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Livery of the Week: A First Look at the Refreshed America West Heritage Livery

The America West paint scheme lives on in the American Airlines fleet.

The America West retro livery is the latest to join American’s line up (Photo: Brady Kendrick)

Editor’s Note: AirlineGeeks is excited to launch our ‘Livery of the Week’ series. Every Friday, a team member will share an airline livery, which can be from the past, present, or even a special scheme. Some airline liveries are works of art. The complexity associated with painting around critical flight components and the added weight requires outside-the-box thinking from designers. The average airliner can cost upwards of $200,000 to repaint, creating a separate aircraft repainting industry as a result.

American has yet again unveiled a refreshed retro livery on one of its Airbus A321s (N580UW). Now, the airline has updated its America West livery, moving it from a smaller A319 (N838AW). This is the final planned heritage livery to move from an A319 to one of the carrier’s A321s.

Earlier this year, American announced its plans to move all its retro liveries from A319s to A321s, including the PSA, Piedmont, Allegheny, and now America West designs. Each of these represents airlines of the past that made up US Airways, which merged with American in 2013. The Fort Worth-based airline has a wide array of retro – or ‘heritage’ liveries – across its fleet of over 900 aircraft.

American’s latest retro jet is an A321 painted in the America West livery )Photo: Brady Kendrick)

N580UW was delivered to American/US Airways in 2014 after the merger had been announced. At only nine years old, it is one of the younger A321s in the airline’s fleet.

America West: From Phoenix to the World

America West Airlines, established in 1983, began as a regional carrier in Phoenix, Ariz., founded by local businessman Edward R. Beauvais. Over the years, the airline evolved from its modest beginnings to become described as ‘the airline that took over the world,’ one TheStreet post said.

Initially, America West operated a fleet of three leased 737-200s, serving a limited number of cities in the western U.S. The airline went head-to-head with Southwest Airlines, which was also digging its heels into the Phoenix market at the time.

The airline was quick to expand, adding 23 destinations to its route map in 1984. America West would also continue to add to its fleet of 737s, with 13 total. Throughout its history, the carrier had a fairly diverse fleet, including Boeing 747s, 757s, and later A320s, which were delivered in 1990, according to the AWA History website.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, America West Airlines expanded its route network and fleet. Needing more space for its budding operation, the airline committed to a lease for Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor Airport, which opened in 1990. This expansion included flights to major cities across the U.S. and even some international destinations, including London.

The 1990s were a period of financial woes for America West Airlines, with the company filing for bankruptcy in 1991. The airline cut costs and eventually became profitable again in the early 2000s as a low-cost carrier.

In 2005, America West Airlines merged with US Airways, forming the US Airways Group. This merger resulted in a larger airline, and the combined entity retained the US Airways name. At the time of the merger, America West grew to become the eighth largest airline in the United States with hubs in both Phoenix and Las Vegas along with 140 aircraft.

Evolving Liveries

As it grew, America West had two different liveries across its fleet. Even though the logo largely remained unchanged from its founding to the 2005 US Airways merger, a few tweaks to the paint scheme and brand were made.

An America West 737 (Photo: Torsten Maiwald (GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html> or GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>), via Wikimedia Commons)

Through the early 1980s, the airline’s original livery featured a combination of royal blue and red, with a stylized logo on the tail and the airline’s name in bold red letters. This design was painted over a white fuselage. After the merger, US Airways preserved an Airbus A319 in this livery, registered as N828AW. However, this aircraft was later painted in the standard American livery.

In 1996, America West unveiled a new livery that catered to its Southwestern roots. The new livery used a palette of pearl white, orange, and turquoise colors along with the airline’s name more boldly displayed on the fuselage. This livery has been preserved now on N580UW, which rolled out of an Amarillo paint shop on Friday.

Ryan Ewing
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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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