Almost every day there is a new development in the America West Airlines story.

I discount the ones that involve Governor J. Fife Symington III's remarks about whether he will get the state of Arizona involved.

Symington has enough financial troubles of his own.
His own projects are on such shaky ground that he may become the only sitting governor in history to be spotted in the courthouse line waiting his turn to sign up for Chapter 11.

I wonder where anyone really stands about America West?
Ed Beauvais, the chairman of the board, is a high roller who has tried to bully his way into financing deals from the city and state for the last couple of years. When his power play failed with Arizona, he tried it in Nevada. He came up empty on both sides of the border.

By going into Chapter 11, Beauvais has placed himself in the hands of the most dangerous tigers of them all--the lawyers.

According to figures compiled by the Phoenix Business Journal, America West faces possible bankruptcy court charges as high as $30 to $50 million.

These fees are all paid before any money goes to its creditors.
Just to go into Chapter 11, America West paid the law firm of Streich Lang $250,000 for providing consultation and assistance and to act as its special counsel.

In addition to Streich Lang, America West officials have also hired the Denver firm of Faegre and Benson to act as the airline's general counsel. Records show that the Denver group has also been paid $250,000 up-front.

In the meantime, the picture keeps getting grimmer.
Beauvais keeps promising a turnaround. But headlines tell a different story.

America West fails to meet its airport terminal payments at Las Vegas. It stops paying the people from whom it leases its airplanes. Will it meet its next terminal payment due soon in Phoenix?

We are talking now about millions of dollars.
How are the people who own the airplanes going to survive if they are not paid? How will the Las Vegas and Sky Harbor airports operate without the millions they are owed by America West?

And then there is the case of poor Jerry Colangelo and the Phoenix Suns' new basketball palace downtown.

In an excess of corporate narcissism, Beauvais volunteered to pay $550,000 a year for thirty years for the right to have the letters "America West" spread across the roof of the arena for all to see while flying overhead.

Where will that money come from now?
At his last stockholders' meeting, Beauvais assured his people he knew how to bring about the survival of his company.

The focal point of his campaign to bring a turnaround was a series of television advertisements done by Jonathan Winters dressed up as General H. Norman Schwarzkopf.

The ads now seem like bad jokes. They were not hard-sell commercials designed to assure customers they would get someplace safely and on time.

They were designed only to capitalize on the fame of the Gulf War field commander and to send the message that America West was a hip company with enough pizzazz to throw away on a sight gag.

Since there is now no cash to pay for the ads, they have disappeared from the airwaves.

If there is a joke here, it is on the advertising agency that created the ads.

It is stuck with a bill of more than $2 million and, at last report, had been forced to lay off all but six of the people in its Phoenix office.

The advertising agency does have one consolation, however. Its name leads all the rest on America West's Chapter 11 statement.

If there is room for only one pullquote, please use the first one (i.e., one about the "lawyers"). Thanks. DJB.

By going into Chapter 11, Beauvais has placed himself in the hands of the most dangerous tigers of them all--the lawyers.

Since there is now no cash to pay for the ads, they have disappeared from the airwaves.

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Tom Fitzpatrick