Chapter 10

A merger was brewing between three Regional carriers - West Coast, Bonanza and Pacific Airlines. Pacific operated Boeing 727 aircraft. It offered Boeing an opportunity to try to get the new airline, which was to become "Airwest." to replace the DC-9s. A performance and economic comparison shoot-out was held by Airwest. They hired a computer expert to gather the technical data from Boeing and Douglas to do a non-partisan comparison. Douglas management did not trust the non-partisan computer expert, but that was not unusual; they did not trust anyone - Manufacturers Paranoia.

During this shoot-out, I was to honcho this competition from our side of the field. Mel Olson, our computer expert, spent long tiring hours during this three month shoot-out. Douglas Management really got paranoid when I began to tell them that we were finding that the performance on the DC-9 was lacking when compared to the 737. It was not until they reviewed the certification policy during the original certification program that Engineering fessed up to the fact that they did not do as good a job as they could have, and left some performance benefits behind.

We were able to keep Airwest as a DC-9 operator only when we promised to re-certify the aircraft, which ultimately helped in other competitions. Later, we developed the variable flap system for future DC/MD aircraft. Gerry Thomas thanked me for the insight on the performance problem which allowed him to negotiate on a level playing field. I was still trying to figure out Don Talmage. Nothing more was said about Sales Engineering.

Airwest triple delivery, DC-9-30's

In the midst of these two campaigns, I made my first trip to San Antonio to meet Rolin King. My job was to assess Rolin and his plan for a new airline and see if he was for real. Rolin was from Harvard; this one I liked. He was sharp and his plan was to operate a simple airline from San Antonio to Houston and Dallas. This was in competition with Trans Texas and Braniff, who he thought were screwing up as airlines. I could not argue with this thesis. My report to Long Beach was that this was a possible airline start. Timing was not clear, but it could happen. On our next trip, we provided Rolin an analysis of the DC-9 on his planned route system.