Family Tree

Western Airlines

"Western Airlines was born out of the same pioneering spirit that settled the American West." Jerry Grinstein, Western (and future Delta) chairman and CEO, on Western's 60th anniversary in 1986.

When it merged with Delta in 1987, Western was the oldest continuously operating airline in the United States. Service started April 17, 1926, when Western Air Express took off carrying mail from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City.

Western quickly launched a long string of industry firsts. Adversity and practical business needs spawned innovations in radio communications, weather tracking, marketing and in-flight services. Some are still in use today.

Learn more about Western's 61 years of achievement. 

Western Historical Timeline, 1926-2004

Follow Western's history, decade by decade.

Beating the Odds Pdf cover

Beating the Odds: The First Sixty Years of Western Airlines

Colorful 22-page booklet commemorating Western's 60th anniversary of passenger service in 1986. Includes many photos and ads from Western's corporate archives, which came to Delta after airlines merged in 1987. 

See Western Booklet


Western Airlines Logo

Western Airlines Aircraft

Douglas M-1 (converted to M-2) 1926-1932
Douglas M-2 1926-1932
 Douglas M-4 1926-1931
De Havilland DH-4B 1926-1927
Ryan M-1 1927-1928
Fokker F-7A 1928-1929
Fokker F-10, -10A 1928-1935
Stearman C3B 1928-1930
Curtiss HS-2L 1928-1930
Loening C2H 1928-?
Sikorsky S-38A 1928-1929
Bach Air Yacht 1928-19?
General Aviation GA-43A
Lockheed Model 3 Air Express 1 purchased; damaged on inaugural flight when landing at Las Vegas, June 6, 1928; returned to Lockheed.
Breese 1929-19?
Boeing 204 1929-1931
Boeing 95 1929-1934
Fokker F-14 1929-1931
Fokker F-32 1930-1931
Stearman 4DM Mail plane, 1930
Boeing 40B-4 1930-1934, 1937
Fokker Super-Universal 1932-1934
Clark GA-43 1934
Boeing 247D 1934-1942
Douglas DC-2 1934
Douglas DC-3 1937-1967, first two delivered as DST-A sleeper version
Boeing 80A-1 1937-?
Ford 5-AT-C Special Used for scenic tours over Yellowstone Park, 1937-1938
Lockheed 12-A 1937-1938
Lockheed 18 Lodestar 1943/44-19?
Douglas DC-4 1946-1957
Convair 240 1948-1961
Douglas DC-6B 1952-1969
Lockheed L-188A Electra 1959-1974

Boeing 707


Boeing 720, 720B 1961-1980
Lockheed 749A Constellation 1967-1968
Boeing 737-200, -200 Advanced, -300 1968-1987
Boeing 727-200, -200 Advanced 1969-1987
McDonnell Douglas DC-10 1973-1987


More Information

  • YouTube: 1986 Western Airlines 60th Anniversary special episode of We're Western company video
  • YouTube: 1978 Western Airlines promotional film "The Only Way to Fly"
  • YouTube: Film clip of Western Airlines Douglas DC-3 and airport, ca. 1947
  • Ad*Access: Duke University's collection of Western ads
  • Airline Timetable Images: Western timetables (covers-only and complete issues) and baggage labels
  • TV Acres.com: Learn about Western's animated Very Important Bird (VIB), also known as "Wally Bird," who made his TV debut in Western commercials in the mid 1950s, with the tagline "The O-O-Only Way to Fly."
  • Book: The Only Way to Fly: The Story of Western Airlines, America's Senior Air Carrier, by Robert J. Serling, 1976.
  • Book: Airplane Transportation, by James G. Wooley (Western Air Express vice president), and Earl W. Hill, 1929.
  • Book: Legacy of Flight: The Guggenheim Contribution to American Aviation, by Richard P. Hallion, 1977.