Air California

Air California

Following my nearly ten years of hopping between various airlines my closet was now filling up with underused uniforms. During this period I’d gained some great flying experience to various corners of the globe and decided it was now time to commit to a long-range employment strategy. Fortunately, in 1978, the Airline Deregulation Act came into being.

A few friends from my original class at ONA had found jobs at an interstate airline in California. I was alerted to the fact that the airline was planning to expand beyond the states borders, and would soon be in need of experienced pilots. My good friends sent me an application and helped arrange for an interview with the Director of Operations and Chief Pilot. To these friends I remain, even today, eternally grateful.

Air California hired me to be in their next pilot training class. I was back in New York where I had just finished my tour with Rosenbaum Aviation when the telegram arrived. It read, “Please confirm your attendance for Boeing 737 pilot training class commencing on May 29, 1978.” My new wife and I were ecstatic, we would be moving to Santa Ana in sunny Southern California.

What followed was ten years of full bliss. I became part of a group of employees so dedicated to the success of the airline it is almost beyond description. We were part of a gleeful competition with fellow intrastate airline PSA which was based not far away in San Diego.

The flying was rigorous, we could have as many as eight to ten take offs and landings in a single day shuttling between various destinations within the state. The strategy had an expeditious nature to it, with a challenge to still provide good service to our passengers. We prided ourselves on that. Whatever we could do to beat PSA at its game we tried and in most cases succeeded.

When the economy faltered slightly our management came up with ten minute turnarounds to better utilize our fleet of aircraft. Ten minutes, block in to block out, involved deplaning passengers through the front exit while cabin cleaners boarded through the back cleaning seats and seatbacks as passengers made their way out. Ten minutes later we were taxiing out for departure.

Within a very short while the airline deregulation act took hold. No longer did the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) control airline routes and pricing. It faded into what was referred as its sunset and the industry became a free for all. Air California grabbed a new image and emerged as AirCal and began major expansions in out of state destinations; like Reno, Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle, and even Chicago O’Hare.


What we needed were more airplanes, more employees, which meant more pilots and the big change for me personally, more Captains. In less than two years I became a Captain again. I would remain in the left seat for the remainder of my flying career. Twenty-five years as a Captain, in a thirty-two year career, is almost virtually unheard of in the industry. I chalk it up to luck and the classic cliché; “being at the right place at the right time.”

I would never experience again the fun I had flying for this little airline. It had personality and style and a dedication of its employees that went beyond typical brand loyalties. Who would have guessed after a major industry shakeout, which had a lot to do with deregulation, some of the major airlines would no longer exist so soon afterwards. Pan Am and Eastern come to mind.

One that remained was American Airlines and in 1987 it chose to acquire our little home grown airline. Life changed again. The opportunity to fly long range wide body aircraft presented itself and I took advantage.

I would soon be flying the oceanic corridors across the North Atlantic again; Paris, London, Milan, Zurich, Stockholm, and Frankfurt, destinations where I took advantage of the layovers by visiting their Art Museums which were to me national treasures. I especially liked Paris. Later I would fly the Pacific enjoying the long haul to Tokyo. Having spent so much time in the finest of art museums one could imagine reignited my artistic interests and I began again educating myself in the craft. All thanks to American Airlines.

It was shortly before American took hold of my flying career that I discovered I had been adopted as a child. A situation I was totally unaware of; I was forty-five years old. That realization set in motion the fervor to find my biological parents. It didn’t take me long.

16 thoughts on “Air California”

  1. Ron. I always enjoy reading your stories and look forward to the next. Thank you for taking the time to write them and to share. Will you be publishing them?

  2. Thank you CAPTAIN for sharing your story; I too started my airline career with the era of Mr Six’s Continental Airlines (sadly we know their story as well) back in 1972 in their Pilot Training department Manual publications office and ended in cargo container control just before their filing chapter 11 to join the wonderful little Airline called Air Cal in 1983–nothing but good memories of Terminal 1 as passenger service agent with those quick turn-around we all worked so hard for–where I even remember manually adding the final payload sheet and giving it to our hard working pilot for verification before closing the door! Those were the days–the rest is history–I too retired from American with a total of 40 years in the industry and have nothing but wonderful memories of all the people and friendships made there!

  3. Ron, you are quite an amazing guy. Who would know that my friend Ronnie, back in the mid to late 50’s would live to have so many interesting things come into his life?
    So many events both negative and positive, yet still you stand here today,
    Still funny, still sweet, still you…….and yet so much you have experienced and so much to have and still be you! I am proud to have known you and to still know you after all these years. To not have seen you for so many years, yet to meet you again so many years later and Wahlah! There you are again and you are still my friend Ron! Always a pleasure to see you, talk with you and read about your adventures! Your friend, Barb Morris

  4. Great stories Ron. I loved flying with you on Air Cal & American. To Europe and back. Museums are my passion as well as I am now not only an MBA but An MFA. Not bragging just proud. And proud to be part of the family.

    Love your writing. I am a published author too, but in business.

    Thanks for the memories and when is the reunion?

    Always an Air Cal girl

    Maggie (Pena). McCain

    Happily single & dating. Isn’t life grand

  5. Ron as the TV commercial said: “Style, Aircal!”

    And I say talent and class: Capt Ron Hart

    Still flying 787 out of LAX, mostly to Aukland,
    We need to paint one up in Aircal colors……

  6. Ron,
    Only the best came out of AirCal and you were on top of that list!
    Love your stories and following the blogs.
    Chat more on Facebook.
    Old FA
    Kimberley (Flores )Fay
    My biggest dream is to own a Ron Hart Artwork

  7. Ron,
    Only the best came out of AirCal and you were on top of that list!
    Love your stories and following the blogs.
    Chat more on Facebook.
    Old FA
    Kimberley (Flores )Fay
    My biggest dream is to own a Ron Hart
    Fat boy is one

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.