My first flight into town came on a an airline born in San Luis Obispo, Swift-Aire. Scheduled airline service began March 20, 1969 with four flights a day. Flights had stops in San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento. Connections to Los Angeles would be added in June. The line also offered charter service in addition to the scheduled flights.
A March 6 editorial mentioned that the first regularly scheduled commercial service to the region was from Southwest Airways in World War II surplus DC-3 aircraft. Service ended when it was discovered that there were not enough passengers. At times service to the region was scheduled as “Paso Robles-San Luis Obispo”, leaving surprised air travelers standing beside the prairie runway in the north county.
Charles G. Wiswell, contractor and private pilot, had the idea to form a local airline and after months of bureaucratic bushwacking through the regulatory process was able to secure the routes. The Piper Twin Navajo carried nine passengers and the Aztec carried 5.
By the time I flew in the 1970s they had bigger planes but I remember that a window seat was uncomfortable as you had to twist your spine to conform to the concave bulkhead for the length of the flight. There was a simple shower curtain between the passengers and the flight crew. I recall hitting an air pocket and as the plain bounced around in the sky a six-year-old in the seat behind me said what everyone was thinking. “Mommie, I don’t want to crash.”
The we landed safely and we had spectacular views of coastal California as we flew north from Los Angeles.
According to a release from the company they carried 500 passengers a month the first year and employed 7.
As folks travel this week I’ll share a few stories from our only local airline.