A Brief History Of Former US Carrier Piedmont Airlines

Operational between 1948 and 1989, Piedmont Airlines was an American carrier with hubs at Baltimore / Washington International Airport (BWI) in Maryland and Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) in North Carolina.

Headquartered at what is now a part of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salam, North Carolina, Piedmont Airlines merged with USAir in September 1988. Before the merger, Piedmont Airlines had 22,000 employees and flew to 95 airports, mainly on the East Coast of the United States.

Piedmont Airlines was founded in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Piedmont Airlines was founded in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1940, following the purchase of the Camel City Flying Service by Thomas Henry Davis. After changing the name to Piedmont, the company operated as an aircraft repair service and a training school for pilots in the War Department Civilian Pilot Training Program.


In 1944, Davis applied to operate passenger flights in the Southeastern United States. After years of lobbying and fighting legal challenges from other airlines, Davis finally received permission on January 1, 1948. The new airline’s first flight was on February 20, 1948, between Wilmington, North Carolina, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Piedmont Airlines started with Douglas DC-3s

Having loved everything about aviation as a child in Winston-Salem, Davis attended medical school at the University of Arizona while at the same time working as a flight instructor. In its early days, Piedmont flew from the Cape Fear Coastal city of Wilmington in North Carolina’s southeast to Cincinnati, Ohio, an industrial city on the Ohio River.

Piedmont would fly between with Douglas DC-3s and make intermediate stops along the route. In 1958, Piedmont added Fairchild F-27s and Martin 4-0-4s and, like other airlines, provided an essential service subsidized by the government.

Piedmont Airlines enters the jet age

Piedmont entered the jet age in 1967, operating a Boeing 737-100 on flights between Atlanta-Ashville-Winston-Salem – Roanoke – New York LaGuardia Airport. Besides acquiring several Boeing 737-200s, Piedmont added Boeing 727-100s and 737-200s during the 1970s. Piedmont later added Fokker F28 Fellowships, Boeing 737-300s, 400s, and 767-200ERs.

Following the airline industry’s deregulation in the United States, Piedmont Airlines grew rapidly, establishing a primary hub at Charlotte / Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1985 Piedmont purchased Utica, New York-based Empire Airlines, and expanded flight to new airports.

Non-stop flights between Charlotte and the West Coast began in 1984 using Boeing 727-200s. In 1987, Piedmont used widebody Boeing 767-200ERs to link Charlotte with London Gatwick Airport (LGW) in the United Kingdom.

USAir takes over Piedmont Airlines

After many years of successfully making a profit and with a loyal passenger following, Piedmont Airlines began to get noticed by other airlines looking to expand. On August 5, 1989, Piedmont airlines were acquired by USAir (formerly Allegheny Airlines) and merged into USAir, making it one of the largest airlines on the East Coast. On November 4, 2007, USAir merged with America West Airlines and changed its name to US Airways.

USAir merges with American Airlines

After emerging from bankruptcy, America Airlines was looking to acquire another airline as a part of its restructuring plans and opened up negotiations with US Airways in August 2012. A merger between the two airlines was announced in February 2013, with American Airlines shareholders getting 72% of the new airlines and US Airways shareholders 28%. The new airline decided to keep the AA livery and logo, creating what was the world’s largest airline at the time.

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