guide Piedmont through much of its life, T.H. (Tom) Davis. When Tom Davis was sixteen years old, he would go home daily to eat lunch. One day his father suggested to him that he take a flying lesson at nearby Winston-Salem airport. Davis had already secretly been taking lessons, so he jumped at the chance to openlycontinue his love of flying.
In the summer of 1939, Davis was offered a job by his former flying instructor L.S. McGinnis to sell airplanes for Camel City Flying Service. McGinnis had recently obtained the franchise for both the Stinson Reliant and Piper Cub aircraft. Davis accepted the job knowing that he could now be paid to fly as he delivered new aircraft to customers.
In 1940, Charles Norfleet and R.J. Reynolds Jr. became involved with Camel City Flying Service. Norfleet was a banker who responsibilities included Supervisor of Forsyth County Airport. Reynolds on the other hand had loaned McGinness start up capital to get Camel City Flying Service off the ground. McGinnis had failed to pay back any of the loan, so Reynolds approached Davis to ask if he was interested in being in the aviation
business. Reynolds suggested that if Davis could raise the money to pay off McGinnis’ loan note, he would ensure that Davis become the principal stockholder in the company. Davis accepted the challenge and was able to raise enough capital to pay off McGinnis’ loan.
On July 2, 1940 with funding in place, Camel Flying Service ceased to exist and a new company was born called Piedmont Aviation, Inc. with Davis in charge. Davis’ new company was in the backyard of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina where the Wright Brothers had made their famous first flight. Davis was proud of that fact and set out the make his new company to North Carolina in the forefront of aviation. Davis’ first motto was “Piedmont sets the pace.” This would lead him to nickname all Piedmont aircraft “Pacemakers,” a tradition that would stay with Piedmont throughout its history.
For the first year and a half, Piedmont Aviation was engaged in aircraft sales and service, flight training, and charter operations. To supplement income for Piedmont, pilots would give plane rides over the town on Sundays for $3.00 per passenger. Davis continued to expand by establishing other retail aircraft dealers throughout North Carolina.
With the United States drawn into World War II, Piedmont Aviation had established the first federally approved aircraft and engine overhaul facility in the South. Due to Davis’ outstanding reputation, the company would train many students from allied countries in Central and South America as Flight Instructors to boost the allied effort. As the war was drawing to a close, Davis knew the future of his company depended on starting a commercial airline. On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), the application to begin scheduled airmail service was filed with the Civil Aeronautics Board (C.A.B.). Davis’s plan for starting service closely mirrored another new upstart airline called All-American Aviation, the predecessor to Allegheny Airlines. On July 11, 1944 the C.A.B. established a new type of airline class called "feeder airline".
In 1945, Piedmont Aviation ordered six 14-seat Lockheed Aircraft. Davis was highly impressed with the prototype and felt it was the perfect plane for his new airline, however Lockheed decided not to build the aircraft forcing Davis to scramble to get his hands on some used Douglas DC-3s.
On April 4, 1947 Piedmont was awarded route authority as a feeder airline in North Carolina and the Ohio River Valley. Davis was surprised to learn that other airlines filed objections to Piedmont’s route authority. The objecting airlines were new Charlotte based State Airlines and Eastern Airlines. State Airlines had requested similar routes that had been awarded to Piedmont. Eastern claimed that Piedmont would be operating north to south route system in markets that Eastern already served. Based on the filed objections, the C.A.B. agreed to re-review the case, preventing Piedmont from beginning operations. With the review process on going, Davis decided to acquire a few used DC-3s. State Airlines became aware of this and filed another objection with the C.A.B citing that Piedmont should not be acquiring aircraft and to do so was a blatant disregard for the authority of the board. After careful examination and review on December 12, 1947, the C.A.B. proceeded to uphold its earlier decision and for the second time awarded Piedmont an operating certificate. State Airlines filed yet another objection, which the C.A.B. denied. State Airlines then filed another motion before the United States Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.
On January 1, 1948, Davis created the airline division of Piedmont Aviation, called Piedmont Airlines. On February 20th, with a three-year temporary certificate issued by the C.A.B., Piedmont began operations with a six-stop service between Wilmington, North Carolina and Cincinnati, Ohio. Fourteen days later a second six-stop service began between New Bern, North Carolina and Louisville, Kentucky. Piedmont’s new routes were performing so well that Davis continued to push for more flights. Piedmont added multi-stop routes from Norfolk to Cincinnati and Wilmington to Roanoke. By the end of the first year Piedmont had flown over 39,000 passengers with a profit of $12,000 using two owned and one leased DC-3.
In 1949, the Court of Appeals reversed the C.A.B.’s decision to grant Piedmont a temporary operating certificate. Davis continued to have his attorney’s work on the case now being presented before the United States Supreme Court. The efforts paid off as the Supreme Court upheld the C.A.B.’s decision to certify Piedmont. State Airlines, having spent considerable money in trying to ground Piedmont, found itself out of time and money as it ceased operations without ever operating one revenue flight. Piedmont was awarded additional route authority to Newport News. By summer, Myrtle Beach was added. Piedmont officially rolled out its own paint scheme consisting of a white top, red and blue stripe running down the side of the aircraft and the Piedmont speed bird located just aft of the passenger door. The year ended with Piedmont having a fleet of 10 DC-3s.
In 1950, Davis took advantage of putting together complete packages including airfare working in cooperation with the University of North Carolina for the Cotton Bowl. Later in the year, Southern Medical Society charted Piedmont aircraft to fly medical personnel to their convention in St. Louis. Davis had letters sent to college students at Salem College encouraging them to fly Piedmont home for the holidays. By the end of the year, Piedmont carried 123,953 passengers.
In 1951, Davis knew the DC-3s were limited in range and comfort as passengers were forced to endure flying in rough weather year-round in the unpredictable south and east coast weather. Davis had Piedmont engineers develop very detailed specifications, which included a paper presentation on April 1st to the Automotive and Aeronautical Engineers in New York City. Davis called upon all aircraft manufactures in the United States and Europe trying to find a company willing to develop an airliner that fit the specific Piedmont expectations. The year ended with Piedmont carrying 189,131 passengers.
In May 1952, after numerous hearings and review, the C.A.B. renewed Piedmont’s operating certificate. In its decision, the Hearing Board stated that for the record that Piedmont ran such an outstanding operation and provided much needed air service to several communities, it warranted extending the certificate for another seven years. The C.A.B. awarded additional route authority between Charlotte to Bristol and Hickory, North Carolina, plus new markets Roanoke to Knoxville via Bristol, Beckley via Frankfurt/Lexington to Wilmington and New Bern. It was especially important for Piedmont to get this route authority as both American Airlines and Capital Airlines were dropping service to the smaller cities.
In 1954, Piedmont carried the one-millionth passenger, Ms. Ruth Ann Gee of Richmond, Virginia. This was a great achievement for a small local service carrier. Davis ordered all DC-3 interiors to be refurbished including new comfortable seats. After much negotiation with Forsyth County, Davis agreed to build a new hangar and office complex for Piedmont. Later in the year, Piedmont rolled out the "Piedmont Economy Plan." The year ended with a net income of $137,865 with a fleet of 16 DC-3s.
In 1955, Piedmont was awarded a permanent operating certificate by the C.A.B. as a local service carrier. In addition, the C.A.B. awarded Piedmont new routes including Charleston, West Virginia to Parkersburg and Columbus, Ohio, plus Charlottesville, Virginia to Washington National Airport.
On June 6, 1956, David held a press conference at Piedmont’s headquarters to announce that Piedmont was buying eight Fairchild F-27s for a total value of six million dollars with planned delivery of the first aircraft in 1958. In the announcement, Fokker stated that Piedmont’s specifications for a DC-3 replacement were largely responsible for Fokker teaming up with Fairchild in the United States in producing the F-27. Davis further stated that the F-27 would be configured to carry 36 passengers and the aircraft would also be equipped with air conditioning, weather radar, and very comfortable seats to show true “southern hospitality.”
In 1957, Davis was disappointed as the C.A.B. turned down Piedmonts request to serve Chicago. Piedmont continued very substantial planning and training of employees in preparation for the new F-27s that would be arriving in 1958. The year ended with Piedmont making a profit of $156,794.
On November 14, 1958, Piedmont placed the first Fairchild F-27 into service between Cincinnati and Norfolk after completing Federal Aviation Administration proving runs as well as training both pilots and flight attendants on the new aircraft.
In 1959, Piedmont continued to accept delivery of the F-27s, as the DC-3s were starting to be retired. With its large oval windows, air conditioning, and comfortable seats passengers loved the new airplane. The high wings made the aircraft very stable for pilots to fly in rough weather. Piedmont’s perfect safety record was shattered when on October 30, 1959 a full DC-3 crashed near Waynesboro, Virginia with the loss of all aboard. Davis made a point to attend all memorial service of passengers and crew. Piedmont operated a fleet of 17 DC-3s and 8 F-27s.
In mid 1961, Piedmont heard that Trans World Airlines (TWA) was putting its remaining 17 Martin 404s up for sale. Davis jumped at the opportunity buying all 17 for only $6.5 million, which was only half a million less than the eight-plane order from Fairchild. Because the Martin 404s like the F-27s were pressurized, Davis simultaneously put the remaining DC-3s up for sale. Piedmont spent $3.2 million to overhaul, paint, and install
weather radar on the Martin 404s. Piedmont started the first weekend discount airfare called the “xcursion plan.”
On January 15, 1962, the first Martin 404 was placed into service. In the spring, after much lobbying by Piedmont, including Davis himself, authority was granted to a long sought after city- Atlanta, Georgia. The C.A.B. awarded route authority to Atlanta from Charleston, Washington National, and Baltimore. At the same time, the C.A.B. allowed Piedmont to skip certain cities to provide more direct service. Several key south to north
routes were added allowing Piedmont to link the cities with what had previously been predominately east-west routes.
On February 20, 1963, Piedmont retired the last DC-3 “Great Smokies Pacemaker,” which was also the 15th anniversary of the first flight. Many Piedmont employees came out to say good-bye to the faithful Douglas aircraft as the company aggressively added used 44 seat Eastern Airlines Martin 404s to the fleet.
In 1964, Douglas Aircraft flew its brand new DC-9 down to Winston-Salem to pitch the plane to Davis. Boeing, not wanting to be left out by Douglas brought a Boeing 727-100 for his team to consider. Piedmont ended the year with a fleet of 23 Martin 404s and 8 F-27s.
In 1965, Piedmont continued to explore fleet replacement for the aging Martin 404s and Fairchild F-27s. Fairchild, who had teamed up with Hiller Aircraft, stretched the F-27 six feet in length and offered the plane to Piedmont. Davis immediately signed an order for ten FH-227s and decided that Piedmont would install the interiors and paint the aircraft. Davis also had Fairchild Hiller agree to take all the F-27s as partial payment for the new planes.
In June 1966, Davis flew to Seattle to sign a contract with Boeing for six Boeing 737-100s with options for six more. Davis picked the Boeing 737 over both the DC-9 and Boeing 727 because he felt the rugged twin jet was better suited for Piedmont’s route structure. Not long after the contract was signed, Boeing contacted Davis and wanted to know if Piedmont would like to modify the order for the slightly larger Boeing 737-200. With the promise of better short field performance more passenger and cargo capacity, Davis shifted the order for the larger Boeing 737. In November, Piedmont received the first Fairchild-Hiller FH-227 turbo prop, being faster and more reliable than the Martin 404s, Piedmont started phasing out the Martins. On November 15th, Piedmont inaugurated service between Washington Dulles and New York. On November 20, Piedmont flight 101 carrying only the two pilots and one flight attendant crashed at New Bern, North Carolina.
In early 1967, with the new Boeing 737-200s more than a year away from entering service, Davis arranged for a lease of two tri-jet Boeing 727-100s. Both aircraft entered service on March 15th. A little more than 4 months later as a Piedmont Boeing 727 took off from Ashville; it was hit by a private Cessna 310 resulting in the crash of both aircraft with no survivors. Piedmont, still very much a “family airline,” was shaken to the core.
The airline was absolved of any responsibility by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The crash deeply affected all employees including Davis. Davis flew to Japan to sign an order for ten 60-seat Japanese made NAMC YS-11 turbo-props. Davis felt that the FH-227s were too small for several Piedmont markets and the YS-11 would be able to support additional planned growth. The YS-11 also had the same reliable Rolls Royce Dart engines that Piedmont mechanics already had years of experience working on. First delivery of the new turbo-prop was planned for mid 1968. On May 19, 1968, Piedmont’s first YS-11 named the “Cherry Blossom Pacemaker” was delivered from Japan. Davis had the passenger seating reduced from 60 to 58 to allow for extra storage and the installation of an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) to help keep the aircraft cool during the summer and warm during the winter. Davis was so happy with the aircraft that he increased the order from ten to twenty. On May 30, 1968, Piedmont’s first Boeing 737-200 dubbed the “Piedmont Pacemaker” arrived in Winston- Salem from its delivery flight in Seattle. The aircraft was initially configured with 94 seats and five across seating, over the standard six across that other airlines were ordering. On August
1st, tragedy would strike again as an FH-227 crashed short of the runway at Charleston, West Virginia. All but three people perished. Davis and his team struggled to try to understand why in three years there had been three crashes. Procedures and training was revamped top to bottom and Piedmont would not have another crash for the rest of the airline’s career.
In 1969, pilots at Piedmont struck the airline for twenty-one days. The dispute centered on having a flight engineer for the Boeing 737-200. Although Boeing had certified the aircraft to fly with two pilots, other airlines including United Airlines flew the aircraft with two pilots and a flight engineer. In the end, the pilots at Piedmont would fly the Boeing 737 with two pilots. On December 1st, Piedmont received approval from the C.A.B. to begin service at Chicago-Midway.
On February 14, 1970, having received all twenty YS-11’s, Piedmont retired the last Martin 404 operating flight 823 from Washington-National to Wilmington. Davis signed an agreement with the airport and city of Winston-Salem for a new building to house the Reservation Center. The year ended with Piedmont operating a fleet of 12 Boeing 737-200s, 21-YS-11s, and 9 FH-227s. In April 1971, Piedmont’s brand new Winston-Salem Reservation Center opened. The C.A.B. approved across the board a six percent airfare increase. The year ended with Piedmont carrying 2,851,158 passengers.
In 1972, Piedmont ended the year with a net profit of $3,323,317, while employing a total of 3,032 dedicated and hardworking professionals.
February 20, 1973 marked the 25th anniversary of Piedmont’s first flight. Piedmont, like other airlines, was affected by rising fuel prices sparked by the oil embargo. Later in the year, the C.A.B. awarded Piedmont another important route, Louisville to Washington. By the end of the year 16 Boeing 737s, 21 YS-11s, and 9 FH-227s operated to 50 cities carrying a total of 3,536,619 passengers.
In 1974, Piedmont introduced a new red, white, and blue paint scheme with the speed bird proudly displayed on the tail. Clean and sharp, it was an immediate hit with both passengers and employees. Piedmont started reducing the FH-227 as two were sold to Ozark Airlines at a profit, while three new Boeing 737s were added to the fleet. The year closed with Piedmont operating 19 Boeing 737s, 21 YS-11s, and 7 FH-227s.
As 1975 closed, Piedmont’s fleet remained steady with 19 Boeing 737-200s, 21 YS-11s, and 4 FH-227s. Seventy percent of available seat miles were now on Boeing 737s as Piedmont continued to lobby the C.A.B. for more non-stop routes, while making a yearend profit of $204,293.
In 1976, Piedmont added a bi-centennial sticker to all aircraft to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the United States. In December, Piedmont retired the last Fairchild-Hiller FH-227, while taking delivery of another Boeing 737-200. The fleet now consisted of 20 Boeing 737s and 21 YS-11s.
In 1977, as the C.A.B. started to ease up on restrictive policies on route awards and pricing adjustments and with deregulation on the horizon, Davis continued to push for more non-stop routes. The C.A.B. was generous in granting Piedmont’s requests as Davis scoured the world for more Boeing 737s. Unable to find any Boeing 737s available for sale or lease and with increased capacity demands, Davis acquired six-used
Boeing 727-100s with deliveries planned in both 1977 and 1978. One of the used Boeing 727s was from Northwest Orient and was touted as being the plane that D.B. Cooper jumped out of over Oregon after hijacking the flight between Portland and Seattle.
In 1978, with deregulation approved by President Jimmy Carter, Piedmont immediately started flying more non-stop flights, while dropping smaller cities that could not support either the Boeing or YS-11 aircraft. Piedmont placed an order for new advanced Boeing 737-200 aircraft. Davis ordered the older Boeing 737s in Piedmont’s fleet to have new interiors installed including bigger overhead bins. Davis flew to New York to be part of the ceremony on Wall Street as Piedmont was added to the New York Stock Exchange. Piedmont aircraft had A.C.A.R.S. (Aeronautical Radio Inc. Communication and Reporting System) installed on all aircraft by the end of the year. This gave Piedmont pilots, schedulers, maintenance, aircraft routers, and dispatchers the ability to message each other regarding pertinent information relating to a flight. Piedmont created the
“hopscotch fare” to increase rider ship as the year closed with a record of 4.6 million passengers flying, as the new Boeing 737-200s started arriving in December.
In 1979, Piedmont continued to add new Boeing 737-200s as Davis decided it was time for the company to move toward an all jet fleet. As the year progressed, the YS-11s were slowly being withdrawn and sold. Air Florida surprised Piedmont with a take-over bid, which was quickly rejected by the Piedmont stockholders. Air Florida made no further attempts to acquire Piedmont.
In 1980, Davis flew to Seattle to receive a presentation on the new proposed twin jet narrow body Boeing 757. While Davis walked away believing the new plane was too big for Piedmont’s requirements, he did sign agreements to purchase more Boeing 737s.
In 1981, Delta, Western, and Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) started withdrawing and parking the Boeing 727-200s in their fleets. This was the break Davis was waiting for as Piedmont started acquiring the used tri-jets. The planes were refurbished and place into service. Piedmont established the first hub at Charlotte, North Carolina. On May 6th, Tom Davis who had guided Piedmont successfully for over four decades announced his retirement from the day-to-day operation, and became Chairman of the Board. William Howard, who was one of the more prominent Vice Presidents, was named President. Employees at Piedmont raised money to give Davis a Mercedes Benz, while the rest of the money raised went to Wake Forest University as a scholarship and the American Lung Association. Davis was deeply touched by the generously of the Piedmont employees. The year ended with Piedmont adding 11 Boeing 737-200s and four Boeing 727-200s to the fleet.
On March 14, 1982, Piedmont flew its last YS-11 turbo-prop, the “Shenandoah Valley Pacemaker.” The reliable Rolls Royce Dart engines had faithfully served Piedmont for over 24 years on three types of turbo-props that Piedmont flew. Piedmont continued to accept delivery of more new Boeing 737-200s and used Boeing 727-200s. On July 1st, Piedmont opened a second hub in Dayton, Ohio. With the smallest aircraft in the fleet
now being the Boeing 737, Howard starting looking for a feeder airline to feed traffic from smaller cities to Piedmont’s hubs. Late in the year, Piedmont rolled out a “take the family fare” where family members could travel with a full fare passenger for as little as $29 each way. This caused Piedmont traffic growth to explode and immediately grab additional used Boeing 727s from Delta, All-Nippon, and PSA.
In June 1983, Piedmont boarded a record one million passengers in a one-month period. On July 15th, Piedmont opened its third hub in Baltimore, Maryland. With little congestion and plenty of gate space, it fit perfectly creating a three-hub triangle. Sixteen Presidential Suites were opened across the Piedmont route system. The clubs were specifically designed for businessmen and women who wanted a quiet area to work,
while a dedicated staff of Piedmont employees provided cocktails and handled all boarding needs. On November 1st, Salisbury, Maryland based Henson Airlines became a subsidiary of Piedmont. Henson had originally been an Allegheny Commuter for US Air and the move caught US Air by surprise. Henson had a fleet of Beech 99s, Short 330s, and DeHavilland Dash 7s with a large traffic base to feed Piedmont into and out of Baltimore.
In January 1983, Howard caught wind that Garuda Airlines of Indonesia was phasing out its fleet of Fokker F-28-1000s and returning them to Fokker. Davis had looked at the F-28 years earlier, but decided the aircraft at the time were too small and expensive to operate on Piedmont’s route system. However, with deregulation and the very low cost of acquiring the fleet at a mere 3 million dollars each after Fokker had refurbished the
planes. Howard jumped at the chance and Piedmont acquired the entire fleet.
April 1, 1984 was a big day for Piedmont as the first F-28-1000 inaugurated servicebetween Lexington and Chicago, while the first two transcontinental flights using Boeing 727-200s inaugurated service from both Charlotte and Dayton to Los Angeles. The Boeing 727-200s were the first aircraft in the Piedmont fleet to have first class with 12 seats. On November 1st, San Francisco was added from both Charlotte and Dayton. At the end of the year, Piedmont entered the major ranks as revenues passed the one billion dollar amount. Piedmont broke all previous records as 13 million passengers flew the speed bird. Howard closed the year with an order for 15 firm and 15 options for the brand new Boeing 737-300 aircraft, while the fleet was made up of Boeing 727, Boeing 737-200s, and Fokker F-28s.
On May 1, 1985, after much negotiation, Sunbird Airlines (who would later become CC Air) became the second Piedmont Commuter Airline, specifically feeding the Charlotte hub. Piedmont was gaining a lot of positive publicity as many smaller cities regained scheduled service that had been lost in deregulation. On June 1st, Piedmont placed the first Boeing 737-300 into service. Initially the aircraft would be delivered in an all coach seating for 138 passengers, but was later reduced to eight first class and 120 coach seats when the planes were deployed on transcontinental routes. The Boeing 737-300 was so popular and with the great reduction in fuel burn over the Boeing 727-200, Howard converted the options to firm orders and signed for additional 17 planes. On October 2nd, after much speculation, Howard announced that Piedmont was buying Utica, New York based Empire Airlines. With Empire Airlines, strong northeast route system and larger 75 seat Fokker F-28-4000 aircraft it was the perfect fit for Piedmont. Later in October, after studying the Florida market for some time, Howard created the “Piedmont Shuttle” operating to ten intra-Florida cities with a dedicated fleet of nine F-28’s operating 68 flights a day. In November, Jetstream Airlines became the third commuter airline to join Piedmont. Jetstream fed flights into and out of Piedmont’s Dayton hub. Now Piedmont had strong regional feed into all three hubs. In December, Henson Airlines started a feeder service in Florida called “Florida Shuttle Link” in cities that could not support the F-28. This allowed Piedmont to further gain a strong foothold in Florida.
In January 1986, the City of Charlotte, Charlotte-Douglas Airport Authority and Howard petitioned the Department of Transportation to use Charlotte as a gateway airport for service to London Gatwick Airport. The City of Tampa also petitioned the D.O.T. to support Charlotte. Piedmont was competing against Delta who wanted the route authority from Cincinnati, and American who had established a new hub in Raleigh/Durham. Howard, anticipating that Piedmont would receive the route authority flew to Seattle to sign a six-plane order for new Boeing 767-200ER, as well as being the launch customer for the new Boeing 737-400, a first for Piedmont. On February 1st, Piedmont completed the merger with Empire Airlines. Six weeks later Brockway Air joined the Piedmont Commuter network, further strengthening Piedmont’s presence along the northeast corridor. In Early September, Britt Airways who had been part of the Piedmont Commuter network was dropped, as Britt became part of Texas Air Corporation. Another commuter Jetstream who was outright purchased also left the network. The other Piedmont Commuters picked up the void as Piedmont continued to break record numbers in passenger boardings.
In January 1987, Norfolk and Western Railroad filed appropriate paperwork with the D.O.T. and the Securities and Exchanges Commission to buy Piedmont. While Norfolk and Western Railroad upped the anti in February to a 1.5 billion dollar cash offer, another airline, US Air, made an offer of $68 per share using both cash and stock. Howard initially rejected the US Air offer as he felt US Air was weaker than Piedmont. On February 18th, US Air’s Ed Colondy and the Board of Directors upped the offer to 1.6 billion dollars. Corporate raider Carl Icahn offered Piedmont a similar bid. Howard knowing Icahn’s reputation and with time running out called an emergency meeting of the Board of Directors to reconsider US Air’s offer. On March 9th, Colondy and Howard announced that Piedmont would accept US Air’s offer, creating the nations seventh largest carrier, since US Air had also purchased San Diego based Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) a few months earlier. In early May, Howard flew to Seattle to pick up the first Boeing 767, as Piedmont received notification that approval was granted to start service to London-Gatwick from Charlotte. On June 15th, Piedmont inaugurated transatlantic service with the Boeing 767 “Pride of Piedmont” flying the first flight. In early fall, Piedmont and US Air learned that objections had been filed against approving the merger and the matter was referred to an Administrative Law Judge. The underlying issue was that several communities in New York, Massachusetts, and West Virginia were concerned that air service would be cut significantly since both carriers flew into several of the same airports. Phoenix based America West Airlines filed an objection stating that the merger would actually bar competition since the new US Air would control most of the slots at New York-LaGuardia and Washington National Airport, while also strongly dominating the other New York and Washington D.C. area airports. In October, US Air and Piedmont provided written agreements to several communities and stated that in the northeast there was a guaranteed specific level of service that would remain firmly in place after the merger. Lawyers for both US Air and Piedmont jointly filed responses with both the Department of Justice and Department of Transportation that the merger would pose no competitive problems and that cities would not only have the same level of service, but would have additional markets that previously did not exist before the merger. Finally, the lawyers noted that the Administrative Law Judge assigned to the case had previously approved a much more overlapping route structure in the Republic/Northwest Airlines in 1986. On October 29th, the D.O.T. formally approved the merger, as Piedmont would become part of the US Air Group immediately, with plans to fully merge the two carriers by mid 1989.
In 1988, Piedmont operating as part of the US Air Group, received the first Boeing 737-400 aircraft. Because of the pending merger, the first few aircraft were delivered in the familiar Piedmont paint scheme but the aircraft was polished aluminum as opposed to a white body making the conversion to US Air much easier. Piedmont would also receive the last of the six Boeing 767s ordered. The rest of the year Piedmont employees
prepared for the transition to US Air.
On August 4, 1989, Piedmont Airlines flew off into the sunset, and officially became US Air. On August 22, 1999, T.H. Tom Davis who built Piedmont from a small local service carrier to the pride of the southeast passed away. Piedmonts rich and proud history continues to be an important part in many of today’s US Airways employees.
THE FLEET OF PIEDMONT AIRLINES
Douglas DC-3 24 1948-1963
Fairchild F-27 8 1958-1967
Martin 404 36 1961-1970
Fairchild-Hiller FH-227 10 1966-1976
NAMC YS-11 23 1968-1982
Boeing 727-100 8 1967-1968/1977-1983
Boeing 737-200 63 1968-1988
Boeing 727-200 34 1981-1988
Fokker F-28-1000 20 1984-1988
Fokker F-28-4000 25 1985-1988
Boeing 737-300 47 1985-1988
Boeing 737-400 ordered by Piedmont/delivered to US Air Group
Boeing 767-200ER 6 1987-1988