Well Tigers, was certainly not the healthiest of carriers.
The airline who's greatest strength was its extensive worldwide scheduled service network and route authorities had gone thru many difficult years in the 1980s.
Much of the difficulties can be traced back to general worldwide liberalization of air transport which saw the airline competing with more and more fierce foreign and domestic competitors. In the US the airline faced UPS and Fedex which were just starting to come into age. The airline which concentrated in heavy freight (70+lbs) also suffered greatly from a lack a domestic route network to feed its flights across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The fuel cost run up and recession in the early 80s also contributed greatly to losses
The company for several years tried various growth options including developing a domestic B727 hub operation(first Chicago then Columbus), large trucking network, and the lease of additional DC-8 and B747 freighters to further beef up its international networks. The carrier even attempted to buy out Emery and its domestic operations. Ultimately every option Tigers tried either failed or the airline would cut the attempt short before truly having a chance to succeed. In 1986 things got so bad that board of directors advised management to begin taking offers in preparation of liquidating the carrier.
Prior to leaving for United, the then CEO Stephen Wolf managed to clean house financially for the most part leading to profits in 1987 and 1988. It is Wolf whom many view as having laid the ground work the eventual takeover by Fedex in December 1988.
Fedex no doubt saw Flying Tigers international network as a key to its future growth, and has as a result benefited greatly to this day by having been able to automatically assume Tigers traffic rights which might have taken years to secure on their own.
On a side note, many of Flying Tigers executives chose not to move onto Fedex, and of those several were behind the creation of Polar Air Cargo a few years later in Los Angeles.
From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California