The history of Hughes AirWest can be traced back to the beginnings of Pacific Airlines, West Coast Airlines and Bonanza Airlines. In 1968, these three companies were merged to form Air West. Air West grew quickly, flying to such points as Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Boise and Portland. The airline used both jet and prop driven aircraft; some of its aircraft were also used for employee transportation.
Hungry for another adventure in the airline industry, TWAs former owner Hughes bought the airline in 1970. The airline was then renamed Hughes AirWest.
Hughes saw his new airline expand to several other Western USA cities, and to Mexico. The airline participated in some movies in the 1970s, more notably Clint Eastwood and Sandra Locke's The Gauntlet.
Hughes AirWests planes were rather recognizable because of their all banana yellow fuselage and tail colors. Because of this, their airplanes have sometimes been nicknamed such nicknames as the top banana of the skies, etc. Most nicknames given to Hughes AirWest airplanes on aviation books and magazines have to do with bananas. Apart from their all yellow scheme, the airplanes also featured a blue logo that resembled three diamonds on their tails. The name Hughes Airwest, in computer-style lettering, was featured below the front passenger windows.