Provincetown-Boston Airways (PBA) started operations in 1949 and was consistently profitable for over 30 years. In 1980 its founder John Van Arsdale reluctantly handed over control to his sons and with deregulation in full swing everything was changing. The future looked bright, but over expansion coupled with a series of fatal crashes led to the death of the airline; although many of its routes and fleet continued on in new colours.
John Van Arsdale built an almost unique little airline beginning operations on November 30, 1949 operating the first route between Provincetown and Boston – hence the airline’s name. Early on he fitted capacity to the load requirements although in these early days that meant flying a 2 seat Lusomb, 3 seat Piper Clipper or 4 seat Stinson Voyager. Initial operations were summer only and from dirt strips but a 1957 deal with Florida based Naples Airlines allowed the two companies to lease aircraft and trade personnel between the North-east and Florida for their differing peak seasons.
Naples Airlines was bought entirely in 1960 and so PBA became an official dual market airline. In the summer it focused on the island vacationers market between Boston, New York and the like to Cape Cod and during the winter half of the fleet, and 70% of the capacity, was transferred to Florida’s Gulf Coast.
The airline operated in a passenger friendly way, never turning people away and not overbooking. This was enabled by the varied fleet, which included a pair of Lockheed 10s during the 1960s and a growing fleet of DC-3s as well as smaller types.
Left: An early timetable from 1955 - keeping it simple with just one route!
Deregulation of the industry however rendered that strategy obsolete and coincided with a buy/sell agreement Van Arsdale had setup with his two sons, John Jnr. And Peter for his retirement on January 1, 1980. Both had been with the airline since the early 1970s but wanted to change PBA’s focus in what they perceived to be a new era. Van Arsdale didn’t give up control completely when the time came but did step down to vice-president with 30% of the stock.
1983. Hartman, C. PBA: A tale of two airlines. Inc.com
1984. PBA YS-11 Ferry flight from Malta to Miami. Sunshine Skies
1986. People Express fades into history as merger is OK’d. Los Angeles Times
1987, April. A regional airline will discontinue Florida flights. Los Angeles Times
1988, September. Deregulation Blamed for Demise of Commuter Airline. Los Angeles Times