I spent more than 18 years flying both the Boeing 737 and the 757 for America West Airlines (AWA). As such, I can certainly agree with the sentiment expressed in this AZ Republic article regarding the airline.
I started working for America West in January 1987 as a B737 First Officer. Two years later I upgraded to captain. I now currently fly the Airbus A319/320/321. Like many other employees at AWA, I thoroughly enjoyed working for the airline and always felt like I was part of a close-knit family. We always had that can-do spirit.
Now we’re all a proud part of the new American Airlines, with more than 100,000 employees flying around the globe, yet the original AWA crew will always remember where we started.
In my 18+ years with AWA, I’ve flown from Boston to Mexico City to Kauai, worked with a lot of great people and look forward to working with American.
It’s always great to catch up with Embry-Riddle alums and see where we’ve landed in the aviation/airline world.
This past week I flew a three-day trip with a Daytona Beach graduate. We had a great time reminiscing and comparing notes about our Riddle days. I spent three years on campus in Prescott before transferring to what is now known as the WorldWide campus.
We had a regional airline pilot in our jumpseat during the three days who also was a Daytona Beach Riddle student.
Later on, I had one of my Prescott classmates and his wife on board our A320 seated in the passenger cabin. He walked into the flight deck during boarding and we had fun remembering the old days on campus. Scott is a United captain who often flies the LA to Tokyo route.
I started with America West Airlines (AWA) in January 1987.
I never thought I’d admit this, but I will miss the “Cactus” call-sign!
Many years ago, we switched from the “America West” call-sign to Cactus. At the time, I thought this was one of the dumbest things I had ever heard. You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought. I was somewhat embarrassed. However, one does gets used to it. Always the rebel, I’ve grown very fond of the call-sign and will certainly miss it! Who knew. Oh well..
This came about due to several airlines having very similar FAA call-signs such as America West, Southwest and SkyWest Airlines, which would occasionally cause the Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) and airline pilots some communication problems on the very busy ATC enroute radio frequencies. This was certainly a possibility throughout the southwestern USA where America West operated the vast majority of its flights in those days.
The adoption of the Cactus call-sign by AWA was their attempt at resolving the issue, which it did, the problem was solved!
Please see the AWA route map from 1991 below where one can see the concentration of flights throughout the southwest.
Come the day, (estimated to be on April 8th), I can almost guarantee there will be a few missed radio calls by the now former Cactus pilots simply due to human nature. After all these years of being primed to listen for our call sign, Cactus, it’ll be an adjustment to our senses. There will be some second guessing, who was that for?
I do feel sorry for our ATC partners in the sky as there will suddenly be an additional 1,000+ daily US Airways flights on their radar screens now answering to the “American” call sign. An adjustment for the both of us.
Glad I’m not flying that day.
For additional information on the call-sign and the latest American / US Airways merger news, please click on this article.
Speaking of Cactus vs American, below is an Airbus A320 aircraft I recently flew into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport painted in the new American Airlines livery.
I took these two similar pictures (below) of Airbus A321 aircraft, which help to demonstrate the difference between the new exciting AA livery and the current US Airways livery.