Ol’ Frontier Airlines Musings
After some back and forth with a couple of long-time friends from good ol’ Frontier Airlines I got into recalling some things about a few of some really superb ol’ pilots. I hope you enjoy a quick trip back in time…
When FAL first acquired the 737’s I had a flight with Ev Aden. I had never flown with him prior to this. Ev flew the first leg as was customary. He hand flew to FL 330 and then he reached up moved the A/P paddles up. I hit the disconnect switch on my yoke. I didn’t say a word. I saw him glance in my direction as he re-engaged the A/P. Again, I hit the disconnect switch! Ev exclaimed, “Just WHAT do you think you are doing?” I said, “I understand that when you were the chief pilot you had all the autopilots removed from the DC-3s and Convairs! Well, I’ve been flying those airplanes a few years now with as many as 17 legs a day. So, I’m just payin’ you back!” Ev laughed out loud and we got along very well. I then told him that I knew where he learned trade. He said, “How so?” I said, “At my father’s CPT school in Cheyenne.” Ev said, “I’ll be! Your dad must be Pic Walker!” “Yup,” says I.
My father, and a non-flying brother, owned Plains Airways, Inc. with bases in CYS, LAR and FMM (Ft. Morgan, CO, the pre-glider training base). Ev Aden, Fred Hart Jack Kettler, and Warren Heckman learned to fly at Plains Airways. Fred & Warren at the Laramie base. Warren’s instructor, Bert Orchard, was the same fellow who had taught my mother to fly. My Mom was the first female to learn to fly in Wyoming. This was back in the ‘30s.
My father came up with an advertising plan. He placed two large billboards along the east-west highway running through Cheyenne. That highway is now I-80. He had my Mom’s photo on the billboard. It said, “If SHE can learn to fly – YOU can learn to fly” along with Plains Airways address & phone #. One billboard on the east side of town, one on the west side. Imagine what some lawyer would do with that t’day!
Two of the three DC-3C’s that came from Arizona Airways had been my Dad’s. He sold them to Johnny Bulla a pilot and pro-golfer. Johnny was one of the owners of Arizona Airways. I dated his daughter when I was a senior in high school. She went to North High while I was at Scottsdale High. I recall picking her up for the first date. Mr. Bulla asked if I played golf. I said, “No, but I helped my father build a golf course in Wyoming.” He said, “Close enough!” We never made the connection about the airplanes. Both my dad and Johnny Bulla had Gone West before I pieced it all together. Captain Ralph S. Johnson, former UAL Chief Test Pilot, was my Dad’s best friend. He and Johnny Bulla delivered the two DC-3C’s to PHX. It was Ralph who helped me piece together the fact that two FAL 3’s had belonged to my Dad before Arizona Airways and, later, FAL.
Ralph gave me my first flying job. I was 17 and just had a PPL. I was paid as ground crew but I few co-pilot on the C-82 and C-122. Best summer of my life! I truly was livin’ the dream!
Jack Kettler was a mechanic for Inland Airways (later merged with Western). He was a pretty fair mechanic. One day Ken Dealy had a broke Challenger DC-3 at CYS. Jack cheerfully fixed it, no charge. All he asked for was to put a word in at Challenger as he wanted to trade his coveralls for a pilots togs. Ken said he would and, true to his word, he did! Jack was one of the best fellows I ever knew/flew with.
I knew Fred Hart but never flew with him. Apparently, he had issues checkin’ out on the Convair but he was masterful flying the DC-3. During WWII Fred was awarded the DFC for a training mission! He took off in a C-47 towing 3 Waco CG-3 gliders and lost an engine right after takeoff. The procedure was to immediately disconnect the three gliders in tow. This would have almost certainly killed everyone in the gliders.
Fred was able to keep that ol’ Goon flyin’ and made it around to a safe landing. He was initially brought up on charges for failing to follow procedures. Someone, higher up, dismissed that idea and put Fred in for the DFC. Fred retired in Phoenix and became a realtor. He was helping Cheryl’s mom with a place to live in Sun City and somehow a connection was made with me having also been with Frontier. By the time I got to know Fred he was struggling to breathe with advanced COPD from heavy smoking. He musta been suicidal as he still smoked while using O2!!
I flew with Warren many times at FAL and, later, we worked together in the America West Training Dept. Warren was a fine fellow. His son, Ron, worked for me moving airplanes (I owned a small FBO at KDEN). He too became a Frontier pilot and we flew together there. I recall when Ron lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. He made his way back to the cockpit having to prove his ability with the one prosthesis. Warren (96) Gone West in March of 2017 and, just three months later, Ron (73) Gone West in June 2017. Ron had been hit by a car and was unable to recover…
Ev was from Chugwater just north of CYS. After I flew some with Ev I asked my Dad, “Why didn’t you ever teach Ev to pull the throttles back!” Several of the old hands joked that everything Ev flew had the throttles bent forward! Hell of a pilot and he taught me a lot about Low Freq. approaches. In that he was THE master!
I’ll add some photos later…