The current Piedmont Airlines is, at this writing in November 2003, operating primarily as a commuter airline supporting USAirways. However, the present-day Piedmont Airlines is not a direct successor to the original company of that name. Information following pertains to the original Piedmont Airlines.
The original Piedmont Airlines began flying in 1948. Its route system stretched from Wilmington, N.C. northwest to Cincinnati, Ohio, with numerous intermediate stops. Early routes were operated with Douglas DC-3 aircraft. The airline was based at Smith-Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Prior to airlines in the U.S. being deregulated in 1978, Piedmont's route system encompassed an area stretching from South Carolina northward to New York and westward as far as Chicago and Atlanta. Routes in the late 1970's were operated with Japanese-built Nihon YS-11 prop-jet aircraft and Boeing 737-200 pure-jet aircraft. Boeing 727-200 aircraft were later added to the fleet, and at one time, a single Boeing 727-100 was utilized, the aircraft that had once been involved in the famous "D.B. Cooper" hijacking in the Pacific Northwest while flying for another airline. Prior to deregulation, Piedmont had no true hub system. The airline was known for flying large jets into relatively small airports and for connecting unlikely city pairs with jet flights. Examples of this include nonstop jet flights between Kinston, N.C. and Florence, S.C.; Roanoke, Va. and Asheville, N.C.; Lynchburg, Va. and New York LaGuardia; Chicago O'Hare and Bristol/Kingsport/Johnson City, Tenn.; and Winston-Salem, N.C. to Lynchburg, Va.
Following airline deregulation in the late 1970's, the airline grew rapidly and began to a develop hub and spoke system with a hub in Charlotte, N.C. Later hubs included Baltimore/Washington; Dayton, Ohio; and Syracuse, N.Y. The extent of Piedmont's route map grew as well, with flights to the west coast beginning nonstop from the Charlotte and Dayton hubs during the early 1980's. At that time, the airline introduced a first class cabin on its long-haul Boeing 727-200 jets. Until that time, the airline had operated a single-class service throughout its route system. Nonstop service from Charlotte to London, England was eventually realized.
Piedmont's expanding route system, its loyal passenger following, and its profitability caused it to gain notice among other airlines for a potential buyout. In August 1989, Piedmont Airlines was absorbed by USAir, formerly Allegheny Airlines, based in the northeastern United States.
The Piedmont name disappeared for a time but was resurrected in the mid 1990's, when USAir (by then USAirways) renamed one of its wholly owned regional airline subsidiaries, (Henson Airlines) "Piedmont Airlines". The reason for this was to protect the Piedmont airlines brand name which could be used by others if not exercised in trade use for a period of time. US Airways continued this practice by changing the name of its two other wholly owned regional airline subsidiaries, Jetstream and Allegheny Commuter to PSA and Allegheny Airlines, respectively. PSA was the name of a California based airline merged into USAir and Allegheny Airlines was the original name of the surviving USAir entity.