While those moves have helped, Franke says, the airline has spent its time jumping from crisis to crisis and has yet to devise a master scheme for survival.

"My impression here is that it's like a fire brigade," Franke says. "Every day, everybody comes down here . . . and they load up the water buckets and assign people to the nearest fire."
Much of the blame for the airline's problems has been assigned to co-founder Ed Beauvais, who resigned as chairman of the board in July. Mike Conway, the other architect of America West's ill-fated growth spree, remains as the airline's president and chief executive officer.

Several critics have called for Conway's head, saying the airline needs a clean sweep of top management if it is to shed the flawed mission that led it into trouble.

"[Conway] and Beauvais saw eye to eye for so many years. They were interchangeable in my view," says analyst Engel.

But Franke says Conway's continued presence is necessary for the airline.
"I need Mike Conway, and the airline needs Mike Conway. He has tremendous background in this company, was one of the founders, knows intimately the details and the people," Franke says. "Having said that, any management, and that includes me, is subject to performance. . . . Nobody down here has an insurance policy."
Until it can devise a master plan, the airline will have trouble attracting the up to $100 million in cash it will need to emerge from bankruptcy, most everyone agrees.

Scarier still, lacking a plan and new investment, America West remains vulnerable, riding the unpredictable currents of bankruptcy. Hikes in fuel prices, renewed fare wars or untold other outside forces could snag America West and drag it under for good.

"How much time will this buy them?" asks Scott Hamilton of Commercial Aviation Report. "That is something that can't really be predicted. America West's future has to lie in new equity investment coming in. [Its] near-term survival is dependent on events that are largely out of their control."
Other governments have gone further than Arizona in their eagerness to save or attract the payrolls and economic benefits of airlines. Minnesota came up with $800 million to boost its hometown carrier, Northwest Airlines. Denver offered $600 million in aid for a United Airlines maintenance facility that was eventually built in Indiana, and Texas extended millions in tax breaks for American Airlines to build a new maintenance facility in that state.

Absent genuine state aid, what Symington's administration has offered America West is the $1 million in economic development money, a cut in aviation fuel taxes, a lot of cheerleading and William Franke.

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