The Adventures of the Walker Bunch: Part Two – Arizona then and Now…
SARATOGA to SCOTTSDALE arriving November 5, 1958…
After Jerry Donelan convinced me to move to Arizona the quid pro quo was that our move would be following the Panther’s football season. As I mentioned in Part One, the PVHS football team went from worst to first from my freshman year to my senior year. A surprising discovery, enrolling at Scottsdale High School, was learning the “Beavers” were just mid-way in their football season.
Thinking it might be a good way to meet new friends, I approached the head football coach, Virgil Savage, to see if he would allow me to join the team. I explained that I had just arrived and enjoyed football as a sport. He asked if I was any good. I said, “you’ll have to be the judge of that! ” I did tell him I’d been a team captain the past year in Wyoming. I did not tell him that I was not all that great a player. I knew he would discover that soon enough. He set me up with the necessary gear and I began practice sessions with the team.
I never did make the starting line-up albeit I played enough to earn a letter which made it five varsity football letters for me and my only claim-to-fame in football.
In the fall of 1959 I joined Arizona State University’s freshman team as a walk-on. It only took me three days before I made a major impression with freshman football coach, Bill Kajikawa. Towards the end of a total of three practices my other knee went out tearing the meniscus tendon. Now, nearly six decades later, I have two knee replacements along with both shoulder’s replaced as well. I will soon be bionic! Lookin’ back I’da done better taking advantage of free golf lessons at my folks resort, The Saratoga Inn.
Willie Low was the head golf pro at the Phoenix Country Club and the golf pro at my parent’s resort during the summer. Willie & Minnie were two of the nicest people I’ve known. They remained close friends with my parents the rest of their lives.
Willie gave me five free golfing lessons but I never took advantage of them, still enthralled with the idea of playing football, wrestling, and chasin’ girls. Yup, I’da been a lot smarter going with the golf lessons.
I dated pro golfer Johnny Bulla’s, daughter a few times. He asked if I played golf. “Nope, I play football,” I remarked. He said, “Son, you can make more friends and money with golfing.” Unfortunately, I was not the best listener and, at age seventy eight, I find there are no “do-overs!”
I did eventually end up with ASU’s former football coach, the legendary Frank Kush, as a fly fishin’ buddy. In the nineteen eighties and nineties we found our way to places such as the Snake River near Jackson’s Hole, Wyoming. The Snake River cutthroat are a beautiful subspecies of Oncorhynchus clarkii behnkei – a variety of the Yellowstone cutthroat. An exact replica of the one below is over the doorway to my office. Who said, ” it’s the goin’ not the catchin’?”
26″ Snake River cutthroat
Amazingly, there is a process where you can catch a trophy fish, take a measurement of the length and girth, then a photo before releasing the fish back into it’s waters. Give the photo along with the measurements to a good replica-mount taxidermy studio and it becomes the best of both worlds.
Frank’s younger brother, Joe, played for ASU. Joe was an ΑΤΩ fraternity brother. Frank was ΑΤΩ as well albeit at Michigan State University. Amazingly, Frank Kush’s position on that great Michigan State Team was guard. He played at a rock-solid 175 lbs! That’s close to half the weight of a college lineman today. Imagine! 175 pounds as a lineman! Kush made All-American in 1952, his senior year.
I served on the board of directors when Kush was the president of the National Football Foundation. I’ve seen Frank Kush in operation in several venues. He had the uncanny ability to master most challenges. His toughest was the loss of his beloved Fran in 2011. Fran had suffered from Lupus and other ailments for several years. Sadly, we lost Frank at 88 June 22nd 2017. RIP ol’ friend.
SCOTTSDALE HIGH SCHOOL
Arriving at Scottsdale High School I received several shocks. First, I discovered I was a mediocre football player. Second, I was considerably less so as a student. The Scottsdale students actually studied and did homework. It was apparent that if I was to move on to college I’d best get my butt in gear!
Whereas Saratoga’s Gene Smith was somewhat less than motivational in his teaching techniques (at least with me), Devon Showley was the opposite. Mr. Showley was the physics teacher. He was superb in both his knowledge and his teaching skills. Still, I would not have made it were it not for some fellow students who tutored me. I feel fortunate to have maintained a friendship with several from those days. The reality is that I received four years of high school in that last year at Scottsdale High School along with attending summer school delving into college preparatory classes.
I don’t recall crackin’ a book in Saratoga. Aviation books not withstanding! At Scottsdale High School I was surrounded by fellow students who were light years ahead of me academically. I knew that I’d best change my ways if I was to achieve my dream of having an aviation career. I shifted into high-gear!
Not only had I met some great friends to pal around with, they were smart, patient, and helpful. They all went on to brilliant careers. Steve Sargent, Rich Rea, Jack LaSota, John Udall as well as the late Bob Schlosser all pitched in to nudge me over one hump after another. LaSota and Schlosser and I became fraternity brothers in Alpha Tau Omega (ΑΤΩ) at ASU. Both of them enjoyed successful careers as lawyers. Jack LaSota served as the Arizona State Attorney General for a term.
“Sarge” pledged ΑΤΩ but ended up going another direction as did Rich Rea who had the audacity to attend ASU’s nemesis the UofA in Tucson. Following a stint in law school, Rich became immersed in the Banking industry. After several years in California, Rich wrote a text book and taught subjects such as Credit Analysis to fledgling Arizona bankers. At seventy eight Rich is still going strong consulting.
Sarge had an interesting career in science. He went from ASU via the Woodrow Wilson Scholarship and then to Israel. His was an early interest in solar energy. He is known as “Solar Sarge” now. With both a master’s degree and doctorate, he moved to Colorado eventually becoming a key member of the Solar Research Institute.
John Udall became a medical doctor and earned a doctorate (PhD) as well. John was in the bottom third of our high school Class of ’59. Boy Howdy did he take off in his collegiate era. He wrote two great books. One was his fathers biography. Nick Udall was twice the mayor of phoenix and a renowned jurist.
John did research projects as well as becoming UofA’s medical school professor specializing in pediatrics and taught at several universities including Harvard!
John was actually the first fellow Scottsdale High student I met. He literally ran into me!
Coach Savage had pointed out a running back and said, “he’ll get the ball, you tackle him!” Coach Savage neglected to tell me that the ball carrier was Clinton Smith, High School All America!”
No problem, as the play started I went from my linebacker position and zeroed in on the ball carrier. Heck, it could have been Emmet Smith, I was going to make the tackle. I knew it was important for me to impress the coach.
Just as I was about to slam into the ball carrier, and wrap my arms around churning legs, I was elbow over toes with Clinton gracefully going past my now prone body.
The half-back had done (legal back then) a chop-block and down I went. As I shook the cobwebs from my throbbing noggin’ I saw a hand reach for mine.
“Hi!” “I’m John Udall, what’s your name?” We’ve been friends since. John and his wife, Roz, Cheryl, and me were together before the pandemic shout off the socializing. Hopefully, that will soon again resume!
Gordon Watson was another I felt made a positive influence on me as a “newbie” at Scottsdale High. There were others I could name, but the aforementioned stand out in my mind for all the extra time they spent helping clear the green fog in my head.
My “tutors” all graduated near the top of our graduating class. Not to be out done, I graduated near the very bottom of the Scottsdale High School Class of 1959.
Again, thanks to their efforts and my ASU experience, I went on to a forty-year “dream career” in aviation. And at 77 now I’m still “Living The Dream!”
These days climbing into the cockpit of 964, the SNJ, or “The Ghost Ship” is my thing! An indescribable joy! Dang! …here again I’m gettin’ ahead of my story…
The Ghost Ship
964 – 1943 Boeing Model 75
1943 North American SNJ
Above, that’s me playing Santa at Airbase Arizona’s Christmas for Kids. I told the kids I had to fly in as the reindeer needed to conserve their energy for the big Christmas Eve flight. They seemed to buy that!
Soon I’ll turn seventy eight (2019) I am able to climb into the cockpit of airplanes, nearly as old, which belies my grandfather’s prediction. A.P. Nesbitt, my mother’s father, did not believe I would live to my twenty-first year! As of this writing I have surpassed Grandpa Nesbitt’s doom-and-gloom prognostication by more than a half-century! As wild as I was back then, Grandpa Nesbitt wasn’t all that far off in his analysis of me.
As of this writing, I am more than a year past same age as when Grandpa Nesbitt died (76)! I’d give a tall sarsaparilla to see the look on Grandpa’s face if he knew how I have outlived his augury. Come to think of it, he was so stoic he would likely just shake his head!
My two sisters, Martha Jo and Mary Margaret, easily matriculated into the social and academic scene at Scottsdale High School. They could have moved to the new high school, Arcadia, as it was closer to our home below the sunny side of Camelback Mountain. Mom was Arcadia High School’s first employee. However, both sisters already had their circle of friends and elected to remain and graduate from Scottsdale High. Sadly, all that’s left of a once great school sits in my office. The school was leveled to make way for “progress.” I have a piece of the gym floor brass plaque and all! Thanks Sarge!
Sister, Martha Jo, went to ASU and obtained her Associate Degree. She became a Mom raising three magnificent children all on her own after leaving an impossible marriage. Martha settled in the little Colorado community of Brush NE of Denver. She and her three kids became a very active part of Brush. All three kids have turned out stellar. They owe their Mom and now pay her back in spades with their caring ways.
In spite of MJ’s disappointing marriage, she has enjoyed a second marriage to Norm Tisdale and, June 2019, celebrated their 35th year t’gether.
Norm is a retired banker, widowed, with two grown children. It became a his, her’s and our’s marriage that has grown to a wonderful relationship.
Martha and Norm sold their four thousand square-foot home in Brush, Colorado and spent the next decade traveling the continent in a 40′ motor home. They’ve sold the motor home and now live comfortably in east Mesa, Arizona. They should write a book on how to retire and live happily.
Martha Jo has become indispensable as my editor. She, along with my immediate supervisor, Cheryl. Both have undergone the huge task of correcting an inordinate number of typos, spelling errors, and improper punctuation. If only Mrs. Simmons (PVHS English teacher) could see me now…
KUDOS as well to John C. Hazelwood (RockRiver Design-eCommeerce, Implementation), Denver, Colorado for his efforts setting up my website. …and to Bob Diercksmeier who came along to improve my website and allow for growth.
Sister, Mary Margaret, graduated from ASU with both a bachelors and masters degree in education. She helped start-up Palo Alto Schools in Arizona. She married one of my ΑΤΩ fraternity brothers, Rich Meyer. They had a daughter, Kelly. After her marriage failed, MM moved to Jackson Hole Wyoming where she had a Turquoise and Silver shop near the town square.
Serendipitously she became a private investigator when flamboyant lawyer, Gerry Spense, asked her to do some amateur sleuthing for him. It became readily apparent that she was gifted in this arena. MM became the chief investigator for Spence, Moriarity, and Schuster.
Later, MM would have her own PI firm, Joseph Daniel and Meyer, with offices in Phoenix, Prescott, Tucson, and Bullhead City, Arizona. She was a great success in her PI career. Sadly, she was not so in her personal life. I could write almost indefinitely about my two amazing sisters but that wouldn’t be fair to myself. …picture me grinnin’ tongue-in-cheek!
MM passed away on June 10th, 2016. Her passing has left a huge hole in the heart of our family.
Martha Jo – Billy – Mary Margaret – March 2011
NEW TO ARIZONA
Acclimating to the Arizona scene, I was growing up and out of the need to prove myself in the physical sense. Sure, there were a few nondescript efforts at making a point using knuckle persuasion. However, I was beginning to learn that vocal persuasion didn’t hurt near as much.
With my enrollment at ASU, my parents realized my need for transportation and helped me acquire a beautiful used two-door 1956 Chevy. I loved this car as much as if it was brand new. It was metallic forest green with green/white leather interior and low miles.
The Chevy came to a sad end.
During the summer of my freshman year, 1960, I flew a Cessna 180 for Carruth Labratories based out of Love Field, Dallas, Texas. Red Carruth had been a close family friend and a hunting and fishing buddy to both my father and me. Red was along when I shot my first antelope at age 14!
My Dad had thought I would use his Winchester 30-06 scoped rifle. Handing me his rifle, Red said, “here use this, it’s a better gun and will fit you better as well as having a more powerful scope.” OK, I thought and grinned. We stopped and I easily hit a can set against a hill some 200 yards away. Red’s little German Manlicher was calibered as a 270 and much lighter than my father’s 30-06.
Soon we were traveling down Spring Creek Road when a large antelope herd was spotted grazing some two hundred yards from where we were.. One very large Boone & Crockett scoring buck caught our eye. We stealthily crept closer and made it to the barb-wire fence when they took off running. That magnificent buck was leading his bunch away at nearly sixty miles per hour. I would have to shoot soon or they would be out of range.
I was already lying down with the Manlicher locked and loaded. I carefully took a deep breath and slowly let it out as I led that big buck, hopeful of making the shot now nearly six hundred yards away. KERBOOM! Down he went rolling up a large dust cloud.
In my excitement, I laid the rifle down and crawled thru the barb-wire fence running as fast as I could in my blossoming excitement. As I reached the antelope my Dad and Red were already there having picked up the Manlicher and driven down over the cattle guard on the two-track road right up to the kill site.
I stood there panting when Red said “beautiful shot Billy! You got ‘er right in the neck and the big artery!” “‘Er is right!” said my Dad. “You got the doe running behind that big buck!” My only saving grace was that it was a dry doe. They never let me forget that moment! When I later flew for Red Carruth he loved turning my ears red tellin’ that story to some of his huntin’/fishin’ buddies.
One summer, between semesters at ASU, I was flying Red Carruth’s Cessna 180 which was very similar to the one my Dad had and that I had “stolen” when I was fourteen. Carruth Laboratories was located near Dallas’ Love Field.
Before leaving for Dallas, I had entrusted my beautiful little metallic forest green Chevy Bel Aire to my sisters. It wasn’t long before my younger sister, MM, had an accident. She ran into a boat! Fortunately, she wasn’t injured but both the Chevy and the boat were “fatals.”
My father, ever the practical one, thought transportation was transportation. My father used the money I had been sending home and bought me a replacement vehicle. It was a pea-green four-door Mercury Comet. Almost immediately, it was called “The Vomit-Comet!”
More on my automotive escapades later. Back to aviation!
LUSCOMBE 8D or, perhaps, 8A?
Through a friend, I learned of an old Lucsombe 8A hanging in a farmer’s barn in Espanola, New Mexico. It was such a good price that I bought it subject to inspection. I had met a mechanic, Tom Mathre (sp?) at the Deer Valley Airport who flew his own Cessna 170. He and I along with my then roommate, Billy Joe Worrell, flew to Espanola.
The Luscombe wings were off, hanging separately from the fuselage which had the tail assembly still attached. It looked to be in good condition owing to it’s being covered but still a bit dusty. I gave the farmer $800 bucks cash. He gave me a bill of sale. Then the farmer and his son helped us retrieve the airplane from his barn and move it to the nearby airport. It had been hanging in that old barn some 15 years since the end of WWII! He had bought the airplane surplus for his son, who never took interest. Both aircraft and engine were low time.
We indefatigably cleaned it thoroughly inside and out before putting it all together. Tom, the mechanic, checked all the cables, controls, and fittings which were in good condition. Even the tires had air and the rubber was in good condition. A day later the Luscombe was gas, oiled and ready for flight. First we did a couple of engine runs making sure everything was running well and within limits. Ready, I taxied out for a test flight around the airport.
The takeoff was uneventful, but turning downwind the engine quit! Now I was flying a glider. I checked the fuel valve, mixture, carburetor heat off. Nothing! I was too low to dive otherwise I might have gotten the prop to windmill for a start attempt. No time! No problem! I landed and rolled to a stop in front of my two accomplices.
We discovered the fuel gascolator was plugged up with old pre-WWII zinc chromate that had coated the inside of the gas tank. We drained the fuel tank, then using Billy Worrell’s size and strength to swing the airplane around, we swished out the tank. We rinsed with Gunk several times running thru the fuel lines to the gascolator. Then, using .35 cents-per-gallon gas, we rinsed the tank again before re-filling it.
Off again on another test flight; all things went well. I landed and we made our plan for flying the little Luscombe back to Phoenix. Tom, the mechanic had arranged for a ferry permit and took care of the necessary paperwork. Finally, we were all ready to go.
It was a mite crowded with Bill Worrell and me filling the cockpit to the maximum and a tad more… I weighed 185 but Bill, a recently released Chicago Bears center, weighed 260! Then to exacerbate performance, Espanola’s airport is nearly six thousand feet above sea level. It was cool there, so after checking our magnetos, carburetor heat, and flight controls, off we went with the Cessna 170 tagging along with some flaps extended to stay with us.
Landing at Grants, New Mexico we refueled, used the facilities in the terminal, and climbed aboard for our next leg. Initially, the takeoff was fine. At approximately one hundred feet in the air the engine quit! It didn’t just quit, it sort of un-wound, instantly putting the two of us way behind in our worryin’!
Bill’s arms are roughly the size of my thighs. Picture me trying to fly with his massive arms in the way as he grabbed both of the steel tubing supports that stick up from the glare shield into the overhead wing structure.
I pushed the stick forward to keep us from stalling. With less than adequate runway remaining we bounced off the end onto the river-rock, stopping a scant half-foot from the perimeter fence.
With no fire or anything to motivate a fast exit, we sat there a few moments staring at one-another. Finally, we clambered out to be greeted by Tom and a few airport folks who discovered us as their morning entertainment.
With the help of those available, we maneuvered the Luscombe onto the taxi-way. We discovered our old nemesis, the gascolator, had clogged again. It had just partially clogged this time. So, our mechanic thought another rinse would do. It did.
Ready for our next leg, I said, “Jump aboard Billy Joe and we’ll be westbound.” “Not now; not ever” was Billy Joe Worrell’s reply. To this day that has been so!
Surprisingly, the rest of the flight was great. Absent a very large Billy Joe, the Luscombe performed much better. Still, a few tiny specs of zinc chromate needed to be removed at each fuel stop, but the little Continental A-65 engine purred like a kitten the rest of the flight into Phoenix. Likely, a smile turned to a grin as the wheels squeaked touching down on Deer Valley’s Runway.
A few days later I had my Dad out to see my first airplane. Driving up he took one quick look and remarked “…that’s one of my Luscombes from Plains Airways!” He said, “It is an 8D rather than an 8A because it has a steerable tailwheel. The 8D was the model 8A that was created for the WWII CPT program.” Yet, Brian Baker, a long-time Luscombe pilot/owner says it is an 8A. The problem is that there are too many ‘experts’ albeit Brian is a bonafide Luscombe expert! And, Brian was one of my instructors when I was 17 and working on obtaining my CAA Commercial ticket.
The CAA became the FAA in 1959, so my Commercial was one of the early FAA certificates issued. #1474655. Now, they use the individuals social security number.
Looking at the log books, sure enough, Plains Airways had bought the airplane new twenty years before I had. I was surprised I hadn’t noticed the original ownership. Then I recalled giving the log books to the mechanic as he would need to sign off the annual inspection.
I flew the little Luscombe a lot taking friends, family, and ΑΤΩ fraternity brothers for flights. For some, it was their first airplane flight. I made it my goal to land at each airport shown on the aeronautical chart. I landed at the majority of them but not quite all. Many that existed then are no longer even visible. One of those was in Guadalupe.
Cruising along the south side of South Mountain, just south of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, I spotted a small dirt strip just south of ASU’s campus. It was on the edge of the Yaqui Indian Reservation, Guadalupe, Arizona. I landed.
It turned out to be Ralph Sanders duster strip. He had an old WWII era quonset hangar of some six-thousand square feet with sliding doors on each end allowing his N3N airplanes to enter one end and, following maintenance actions, go out the other.
Mr. Sanders became special to me but our relationship began a bit on the rough side. After I parked the Luscombe, away from his business, I walked over and introduced myself. Mr. Sanders was short in stature. I would soon learn that he was a giant in character.
I asked if it was possible for me to tie-down the Luscombe at his strip. I mentioned that I was a student going to ASU on limited funds and couldn’t afford the costs of a tie-down at Sky Harbor and that the other options were just too far.
Gruffly, Mr. Sanders said, “Sonny, this here is a duster strip and we don’t want general aviation aircraft here a’tal!” I pled my case. I said, “I grew up in aviation and know to stay clear when you have airplanes moving either in the air or on the ground.” And I said, “Sir, I sure hope we can work something out!” Mr. Sanders said, “Tell you what, you can park here a couple of days until you find another place.”
A couple of days later I was at the Sanders Strip pre-flighting the Luscombe. I had the cowling resting on the top of my head getting ready to un-snap the gascolator bowl to check the screen when Mr. Sanders came up and elbowed me out of his way exclaiming “what’s you doin’, Sonny?”
Next thing I knew he’d discovered how to fix the problem and had drained and pressure cleaned the tank and fuel lines. He’d do a lot more when I wasn’t looking.
I kept that ol’ Luscombe at Mr. Sanders’ duster strip thru college. Every time I went to fly, it was full of fuel, the oil always clean, and he never got around to charging me for parking there. Ralph Sanders had adopted me! I would later inherit his hangar when the air strip was replaced by development. I will never forget Ralph Sanders. He might have been 5′ 5″ but he stood 10′ tall in my eyes.
I still owe Ralph Sanders for even more. He had done three annual inspections and never charged me. Later, I would inherit his WWII-era quonset hangar. Our Lafayette Escadrille d’Arizona squadron along with my nephew, Dan Fanning, spent a few days dismantling the hangar and numbering the parts for a later erection. The hangar now sits, waiting for a new location for it’s resurrection, on a trailer at my buddy, Terry Emig’s, supply lot in Casa Grande.
Mom in front of a Billy Bracy painting of my Dad and the little Luscombe
The airplane helped me pay my way through college.
Nogales was about two and a half hours flying time in the Luscombe. The airplane would cruise at 70 mph, using 65% power, and would burn 4 gal/hour gas, or thereabouts. It held 25 gallons of gas.
At the time, Nogales had three points of entry into Mexico. An individual could bring one gallon of alcohol thru the US points of entry. I didn’t need all that math I’d been taking to figure out that two ΑΤΩs bringing a gallon each thru three border crossings would equate to an overloaded Luscombe. It was imperative I bring a girl friend or very small fraternity brother along.
My slightly illegal liquor business was flourishing at ASU. I was not only making some money, I was building my flying time. Life was good!
One evening at an ΑΤΩ fraternity party, one of our alumni, a recent graduate, ‘then’ an agent for the ATF, saddled up to me and said, “we are on to what you’ve been doing!” I did not say a word. But that was the exact moment I closed shop!
My maturation was beginning to include a revelation that some of the things I had done were slightly illegal. Heretofore, I had thought “illegal” was just a sick bird. The realization that stealing my father’s airplane and becoming a “rum runner” could have far reaching consequences. “Illegal” was coming to mean I could lose my FAA airman certification and my future.
In my senior year, I sold the Luscombe for $1,250 bucks and began buying and selling airplanes as a side-line to my flourishing insurance sales.. As of this writing, I’ve owned/sold some 150 airplanes. Some small, some large. I’ve several of beauties for sale right now if you’re interested? Check my “Aircraft for Sale” page…
The Ghost Ship
N-29XF is owned by Larry Dustman and FOR SALE! If I was twenty years younger I’d own this airplane and fly it to the big airshows around the country. Of all the airplanes I’ve flown, this is the “WOW” airplane of all of ’em!
Read the story in two separate “The Ghost Ship” stories herein…
During my stint at ASU, I had a few other flying jobs which helped not only my attitude but financially as well. Just the thought of flying has always made me smile.
One opportunity was as a co-pilot on the Del Webb 680 Aero Commander. I really enjoyed flying with Dean (who’s last name has evaded my dim memory) and our flying Del Webb Company president, Mr. Jacobson, around the western states.
One day Mr. Webb appeared. We were to fly him to Los Angeles then bring the airplane back empty. I was looking forward to this since I always got to fly when the airplane was empty.
Dean introduced me to Mr. Webb. I stuck my hand out and he just looked at me like I was a fresh turd. Mr. Web boarded, took his shoes off and stretched out on the divan putting his very smelly feet up on the back of the co-pilot seat-back. I was already livid after his rudeness at our initial meeting and had a difficult time keeping my mouth shut.
We dropped the big SOB off at LAX and headed back. Dean offered me the airplane. I said that it wouldn’t be fair for me to take advantage and fly since this was going to be my last flight for the Del Webb company. Dean asked, “Why?” l said, “I will not work for someone rude such as Mr. Webb is. He refused my hand and put his stinkin’ feet up on my seat-back.” I thought to myself, “he must have walked a lot that day.” Graciously, Dean told me to fly anyway. He understood. I told Dean to mention to Mr. Jacobson that I appreciated the opportunity.
Back to the Vomit Comet! I went to work and found a trade for a very nice 1953 Oldsmobile 2-Door similar to the 1954 model below sporting the same paint-scheme. It was very clean with low mileage and had a stick-shift mounted on the steering column. That stick-shift was the only problem I had with the Olds. I had to replace the gear-shift handle bushings twice. I had Earl Scheib paint the car. I had a talented Mexican friend recovere the seats in leather-looking naugahyde, something I regretted when summer arrived.
I drove this car until my senior year at ASU when I bought a house and traded the Olds in on a new tan Chevy Chevelle Malibu.
My friend, Gary Walker (no relation), was the Student Body President when I was the Treasurer at ASU. Gary had a nice office at the Student Union where he sold insurance for his father, Claire Walker.
Claire Walker owned the Central Life Insurance Company’s Phoenix Agency. Claire Walker was one of the most personable and dynamic fellows I had met at that point in life. Soon, his equally dynamic son had me selling life insurance to fellow ASU students.
It wasn’t long before I was recruited to sell insurance for Fidelity Union Life Insurance Company. The company was based in Dallas where founder, Carr P. Collins, Sr., lived. Fidelity had a huge building in downtown Dallas. Mr. Collins use to joke that he was a Texas rancher. When asked how big was his ranch he said, “a couple of city blocks square!” “What? Where is your ranch?” “Downtown Dallas,” was his answer and delight.
What attracted me to Fidelity was the chance to make more money via a specialized plan designed for college people. Fidelity flew me to Dallas to interview and attend their school at a nearby farm which had complete facilities to house and school new agents.
The “CollegeMaster”©️ program really was well designed and easy to sell even to students with little money. The salesperson would convince the prospect to listen to the short memorized spiel that was accompanied by a fold-out pamphlet that had it all spelled out in writing. Soon most of my prospects came to me via word-of-mouth advertising.
$10 dollars down and a signed note had the student set up with a $10,000 life insurance policy having a low premium due to their young age along with being protected against future health issues that could render them uninsurable. AND it was a Whole Life policy which amounted to a forced savings plan. It really wasn’t a bad deal given many students wouldn’t save otherwise. Later, I would become convinced that Term Insurance was a lot better overall.
My senior year at ASU was surprisingly lucrative. I sold 1.2 million in Whole Life policies and bought a house and a new car. That sounds more impressive than it was. My realtor father, found a nice house on E. Fairmont in Scottsdale. One of my ΑΤΩ fraternity brothers, Louie Liedman, and I bought it. We rented out the third bedroom to another ΑΤΩ, Jerry Kutcheraux.
During my senior year I went to California to interview with several aerospace companies. I went to Lockheed, Douglas, and North American. At each interview I became more disillusioned. The starting salary was $400.00 per month, a fraction of what I had been making selling insurance and an occasional airplane. Of course they all offered good benefits along with a retirement plan. Retirement! That was the furthest thing in my mind back then when I was 21! But the thing that disillusioned me the most was seeing where I would be working.
Each of the three aerospace companies had huge open rooms with seemingly thousands of desks all lined up, row after row, with two facing desks in each row. The thought of spending the next thirty or so years in that environment was less than appealing!
Several of my fellow ΑΤΩ brothers became interested in the Navy flight program. The Vietnam War was getting started and the services were looking for pilots. Several of us signed up for the short-lived Naviator Program.
My fellow ΑΤΩ buddy, Rock Anderson should have been paid a commission. He persuaded Commander Anderson to show up and give rides to a bunch of us in a Navy T-34B. Several signed up. Commander Dana Parsons signed me up. Off we went with several of the ATΩ brothers, including Rock, going all the way thru flying combat missions for the Navy. Rock ended up getting out of the Navy where he flew A-4 “Scooter” attack aircraft and Grumman S2F anti-submarine aircraft. He was hired by United Air Lines, eventually retiring from UAL after a long and distinguished career.
Another, fellow ΑΤΩ turned Navy pilot was Larry Duthie. Dooth’s story is another separate story (under War Stories) you will likely enjoy. Duth’s story has a unique twist to it!
It wasn’t long before I washed out on a fluky medical issue. The Navy flight surgeon thought I had a terminal pulmonary disease. I went home on leave. My family doctor, William K. Helms, disagreed with the Navy flight surgeon’s prognosis. After a series of Cortisone shots I was good to go.
I went back to the Navy with Dr. Helms documentation. They determined that I would be allowed to remain in the Navy but NOT in the flight program. Rather than change the color of my shoes I was also given the option to “opt-out.”
I would later fly some of the same aircraft during the SE Asia “War Games” with Air-America. More on this later.
No longer encumbered by a military obligation, I was back to figuring out how to pay for the fun side of life…
TETON NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY
My old mentor, Ralph Johnson, had seen my success selling insurance while going to ASU. Ralph was a principle investor with Teton National Insurance Company based in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Ralph invited me to meet the company president, Jim Rice, and talk about the CollegeMaster©️ plan I was selling.
A friend and I rented a Piper Comanche 250 from Anderson Aviation in Phoenix and flew to Cheyenne with a few fun stops enroute. Cheyenne is located in the opposite corner of Wyoming to Jackson Hole. Saratoga (where the trout leap in main street) is just 125 miles west of Cheyenne. All doable with excellent flying weather promised by the weather-folks. We packed our fly rods first…
Jim Rice was interested in the CollegeMaster©️ plan and asked if I would be interested in joining Teton with the express purpose of designing something similar, then marketing it throughout the college/universities in the Rocky Mountain region. Having gone to California to interview with several aircraft companies as a prospective engineer, I became disillusioned with the prospects of a lifetime at the profession I had studied. I became very interested in hearing more from Mr. Rice.
Rice made me an offer I couldn’t resist. I would become Teton’s Director of Marketing. I’d be furnished a car or paid mileage for my own; be provided an expense account; authorized the use of an aircraft for travel as needed; receive a benefit package along with a starting salary of $650.00 per month. “WOW!” I thought. That would be a lot better than what a graduate aeronautical engineer could expect with a major firm. Starting engineers, in those days, earned $400.00/month.
I was two classes shy of what was needed to receive my ASU degree. I reasoned that I likely wouldn’t need a degree, at least for now, having already been offered the Teton job. I further reasoned that I could make up those classes later if need be. I never did!
I plagiarized a lot from the CollegeMaster©️ plan I had been selling for Fidelity Union. I worked with Teton’s actuary to come up with viable numbers that made the plan affordable to the customer while being profitable to Teton.
I went to the banker, Mr. Dubois. He had known me since birth as a good friend to my parents. Getting my foot in the door was easy. Working out a feasible note-plan, not so easy. With Ralph’s influence we succeeded. I worked with the company lawyer to make sure Fidelity Union would not have objections with Teton’s new plan. Talk about On-The-Job-Training!
After a couple of years doing this very challenging work I had a very long and comprehensive conversation. With myself!
It was during this time-frame I met Carolyn Turner, an elementary first-grade teacher. I was already partial to first-grade teachers ne-Mrs. Dinneen. We hit it off well and were married a couple of years when we both realize we loved each other but were not in-love.
We separated amicably, but have stayed friends. More on this later.
The haunting thought of my dreams of flight were becoming too strong a pull to resist. I gave notice. I gave thanks to Ralph, Jim Rice and said, “So Long” to the insurance business.
I benefitted from the experience and gained some friendships, one that persists to the present. Dave Baggs retired after a very successful career in the insurance business and has a strong affinity for airplanes. We have even spent a few Christmas’ together with our wives. Dave’s daughter Jennifer is just four days older than our son, Preston. His youngest daughter, Lindsey, has been a source for some great look-backs.
One day, when Lindsey was two, she and her mother were returning from our ranch SW of Denver. Barbara noticed an obvious aroma in the car and said, “LINDSEY! When are you going to stop messing your pants?” INSTANTLY, Lindsey said, “Tuesday!” Just seeing Lindsey brings a smile. Same with Jennifer but for a different reason.
Barbara, past away suddenly a few years ago. Dave is now married to Laurie Walker, a Canadian and no relation. They travel a lot between Canada, Colorado and Mexico. Cheryl and I have enjoyed palling around with them. The summer of 2017 we traveled to their home in Edmonton, Alberta and expect them here this fall.
But, we DON’T GO TO MEXICO ever again! Check out our Mexico horror story. Search: Mexico
LOU DOMINICO and JOE ROACH
Lou Dominico got into the airplane business after WWII. When Lou hired me he had a fixed-base operation (FBO) located in the old Plains Airways, Inc. hangar facilities in Cheyenne and was in the process of establishing another FBO at Stapleton Airfield in Denver. He was the Piper dealer. I became one of two salesmen. Bob Dunn was the other. We each had a nice office in the new Denver facility and things were actually going pretty well.
However, a year or so later I had another opportunity and went to Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield, Colorado approximately half way between Denver and Boulder. There I became sales manager for Roach Aircraft, a Mooney distributor.
I liked the Mooney very much and felt I was better equipped to sell it over the Piper. Piper makes an excellent product. It was just my own personal choice.
Dustin Newberg over Red Mountain, AZ
I was getting to fly quite a bit doing some charter flying and instructing along with sales. I was rooming with a terrific fellow, Don Bringle, Roach Aircraft’s chief pilot. We got along great and did a lot of things socially in addition to working together at Roach Aircraft.
It was during this period my life I met another pilot who became a great friend and remains so. Dave Kaplan flew out of JEFFCO and we often went to “Mom’s” for lunch. One day Dave said “I’m going to fly for Frontier Airlines, they are hiring. Why don’t you?” I asked what the pay was. “$400.00 per month plus some expense money when on a flight,” he said. I replied that it would mean a huge cut in pay and that I was enjoying what I did.
A few months later Dave, now a DC-3 copilot, and I were having lunch at “Mom’s” in beautiful downtown Broomfield. He said,”Frontier is still hiring as are the other airlines. You should re-consider!” I told Dave that I didn’t want to jerk gear on the DC-3 for $400 bucks a month. Dave said, “you need to look farther. You can still do what you do selling airplanes during your off times and set yourself up career-wise.”
Captain Kaplan route checking the author
Dave’s comments had me thinking. I checked with United, Continental, Western and, yes, Frontier. All were hiring. Soon I interviewed and was offered a class date with Continental along with a promise of a class date with United and Western.
Western’s chief pilot at the time was Billy Spear. He had worked for my father during WWII. Billy had been chief pilot for Plains Airways for a while. I was a shoo-in for Western but I would have to wait for a class date. Also, my uncle, C. Lee Osborn, was a senior captain with Western having recently retired. Another former Plains Airways instructor, Dewey Friedland, later a Western chief pilot, was a close family friend and would happily provide a letter of recommendation.
I called Frontier and spoke with Captain John Myers, Director of Operations. He had flown with my uncle Gib (Nesbitt) at Ray Wilson’s Chickasaw, Oklahoma CPT school during WWII. Uncle Gib was the first one Ray Wilson hired for Monarch Airways which became Frontier in 1950 thru a merger with Challenger Airlines and Arizona Airways.
By the time Ray Wilson had a airplane and a route, Uncle Gib was heavily involved with running the Englewood airport and never became an airline pilot. Uncle Gib did a lot for aviation thru the years and was inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame in 1990.
Captain Myers hired me over the phone! I would have to conform to the usual requirements of passing an instrument check, first class medical, a written test and a lie detector test.
I liked what Dave Kaplan had told me about Frontier and I learned that several senior captains had learned to fly at my father’s flying school. Mostly, I liked the idea of facing forward in the airplane. With United, Continental, and Western I would fly a number of years as a side-facing flight engineer before becoming a co-pilot.
Larger airlines such as United, Continental, Western, and Braniff had mostly longer-haul routes. I liked the idea of short flights with more take-off, landing, and approach type of flying. Looking back, good choice!
I called Captain Myers and accepted his offer. I was set up to take an instrument check in the Clinton Aviation Link Trainer. I was to call him after my check-ride. I explained that I had never been in a Link Trainer. He said that I could have a practice session prior to my actual instrument check. But to still call him after the session.
In operation, the Link was all closed in. The “student” was unable to see outside and, thusly, flew solely by instruments.
I met Frontier First Officer, Bill Hines, at the Link at the appointed time. I explained that I had never been in one although my father had one at his flight school during WWII. I told him that Captain Myers had authorized my having a “practice session.”
Bill Hines was gracious and patient as he explained the Link operationally. Of course I knew how to fly instruments and had an FAA Instrument “ticket” but this would be different. I was confidently apprehensive.
Bill had explained what he expected and the approaches I would be asked to fly. He provided me with the necessary Jeppesen approach plates. He said that he would act as the ATC controller and observe my performance on the large moving paper print-out. No fudging here!
Sample of the Jeppesen ILS plate for Denver’s DIA. Stapelton is, sadly, only a memory now!
Off I went and was amazed at how quickly the Link responded to my control inputs. I had on a set of ear phones and was able to communicate with “ATC” well. We finally finished and Bill mentioned that I should do fine when I took the actual check ride.
I called Captain Myers. He asked how it went. I said, “very well Sir, no problems.” He then totally surprised me saying, “All right then, don’t worry about going back to the Link. I’ll waive that.”
I still had to undergo the rest of the hiring process. Tragedy struck when my pal and roommate, Don Bringle was killed in a tragic crash of a Mooney Executive.
Don Bringle (L) Rick Broome (R) at Rick’s 1961 solo
Don was a small, slightly built fellow. His student, a preacher, was huge. We surmised that the Mooney had entered a spin and the student had panicked and locked up the controls. As big a person as he was, likely he overpowered any attempts Don made to try and correct the problem. They smashed into the roof of a farmer’s barn near Longmont, Colorado. A half century later, the memory still haunts.
I called Captain Meyers and explained my situation needing to care for my pal since his Mom was elderly and in Montrose. Also, I would need to get Don’s remains to Montrose (his home town) for his services. He said, “No problem, we’ll slide you into our next class!”
Had I known what seniority meant I might have stuck my pal in the closet for a month while I got myself into the Frontier new-hire class. Seniority then was based on your class date and your age. When I finally got into my new hire class, being the youngest, I was the very bottom of our class of ten. All total, I’d lost twenty numbers by the time I established my seniority. Over the next two decades this would affect me many times over albeit with no real regrets.
I began my airline career with Frontier, July 5, 1967. It began with Convair 580 ground school taught by Ted Van Steenberg. Following the ground school we were set to begin our “simulator” training. The simulator back then was primitive compared with the sophisticated multi-million dollar Level D devices used today. Early non-motion, two-axis, and full-flight simulators depicted below:
Al Ollinger with the Convair ‘Simulator’
Frontier 737 Two-Axis Simulator
MODERN LEVEL D FULL FLIGHT SIMULATOR
Dave Kaplan was, as usual, spot-on with his guidance. I was a young bachelor meeting new girls (stewardeses) daily and living the dream!
Before I made it to the 580 simulator I was sent to the DC-3 for training. A quickie ground school, again by Van Steenberg, and I was off to fly with Jack Robins as the instructor. The captain upgrade being trained was Karl Penner. All of the DC-3 training was in the actual aircraft.
Jack and I would later fly together in the DC-3 and the Convair 580. Unfortunately, some two years later, Karl Penner would be killed in the crash of a Cessna 310 he was flying from Denver to Durango.
He’d rented the 310 from Clinton Aircraft in Denver. Ironically, the 310 belonged to another Frontier Pilot, Jerry Hagan, who had leased his snazzy twin to Clinton. Penner was taking fellow Barbershop Quartet singers to an event in Durango. The weather had them flying in the clouds which was not a problem. Karl Penner was an excellent pilot. I knew this first hand of course. He had flown this same route for years flying Frontier DC-3s.
A navigational instrument apparently failed. The needle, that was supposed to move from left to right, stuck causing Penner to miss a turn at the Walsenberg Intersection along the airway north east of Alamosa. Moments later, the airplane hit near the top of one of the Spanish Peaks, part of the Sangre de Cristo range.
Karl Penner pre-flight
Karl in an USAF T-33 and with his two sons who would later search for an answer to their father’s untimely death. They would climb to the top of the peak where their father and his friends met their end.
Frontier pilot, Ron Gallop, would, years later, perform exhaustive research into this accident. Knowing Karl Penner’s airmanship, it was difficult to fathom his missing an intersection that was part of his planned instrument flight rules (IFR) flight.
I flew to the scene the next day when the weather was clear and saw where they had impacted the mountain. Much of the wreckage actually went over the top and, still today, lays on the west side of the mountain peak.
Flying the DC-3 with Jack Robins and Karl Penner during training was the last time I would be in the cockpit of a Frontier DC-3. I was called back to the Convair 580 simulator and soon went to the actual airplane for my final check-out.
We new-hires were required to fly twenty-five hours on the jumpseat of the 580 to get experience in line operations. My first flight was with Captain Bert Wrasse who had been the co-pilot on “Welling’s Wing,” another story in the list of posts herein. Wrasse was a quiet, unassuming, fellow who was a delight to be around.
The co-pilot was, none other than, Dave Kaplan my ol’ pal from my Jeffco days. Dave spent a lot of time indoctrinating me to the co-pilot duties, and I enjoyed the trip. The layover in St. Louis was memorable as well as we had plenty of time to look at the sights.
Dave would become part of the training department and checked me out in both the Boeing 737 and the MD-80 years later. More on this after you read more of my earlier happenings…
My 580 check-out, as a new first officer, was made pleasant by Phoenix chief pilot, Andy Hoshock. Captain Hoshock flight-checked both Wes Morris and me in Tucson late one night. CV-580 aircraft training was usually set up by sending pilots to outlying stations and using the layover aircraft for training and check-rides. Of course this meant flying on the back-side of the clock.
Later, technological developments would enable all of the training, under “Appendix H” of the Federal Air Regulations, to be accomplished in the simulator. The first time I flew the actual MD-80 aircraft, it had passengers on it!
Wes, a DC-3 captain, had been fired after he allowed his co-pilot to run off the runway at Gallup, New Mexico. After the company, with ALPA’s encouragement, had determined the punishment too severe, Wes was back. However, he would be required to fly as a co-pilot for a while before getting back into the left seat.
I would later check-out Wes’ daughter, Cindy, in the Airbus fly-by-wire A-320 with America West where Wes’ cousin, Butch, had retired as a senior captain. Aviation is such a small world…
A little side story about Wes Morris: We had become friends and I had had an occasion to stop by his home in Scottsdale one day. I noticed that there were no cabinet doors on Wes’ kitchen cabinets. Curious, I said, “Wes, your cabinets seem to be missing their doors!” Wes replied, “I took ’em off. I couldn’t remember where anything was!”
Wes was a different kind of fellow. Sadly, his R-22 helicopter’s rotor system experienced control dampening and mast bumping with the blades striking and separating the tail. Wes and his helicopter dropped like a stone to his death. It was in 1992. He was just 59 years old.
Wes was heading down to the Estrella Airport which is a well known glider-port SW of Phoenix. There, he kept an high-performance glider that he flew, winning several awards for distance flights.
After Captain Hoshock signed us off, we were back in Denver flying the line. I was bottom reserve. Wes, now the senior co-pilot, enjoyed having his first choice of flights.
My first flight as a fledgling Frontier pilot was a test-hop. I flew with Captain Rick McCoy. Rick later rented a room in my SLC condo. His father, Richard, had retired as a senior Continental captain, his son, Bob, was my co-pilot on the last Frontier MD-80 flight I flew. Bob, like his grandfather, later retired from Continental.
My first line trip was with Tom Howard and his, soon-to-be wife, flight attendant Sherry Anderson. We had a lay-over in Columbus, Nebraska. I’ll never forget the motel. Each door was painted brightly and in a different color. I won’t forget the lonely night either. The most exciting thing to do there was watch the millers buzz around the porch light. I’m sure Tom and Sherry’s evening was more interesting.
Soon after, I was sent TDY SLC (temporary duty to the Salt Lake City pilot base). This turned out to be a truly fortunate life-altering event.
I began flying my trips out of SLC, still sitting on bottom reserve initially. I was getting the opportunity to fly with different captains. Soon, I would have my mental list of favorite captains AND flight attendants. The mechanics and station personnel were all terrific to work with, from the manager all the way to the aircraft cleaners. We still enjoy the annual SLC FAL reunion picnic.
Initially, the chief pilot was Scott Keller. Later it would be Bill McChrystal.
Scott Keller was an renowned pilot who had dead-sticked an Air Corps C-47 into Parley’s Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains east of SLC. This would have been unsurvivable but everyone walked away after Keller’s skillful crash landing into a small level place. Theoretically, this feat was impossible.
Early on, I was flying with Bobbie Bagshaw a delightful former USAF fighter pilot who was the highest-time F-100 pilot in the air force. Scott Keller was on the jumpseat ostensibly to perform a line-check on both Bagshaw and me. My first line-check and I was understandably apprehensive.
We were told that we must know every mountain range, peak, and pass on the Frontier system. Further, we would need to memorize the field elevation for each stop on the route structure. That is a lot of memory-work. I had trouble remembering names, but have the ability to remember numbers. Easy work for me to remember the field elevations, mountain peak and pass elevations, but those damn names were trouble.
You never knew when you would have an FAA inspector or management pilot on your jumpseat. So, best bone up before each flight. Trouble for me was I never knew where I’d be sent, as the bottom reserve. Lot’s of boning-up. Lots!
Scott Keller pointed out a couple of places he wanted me to identify. Whew! He’d asked me the ones I had a ready answer for. Such a gentleman! He made the flight enjoyable. Flying with Bagshaw was always so.
Bill McChrystal was one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever known. The McChrystals and Schades became close friends and shared many vacations and local social events together. There is some mention about Bill McChrystal in “Welling’s Wing,” another fascinating Frontier story.
One poignant story about how the pilots felt about Bill McChrystal occurred in the SLC crew room one morning when one 580 captain, a social misfit, slurred our chief pilot, then absent from the scene!
Dick Ure, another 580 captain, with a reputation of having a rather short fuse, took great umbrage with what he just heard. Ure, whose arms were huge, grabbed the blasphemous captain by the coat, shirt, and tie. With one hand he lifted this, none-to-small and a head taller, fellow up off the floor slamming him hard against the wall. Letting go, the fellow, shocked look and all, slid like a cartoon character to the floor. Captain Ure exclaimed, “Don’t ever let me hear you bad-mouth our chief again!”
Unfortunately, in 1971 Captain Dick Ure succumbed to a massive heart attack. “Gone West” at age 42. He was a joy to fly with but not always safe to be with on a layover. If he had a couple of drinks he loved to fight. And he did.
This same nefarious captain, I will call “Captain Dumb,” is a slow learner. Some years later I was in DEN about to ride up to the crew room in the elevator. Dave Kaplan was in the elevator dressed to the “9’s” in a new suit, vest, and tie. Kaplan, a check-airman, occasionally pulled duty in the chief pilot’s office.
The same aforementioned “Captain Dumb” steps into the elevator and “smart-assed” Dave saying, “your mother sure dresses you funny!” as he flips Dave’s tie out of his vest. Simultaneously, Dave, with one foot, kicks the fellow’s flight bag out of the elevator as the doors close.
Using the Dick Ure maneuver, Dave grabs “Captain Dumb” by the coat, shirt, and tie. Then kicking his feet out from under him Dave, ever the cleanliness type, proceeds to mop the elevator floor with “Captain Dumb’s” uniform. Except, “Captain Dumb” was still in the uniform!
We arrive at the third floor, the elevator door opens. I ask Dave and his new floor mop to quit thrashing around so I could exit the elevator without dirty shoes messing up my uniform pants. I then successfully exit and head down the hall turning to see Dave making his own exit exclaiming, “Idiot!” “Captan Dumb” then has to go back to retrieve his flight bag and, presumably, clean up some.
Dave then marched down the hallway into the chief pilots’ office to tell Captain Bill Norris of the morning’s event. Immediately, Norris reacts with a very concerned look. Dave was likely thinking, “this isn’t going to be good.”
Norris asked Dave who the other pilot involved was. Dave told him. Next, Norris grabs the phone and calls Captain Dick Orr, VP Flight Operations. Norris tells Orr what had just taken place naming the other pilot. Dave could hear Orr’s laugh in the background which, essentially, ended any subsequent investigation. It just isn’t helpful to acquire a negative reputation in the aviation world. I must add that, some three decades later, I am on a very friendly basis with this individual. I harbor no ill-will to anyone.
Some of the real senior pilots in SLC moved to DEN so they could fly the new jets, the Boeing 727-100 and dash 200. A few commuted and or arranged their trips for a SLC layover. So, I got to know some of them as well. One, I had mentioned earlier in Part One, was Dave “Boom Boom” Cannon.
I got to know some of the others casually and would later fly with them out of the Denver base. In the late summer of 1967 I was soaking up all I could flying with some really terrific captains. Some were more personable than others; some were more talented airmen than others; some were absolutely extraordinary in all respects.
Many of the senior captains had learned to fly during WWII. A few had come to Frontier thru Challenger Airlines’ merger with Monarch Airlines and Arizona Airways in 1950. Some had been furloughed from United, PanAm, TWA or Western. Rather than going back under recall they had stayed, enjoying the unique culture and specialty of flying Frontier offered.
Most of those I flew with offered something different from the others and it would be up to me to take from each that which I saw as the best for me to draw from, and to use when I eventually became a captain.
I was learning, but I was making some mistakes. Everyone does. With airplanes it is very important to minimize mistakes! Mine were not such that it was a safety-of-flight mistake. They were more in small things that prevented me from completing a flight and then thinking it was perfect. There was ALWAYS something that could have been done better; done differently.
I flew with one very senior captain who was an excellent pilot but paranoid. If you asked him what time it was he would tell you how the watch was made. If you asked him a question he would automatically put his hand over the cockpit area microphone. Subsequent to the DC-3, all Frontier aircraft had CVRs (Cockpit Voice Recorders).
Another captain was overly talkative and did not care what went thru the area microphone. It was as though he hoped what was said would end up being played back to the folks in Denver, where Frontier’s home base was.
Every captain had his own style. I tried to take from each that which would later help me be judged more positively by my future co-pilots. Life teaches us that it is impossible to like or dislike everyone equally. Personalities and circumstances inhibit this more admirable human experience.
I learned a lot from junior captains too. They had been in my position not long before and had done as I was doing, learning from their betters.
One, Jim Appleby, and I flew together often, we would even compare our “view” of some of the senior captains we’d flown with. Appleby and I were close to the same age. Both of us got our start in aviation by being born into it. We’ve remained close friends.
Early-on co-pilots shared a “little black book” listing the different captains and what each was like. Their likes/dislikes. This was still going on when I was a new-hire.
There seemed to be a budding transformation in standardization where less and less of the idiosyncrasies amongst captains was problematic. Still, there were some…
David Hyde – Jim Appleby – Billy Walker
Appleby was, in my view, a better captain than many of the older more experienced ones. He had a great way of helping to become a smoother pilot. For one he would communicate in a way that made you feel like an important part of his team. Still, he left no doubt as to who was the captain.
Likely, this came from his having hired-on at Frontier as the youngest one ever hired at just twenty years of age. Later, he would become a first officer on the new Boeing 727 with much older professional engineers (S/O or second officer). Both the F/O and the S/O wore three strips whereas the captain wore four on their coat sleeves and epaulets.
This was irritating to Jimmy Dean Appleby. He was the F/O! It was no big deal to Jimmy D. But, it was irritating.
One thing Captain Appleby did was cool. On our first trip together, I was the PF (pilot flying). We were in “The Mountain Master,” a Convair 580. I began my descent which I perceived to be smooth enough. Appleby apparently thought it was not smooth enough. Out my peripheral vision I could see him stretch up in his seat while lifting his tie upwards simulating negative g-forces. He said nothing. I learned!
CAPTAIN JACK SCHADE & CAPTAIN IKE ISAACS
As with any fledgling airman, it is natural to have likes and dislikes from those we associate with. One captain, Jack Bering Schade, was universally the best to fly with. If he had any negative traits they remained hidden. Captain Schade became much more to me as a true mentor and a great friend. He lived ninety three years which was not nearly enough to those of us missing this great man.
Captain Seymour W. “Ike” Issacs was another exceptional captain who, like me, revered Jack Schade. Ike thought that Jack Schade was the most complete man he had ever met. Any who knew him would agree. Another favorite captain was Tex Searle who would instantly agree with my assessment of Captain Jack Schade.
Both Jack and Ike had been thru a grueling war. Ike flying B-17s over Germany; Jack flying B-29s over Japan.
Ike was unique in that he was just eighteen years old trained as the pilot in command of the flying fortress, “Sugar.” He was good! He brought his aircraft and his crew home each time.
Ike with his B-17 crew “Sugah” – Ike far right
Ike in his Frontier captain’s uniform superimposed
Jack’s B-29 would not always come home unscathed as shown below. One time, Jack’s B-29 suffered a malfunction. Procedure called for them to pull back in formation. Immediately, the B-29, moving into the position Jack’s B-29 vacated, exploded into tiny pieces. It would be impossible for Jack to ever erase his mental picture of this horror.
Jack Schade far right in photo
JBS Challenger Airlines 1947
I had numerous favorite captains. It was Jack Schade at the top of my list. I liked flying with Ike as well, but for some reason, I could not make a single butter-smooth landing with Ike. I never knew why. We remained friends until his untimely death at age ninety one. Ike was the picture of health until he fell, severely breaking his leg, becoming trapped unable to move for some two days. An infection set in and he was soon “Gone West.”
One amazing feat of airmanship Ike performed was in the post-war era when he was flying for the USAF reserves in a C-54 squadron flying personnel and materials seemingly everywhere.
One night in 1946 Ike and his crew departed for Japan with a stop-over in Hawaii’s Hickam Field. They were flying a C-54E the military version of the Douglas DC-4. The weather was not desirable although not prohibitive.
Past the point of no return they discovered a severe error in the forecasted winds. Ike and his navigator realized that they would not make it to Hickam and began re-plotting for a nearer island, Molokai. If they could make it that far they might have a chance to land on the short runway between the karst mountains surrounding the field. NOT a happy thought in a heavy four-engine transport.
Nearing their intended landing the engines, starved for lack of fuel, began to fail one-by-one. Ike landed the huge-heavy glider with no damage other than blown tires getting stopped on the little runway.
Having radioed Hickam, rescue efforts were in place. The top secret passengers were whisked away. Maintenance personnel from Hickam brought replacement wheels and tires along with fuel and oil. Soon, they were off landing back at Hickam. All in a days work…
I felt a deep sense of pride when I was able to set up a “Missing Man” flight to honor both Jack and Ike. In fact, I led the flight for Ike when he was interred at the National Veteran’s Cemetery outside of Phoenix. If the link below fails to work: GOOGLE “Ike’s missing man video” It is a well done piece by helicopter news journalist, Bruce Haffner. Watch after the news report on Harrison Ford’s misfortune…
CAF colleague, Dave Gorrell, arranged a two-ship Stearman flight to honor Jack. Blowing smoke they flew a salute overhead Jack’s interment in SLC. Special! One of the Stearman aircraft was the same one flown by both Jack and Ike during their post retirement years.
Captain J.B. Schade’s retirement flight. Ike was his co-pilot
CAPTAIN JACK BERING SCHADE 1921 – 2014
Many times Jack would say, “How come I’m so lucky?”
He truly felt that. Just a couple of days before a massive heart attack took him, Jack said just that to Cheryl and me! He said, “my goals were to marry Alene, raise our two daughters, be true to my values, and be a responsible part of my community. Misson Accomplished!” I wrote the following in 2014 for his eulogy:
The title “How come I’m so lucky” works for most of us. However, this quote happens to come from a special mentor of mine and my first sponsor in my quest to become a member of a special fraternity of aviators back in the late ’60s – early ‘70s. It is also similar to Gen. Jimmy Doolittle’s oft saying. It could apply to anyone who’s eyes are locked skyward…
Airline pilots looking back on their career would, I imagine, have a favorite captain or two they flew with as fledgling co-pilots. This is the story of my favorite captain. I suspect many other pilots from the old Frontier Airlines, where I spent a couple of glorious decades, would agree with my choice. Likely we too are in agreement that his value system and methods of passing knowledge along, in addition to his unique command style, was a remarkable influence to our own careers.
Captain Schade married his childhood sweetheart, Alene, in 1943. They met when he was 14 and she was 13 in 1935. They raised two lovely daughters, Anne and Jill, and have 2 equally wonderful grandchildren they were not hesitant to dote on.
A pilot’s pilot, Jack Schade began his aviation interests as a youngster. Not long after Lindberg’s memorable 1927 flight, which energized the nation’s interest in aviation, one enthusiastic aviation aficionado was Schade’s grandfather, a Salt Lake City policeman.
Schade’s father always had some home brew chilled in their rented bungalow within walking distance of the jailhouse. When his grandfather, John Sullivan, an Irishman, stopped by it didn’t take much encouragement to get him to imbibe. Young Jack would soon be regaled by his grandfather’s aviation stories.
Schade’s father was an “Archie Bunker-type” and a strict disciplinarian. This made it easy for Schade to bond strongly with his granddad, a more relaxed and patient type, who soon noticed Schade’s budding interest in aviation.
His granddad would buy him balsa models and aviation pulp magazines and let him ride in his Ford Model T police patrol car. They would end up out at the SLC airport talking to pilots and mechanics.
A few years later, Schade was a disgruntled 18 year-old, and not making much money. Also, he was disenchanted with the excessive discipline at home. Schade went to the local Navy recruiter with the idea of becoming a naval aviator. Learning that he would need at least two years of college, Schade marched himself to the Army Air Corps recruiter who “guaranteed” he would fly, “…just sign here!”
He signed, his parents reluctantly signed, and he was sailing out of San Francisco Bay September 1, 1939 enroute to Albrook Field Panama. There he began his experiences as a P-26 “Pea Shooter” crew chief with the 74th Bombardment Squadron. He was an apprentice mechanic on the B-18 “Bolo” and worked on the Northrop A-17 “Nomad.” His status changed to 1st AM mechanics rating with his pay up from $20 bucks to $80 per month. Schade was now getting’ rich quick!
Schade planned on completing his two year enlistment so that he could return to the states and go to the university. WWII interfered with his plans as all enlisted personnel were frozen in place.
With the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was assumed the Panama Canal would be a target. By this time, Albrook Air Base was using early model B-17’s and B-24’s to patrol Central America and the Caribbean. SSgt. Schade became a gunner, radar operator, aerial photographer, and parachute rigger in addition to being crew-chief.
He was able to pass the qualification tests for the Army Air Corps pilot program. Soon, he was on his way back to the States.
His staff sergeant rank would be a plus when he finally got into pilot training beginning at Boise, Idaho. He out-ranked many of the drill sergeants which got him out of a lot of the cadet drudgeries.
On to Santa Ana, CA for his ground school, then to Visalia for primary in the Ryan PT-22 before heading for Chino for his basic training in the B-13 “Vaultee Vibrator.” His advanced training was completed at Pecos, TX flying the Cessna UC-78 “Bobcat.”
All are shown below in the order Jack Schade flew them:
At Pecos he received his commission and, more importantly, the wings of a military pilot. From Pecos he headed for Hobbs, NM for B-17 training. Schade was familiar with the B-17 from his time in Panama and was delighted to become a Flying Fortress pilot.
However, the Army needed pilots for the new B-29 more than the B-17. After completing training at Hobbs, Schade was off to Walker Army Air Base located at Hays, Kansas for his next assignment. By February 1945 Schade and the rest of the 11 man B-29 crew were operational. They shipped out for Guam, an island in the Mariana’s.
The Boeing B-29 was a giant in her day. Pressurized and powered by 4 Wright 2,200 horse power 18 cylinder engines, each with two exhaust driven turbo- chargers, the “Superfort” had a maximum speed of 357 mph. It could carry it’s 12,000 pound bomb load to a service ceiling of 36,000 feet for a distance of 3,250 miles. The gunners fired from remote controlled fire stations. It was a huge step up in technology from the B-17. It was amazing in many ways. If you opened the outboard cowl flaps, the airplane would do a standard rate turn!
In January of 1945, General Curtis LeMay (1906-1990) assumed command of XXI Bomber Command and changed the mission statement for the B-29 which had been designed for high altitude bombing. Discovering the high altitude attacks ineffective, he ordered the airplanes stripped of much of the armament and even some crew members for low-level fire bombing attacks on Japan.
Schade flew 25 combat missions fire bombing Japan in the 330th Bomb Group. The 3000 mile flights were exhausting and, at times, harrowing. These missions equated to 14 to 15 hours flying time.
Thankfully, the Marines secured Iwo Jima which saved many a B-29 crew on their way back from a long mission over Japan. Twice, Schade’s B-29 utilized “Iwo” arriving on 3 engines and low on fuel.
Of the 3,960 Boeing Superfortress’ built, some 2,000 battle weary B-29’s limped into Iwo Jima. The Air Corps stationed a maintenance officer to determine the status of these airplanes after their arrival.
If the airplane was salvageable it would be given the signal to taxi to a hard-stand on the beach. If the crew received a thumbs-down it would be relegated to the scrap heap, an ignominious end to a magnificent machine.
On one occasion, he was nearly shot down by one of his own gunners on the B-29 when the gunner mistakenly knocked out the #4 engine. There were other instances of damage from fighters and ack-ack. On one occasion his airplane lost over 7 feet of horizontal stabilizer and elevator to anti-aircraft fire.
“Sentimental Journey,” Schade’s B-29, shown below with some of the damage received. This is the B-29 on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson.Schade on far right was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross among other medals and citations.
Photo below was the mission record for B-29 K-30’s flight to Nagoya, Japan June 26, 1945. K-30 was in the first flight position # 2. Jack is standing far right below:
It was a 15 hour 15 minute flight with some fighters attacking and intense flack as evidenced by the previous photo. 11,000 pounds of 500 pound bombs were dropped at 10:44 PM Tokyo time from an altitude of 11, 400 feet mean sea level.
Found in Jack’s desk was one post mission note making a mission seem ho-hum, but it had to be intense on those flying at half the altitude the B-29 would normally bomb from. Air attacks
On his 26th mission, he was part of the huge show-of-force over Tokyo and the USS Missouri where the Japanese surrendered to General MacArthur. He was on one of the 462 B-29 Superfortress’ — the largest U.S. bomber of its day — that flew over Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, as part of a naval and air show of force that Gen. Douglas MacArthur had engineered for the surrender signing.
The B-29s represented the majority of the nearly 600 planes that flew over after surrender documents were signed 62 years ago by Japanese and allied commanders on the USS Missouri, according to the official Army Air Corps history. That had to have made an impression on the few Jap leaders wanting to continue the fight.
Schade and the rest of the 11 man crew survived the war. He has kept in touch with them. One became a police officer; another became an alcoholic and after a while wasn’t heard from again. Another crewman became an appliance repairman. Of the eleven only one, Jack Rodin, is still on this side of the grass as of this writing.
One of the B-29’s he flew was Sentimental Journey which is now preserved at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson. Schade continued in the reserves after the war and was instrumental in establishing the Hill AFB museum, the Commemorative Air Force when it was still the “Confederate Air Force.”
Jack also flew a DC-3 with his friend and fellow Frontier captain, Tex Searle. Tex’s book, “The Golden Years of Flying” is a must read. Below: Captain Bill McChrystal and Captain Jack Schade with an unknown Majestic crewman. Photo by Tex Searle.
It is hard for me to think of Jack, Bill, or Tex without thinking of the other. I consider myself very fortunate to have enjoyed their friendship and camaraderie all those years. Tex, now in his late eighties is working on his second book.
Flying the venerable old DC-3, Jack, Bill and Tex began their career with the airlines which, in Jack and Bill’s case, continued over the next 35 years. Jack was with Western for 9 months before getting furloughed. He went with Challenger Airlines flying the DC-3 in July of 1947. Challenger merged with Monarch Airlines and Arizona Airways to form Frontier Airlines.
Schade flew the DC-3, Convair 340, Convair 580, and Boeing 737 for Frontier. He retired under the onerous Age 60 Rule in 1981 with some 30,000 hours. He had 13,462 in that Grand Ol’ Lady, the DC-3.
Interestingly, Schade’s closest friend, Gone West, Captain Bill McChrystal, the highest time DC-3 pilot in the world with 17,111 hours as shown in the Guinness Book of Records. McChrystal was a former United Airlines pilot who went with Challenger and eventually became a much loved and respected chief pilot, a rarity.
Below: Captain McChrystal, John Schaeffer, FAA, and Torch Lewis B/CAviation
Bill & Dottie McChrystal, then flying for United Airlines
Jack flew his farewell flight at Frontier with Captain Ike Issacs as his co-pilot. Following his retirement in 1981, Schade went on to fly with his good friend, former Frontier Captain Tex Searle, in Majestic Airlines DC-3. They flew memorable flights all over the Rocky Mountains and to Alaska.
Captain Schade became Colonel Schade with the Confederate Air Force flying a number of CAF airplanes including the venerable PT-17 Stearman. Following multiple surgeries, he was keeping close to his home base and reflecting on a history too few are left to look back on. He looked at his wall of memories 62 years later and exclaimed “…how come I’m so lucky!”
Those of us who had the great fortune to have shared the flight deck with Captain Schade say the same thing. “…how come I’m so lucky!”
One of my first fledgling co-pilot trips out of SLC was with Captain Jack Schade. The weather promised to be lousy all the way thru the stops to El Paso (ELP). I was looking forward to the instrument flying although apprehensive being new.
Captain Schade flew the first leg from SLC into Vernal, Utah (VEL). I marveled at his smoothness. After we landed and pulled into the gate, then off and on loaded passengers, baggage, and cargo we were off on the next leg into Grand Junction (GJT). “It’s all yours,” said Captain Schade.
I was now the PF (pilot flying). I experienced no problems until on the VOR (visual omni range) radial that intersected with the ILS (instrument landing system) approach into GJT. It was snowing hard with icing building up on our antennas to the extent that the DME (distance measuring equipment) from the GJT VOR was acting unreliable. Still I was able to turn onto the localizer (LOC) for the approach. Meanwhile, the propellers were slinging chunks of ice against the fuselage right behind my seat. This loud “banging sound” was always disconcerting to the passengers.
I was making the appropriate calls to the PNF (pilot not flying), in this case Jack. Soon, the 580 was configured for the approach with gear and flaps down and on speed. It was cold outside, cool inside, but I was sweating. I had a tight grip on the yoke with my right hand and an equally tight grip of the thrust levers in my left hand. I was working hard trying to keep the localizer and glide slope needles crossed. I hoped to impress Captain Schade.
The approach minimums for the GJT ILS were two-hundred feed AGL (above ground level). At three-hundred feet Jack put his right hand on top of mine, looked at me with a grin and garrulously blinked his eyes at me. Not a word was said. I quickly recovered from my initial shock. I learned.
Right then! We broke out of the clouds seconds later at two-hundred feet. A nice landing followed by some prop-reversing and it was then the captain’s aircraft to taxi to the gate.
After, arriving in SLC following just fifteen landings as two destination airports were below minimums. Therefore, they were passed by. A long day, but Captain Schade said, “Let’s stop by Kips for a beer!” I knew this trip would be one that I’d likely remember easily and it is so.
Never again did I try to impress. I made sure I knew my duties backwards and forwards and simply did my job. Still, I carried some checkitis in my head. I was always apprehensive getting a check-ride. With me it was always a fear of failure or, at least, a fear of not measuring up to above the baseline whatever that was…
Kips was a beer joint near SLC International Airport. Jack opened the door. Kip looks at me and yells, “WHO THE HELL SAID YOU COULD COME IN HERE?” I looked at Jack behind me. He just gave me a puzzled look and shrugged his shoulders.
I felt my face flush along with the temptation to get into Kip’s face. Then he smiled and said, “Welcome to Kips!” My initiation was suddenly fait accompli!
Lot’s more flying with me living pretty well “high on the hog” at the company’s expense. I had a permanent room at the Holiday Inn, meals, and my per-diem. I was nearing the end of my probationary period when the hotel phone rang.
Denver flight operations asked, “What are you doing Mr. Walker?” I replied, “I’m not sure what your question is, but I am getting ready to depart for the airport to fly a SLC – BIL (Billings, MT) flight such-and-such. Why?”
A voice said, “Apparently, we forgot about you over in SLC on what was supposed to be a few days TDY. If you want to stay in SLC you need to bid SLC as a base or return to DEN.
Happily, I bid SLC. I bought a nice single level two bedroom condo in a secluded area of SLC. Thanks to Frontier operations forgetting me I had the down payment. I was single and drove a pristine 1967 four-door Thunderbird. Life was good.
Soon, I was scheduled for my year-end check ride in the Convair 580 at the DEN training center. I started getting myself all worked up in worry that I might fail and all this that I came to love might evaporate.
Onboard a Frontier 727 enroute to DEN I was in the middle seat with Captain Bill McChrystal on my left and Captain Bobby Bagshaw on my right. I had flown with both quite a bit and had route checks from both Captain Scott Keller and Bill McChrystal. No issues, so why was I wringing my hands?
Both Bagshaw and McChrystal assured me I would do fine. I replied, “I know several who were recently given their walking papers after their check rides.” “You’ll do fine,” they said almost in unison.
I arrive at the Convair “simulator.” The aft entry door was open so I went in and sat in one of the observer seats and watched one of the fellows who had been in the class ahead of me doing worse than poorly. “Poor Stan,” I thought. “You are history,” I thought.
After the ride was over little was said to Stan except, “Good ride, see you next year!” Suddenly, I felt entirely different about this looming challenge. I knew I could do better than what I had witnessed.
Likely, I will never fly a better check ride than that day. The captain, Chuck Callahan, getting his six-month check in the left seat remarked, “That is the best check ride I’ve seen!” Check Airman Roy Williams remarked, “Aw, he was just lucky!” Never from that time on did I worry about a check ride. I knew that if I studied and knew my stuff that I could fly. Thank you again Everett Aden!
I went back to the SLC base renewed. I had the world by the tail. I had a dream job even though my ΑΤΩ pal, Rock Anderson, said, “You will be much better off coming to United or one of the bigger airlines.”
Rock, fresh out of the Navy, hired on with United a few months after I joined Frontier. Rock flew as a flight engineer for some thirteen years before his seniority allowed him a co-pilot slot. Many more years would pass before he made captain.
I did have to sit on the observer seat a short while when the second officer position was still part of the crew compliment. A flight engineers rating was not required for this in the Boeing 737. Fortunately, I only had to endure this for four months before being back in the first officer, or co-pilot, seat. I was a captain soon after.
Rock did get to fly some of the bigger airplanes like the DC-8 and 747. However, looking back, and given the choice, I would have done the same. The people, the flying the whole Frontier persona was uniquely wonderful. Also, my excess funded defined benefit retirement ended up much better than Rock’s under funded one. Sadly, some of my ALPA pilot brethren universally lost a huge amount of what they had rightfully planned on for that fateful day when the FAA so wrongly forces an airline pilot to retire. I will rant more on this just you wait!
So, back from my year-end check ride with all moving along just great. I was buying and selling airplanes along with flying for Allied Aircraft (Tucson, AZ) in my off days. I was even setup as a Mooney dealer through my old friend, Joe Roach. Along with a colleague, I bought a couple of new Mooneys, one an M-22 “Mustang.” The other a smaller Mark 20.
THEN I WAS FIRED!
Actually, I was furloughed. I was not aware of the firing until nearly twenty years later following the demise of Frontier. No problem being furloughed. I was making good money with the airplane sales and flying a plethora of marvelous old war-weary aircraft as chief pilot for Allied.
Just a month and three days later I was recalled back to my dream job. And, I was still selling airplanes and flying some very exotic old military aircraft. I flew a good-many Navy SNB-5’s in and out of Davis-Monthan and Litchfield Naval Air Facility. D-M in Tucson; Litchfield in Goodyear.
I flew a Navy AJ Savage, squadrons of T-28’s (several to Tegucigalpa, Honduras), a DC-6, DC-7, several Convair C-131s, 340s, 440s, and even a Navy P2B1S (B-29). Yup! I was in hog heaven.
Look for a separate story titled “Allied Aircraft” I’ll have the story about “Stud-Hoss-Slick & Tiger!” …and a few other aviation “war stories!”
I was on a non-flying day and went to the airport to pick up one of the Frontier stewardess’ I had been seeing. I met her along with the other members of her cabin crew. Off we went. Bad for her, good for me, she was not feeling well and wanted to return to her layover hotel. I saw one of the other stewardess’ in the lobby and thought there might be a chance to salvage a nice spring day in SLC. I had recalled our meeting earlier. She was rather haughty, but now a bit warmer. Not much. Just a tad so…
Her name was, Cheryl Ann Lotz, and she agreed to accompany me on a flight to Wyoming. I had promised to fly a friend to his Wyoming ranch in the new Mooney M-22 “Mustang” that I owned with another Frontier pilot.
Cheryl sat in the right hand seat behind the co-pilot seat. I took off, raised the gear, and looked back to see how she was. Unconscious! She was obviously not apprehensive about flying in a small aircraft. For the next two decades it would be “gear-up – Cheryl asleep!”
The Mooney was a delight to fly. It was the second to last M-22 produced. This marvelous aircraft was ahead of it’s time. Pressurized, roomy, and a great flying airplane. With it’s 310 HP it cruised as fast or faster as most twin-engine aircraft and in pressurized comfort.
There was just something special about this new female acquaintance. However, she was a Dallas based stewardess for Frontier. So, our’s would have to be a long-distance relationship.
It wasn’t long before our relationship blossomed into something totally out of our control necessitating a change. She nagged, pleaded and begged me to marry her!
Well OK, I was the one who begged and pleaded. We were married in SLC at our home at 2755 Conner Street. It was April 8, 1971. As of this writing we are just short of being together forty-seven years. So far, so good!
When I realized Cheryl was “THE ONE” I called my parents. “Mom, I’m bringing a girl home for you to meet!” Mom asked, “Where’s she from?” I said, “Mexico.”
Both of my parents spoke Spanish. My father, fluently! On the other hand, my mother could conjugate the heck out of a verb! My parents practiced their Spanish nearly two weeks anticipating their meeting my “senorita!”
Not long after my call, Cheryl walked into my parents home. My mother, seeing Cheryl’s obvious caucasian status, exclaimed, “I thought you said she’s from Mexico!” “She is,” I replied. “She’s from Mexico, Missouri.” I then felt a sharp pain in my ribs where Mom’s elbow struck me!
Cheryl was the youngest of nine. Her father died at age 45 from a myocardial infarction when Cheryl was just eighteen months old. Her mother raised her children all alone except for a short marriage to George Isman a man Cheryl loved. Something not shared by the rest of her siblings.
Lillian “Mom” Isman was a very remarkable woman. She was a PN (practical nurse) and, when I met her, she ran her own assisted living home in Mexico. She was an excellent cook. I rightfully assumed her daughter would be as well. Boy was I right about that!
Then and Now
Cheryl was raised as a Catholic. I was raised protestant living across the street from the Presbyterian Church in Saratoga.
My mother insisted we three kids go to Sunday School. I dutifully went each Sunday. I would go in the front door, thru the sanctuary, and out thru the back door. I snuck up into our barn loft where I had stashed my play-clothes. I changed and did the very best I could to enjoy those Sundays. Eventually, the preacher mentioned to my mother that he regretted not seeing me in Sunday school. Mom confronted me and I had to fess up. With the cat outta the bag I guess she figured that, if I would go to that much effort to avoid going, she wouldn’t push it. From then on, I didn’t feel the need for the subterfuge.
Cheryl’s Mom was a staunch Catholic. My biggest surprise was that she and I enjoyed a terrific relationship. I figured it might be an issue, me being an “heathen.” Mom Isman accepted me totally.
Mom Isman loved telling off-colored jokes. She would get so tickled telling the joke that, when she arrived at the punch-line, she was laughing so hard she needed several tries to finish.
This dearest of ladies lived to be eighty-nine. In her final years she went from telling off color jokes to telling ones not so heteromorphic to just listening to them, finally, to her not wanting to hear any that were off color. Like I said, Mom Ismas was a devout Catholic and, it is my view, she was hedging her bets as she neared her perceived end.
I have to share Mom Isman’s favorite joke and the first one she told me. “An Avon Lady was alone in an elevator going up in a high-rise building. Suddenly, she needed to pass some gas. Oh Lordy! It was one of those that could take the paint off the wall! Quickly, she reached into her Avon sample bag extracting a can of PineSol spray. Right after she sprayed the elevator it stopped! In stepped a handsome young gentleman. He immediately wore a very quizzical look glancing around the elevator as it proceeded upward. The Avon Lady asks, “What’s wrong?” The man replies, “It smells like someone shit in a pine tree!” By the time Mom got thru the punch line I was nearly on the floor! I sure miss my mother-in-law, a rarity for most!
Not long after Cheryl and I married we took leave of our senses along with leaves-of-absence from Frontier and left for South East Asia and the war. This is covered in a couple of stories herein. One by Cheryl, one by me. I hope you enjoy the reads.
Back from the SE Asia War Games late 1972 I was flying as captain on the Dehavilland DHC-6 “Twin Otter.” I would prove to be the most fun flying I did in my airline career. Cheryl’s leave of absence turned into a maternity leave.
As I type this our son is celebrating his forty-fourth birthday, today, December 30, 2016. How can this be even possible. Just five minutes ago I was his age and he had just arrived after a very rough entry into this mad-mad world.
Cheryl was in labor over sixteen hours when the doctor finally came to realize this baby was not going to make it out normally. He was just too big. So, it became an Unplanned Cesarean birth. I decided much to Cheryl’s chagrin that I did not want to go thru anything like that again. Any future children would be adopted.
It proved to me the answer to the age-old question of what is the most painful thing in the world? Is it giving birth or having been kicked in the groin? Definitely, the latter!
Not all that long after a woman has a child and she’s ready to bring forth another. You will never hear of a sane man saying he was ready for another kick in the groin!
For more about TLOML* see the separate story herein CHERYL. * the Love of My Life…
I can not mention Jack Schade without mentioning Captain Tex Searle. Jack Schade became Tex’s favorite captain years before Captain Jack became mine. Tex, himself, ranked up there in the top five of favorite captains I had the honor and privilege of flying with at good ol’ Frontier Airlines.
Tex grew up on a Utah ranch near Beaver, Utah. He was a WWII Navy veteran who learned to fly post-war. And learn he did. It was more than a pleasure to fly with Tex it was fun. Tex instilled confidence in his own special way.
My buddy, Pat Sanders, was flying with Tex on one of Pat’s first flights in the Convair 580. Pat had been flying the DC-3 first. Like me, he soon was able to move into the “Mountain Master.”
As was common, the wind across the high desert was often foreboding. It was Pat’s turn to fly a leg into one of the more challenging Frontier stations. Pat was tall strong and well muscled something necessary with the very stiff flight controls that were part of the 580. Hearing the surface wind report, right at the very maximum demonstrated velocity in the flight manual, Pat said to Tex, “maybe you should take it, that’s more wind than I’ve ever landed with.” Tex said, “I can’t.” “You can’t,” replied my bewildered friend. “Nope! I can’t,” Tex exclaimed. “Why?” queried Pat. “It isn’t my leg!” said Tex. Pat landed with no problem other than his chest puffed out a bit more.
It was during this time period that I was moving quite a few old war weary airplanes for Allied Aircraft. On one occasion, I was taking a Fennec T-28D from Davis-Monthan AFB to Miami, Florida as a government contract transfer. It would become one of the most memorable flights of my life with a number of asterisks making stories within the story…
NORTH AMERICAN T-28D
I would later fly some of the T-28s I was moving for Allied, when I was in SE Asia. Most were surplus US Navy T-28Bs that would be converted to the “D”model. The Ds had hard points to carry an assortment of ordinance along with two .50 CAL pod mounted guns. The former Navy T-28s were stored at Litchfield Naval Air Facility located near Goodyear, AZ (West Phoenix).
HOW DID I SURVIVE THIS?
Once upon a time… Actually, the occasion was my being assigned to deliver a Fennec T-28D from D-M to Miami International Airport. The Fennecs were modified former USAF T-28A aircraft. the USAF aircraft was fitted with a Wright R-1300 of 800 HP. The French converted the power plant to the Wright R-1820-80 with 1535 HP. A real man’s machine! It was capable of three Immelmann turns and would still be flying. Not many airplanes can do that. Normally, even good acrobatic aircraft run out of energy after the second one!
In those days, for cross country flying, you needed good instrumentation and avionics to go with your airworthy steed. This T-28 was going to challenge my skills and remove all too much luck from my luck-bucket.
The T-28 looked menacing with the two .50 CAL guns protruding from the pods mounted beneath the wings. The airplane was very unusual as it was completely unmarked. There were no letters/numbers/insignia on the airplane. It was bare aluminum. I did have a manila packet full of authorizations for fuel, and answers to questions authorities might need answers to.
Shaking hands with Jack Kern, Allied’s maintenance chief, I was off and soon heading for El Paso or so I thought. I had a set of World Aeronautical Charts (WAC) and ARC military radios. I had standard instrumentation. Of my tools for navigation the only thing working properly were the WAC charts!
I was soon uncomfortable where I was and saw a strip with some buildings where, I hoped, I might re-orientate myself. I landed and, seeing Mexican uniforms, used all of those 1535 HP to skedaddle! I turned to what I thought northerly until I picked up the highway (now Interstate 10) and followed it to El Paso.
I knew that Pat and his captain, Bill Watkins, were heading for the Ramada Inn so I kept the speed up. Spotting them waiving at me I treated them to a slightly illegal impromptu airshow rolling out of sight. Plausible deniability! Even if the airplane had numbers it would have been unlikely someone could have seen them. Even the ELP tower folks with their binoculars. Turns out I was correct on that count.
On to Abilene for fuel and a stretch. I landed and serviced the T-28. I checked the weather and, to my relief, no one was looking for an errant T-28. I was ready to continue my journey. The T-28 was NOT! It would not start! It would not even turnover!
Out of the airplane I looked around and, looking at the battery compartment, discovered my malady. The rolls I’d performed over ELP were not a good thing for a battery not properly secured. Apparently, one of the rod’s had crystalized and broken causing the battery to crack enough to prevent a charge. I got some, you guessed it, duct tape.
If it moves and you don’t want it to, use Duct Tape! If it doesn’t move and you want it to, use WD-40!
I wrapped the battery tightly, since there were no replacement batteries available, and hoped that an external power cart would get me started. I would worry about what happened next next!
The Abilene folks had me all plugged in and, sure ’nuff, I was running again. I was heading for New Orleans and my first visit to the French Quarter. I’d heard about the night life there and itched to experience it.
South of Houston, Texas the skies were darkening much earlier than expected. Weather looked ominous and no where near what I seen forecasted. I saw a spiffy little airport with a nice paved runway and a big hangar. I was curious as to why there weren’t any airplanes sitting on the empty field. But, I landed knowing that there was no way to fly this airplane at night! Those old ARC radios were just dead weight. The compass was useless, the gyros all precessed, and there were no lights other than my small flashlight. I was going to have to land, and soon.
I landed. Seeing no human forms I taxied up to the hangar and, soon, saw the door open a crack. The light of the hangar illuminated the one person there. I coaxed him up on the wing were he told me to get the heck outta there a hurricane was coming! I explained my situation. I couldn’t fly it at night and would need help starting if I shut down.
There was no room at the inn! The hangar was plumb full and most who could, hightailed it to Houston. So, with a growing concern, I taxied the US government’s T-28 to a tie-down. I shut the airplane down and chalked the wheels then used the chains to secure the airplane. And then I wondered how this would all shake out.
The fellow there worked for Dow Chemical. It was Dow’s airfield and I was an unwelcome interloper. Still, Texas hospitality prevailed and this kind gentleman helped me secure the airplane and gave me a ride to town.
No problem getting a room, but was told they expected to be evacuated. I would be called if that was to take place. If, somehow, the hurricane didn’t hit, Dow’s man would pick me up in the morning at first light and help me get underway.
This was the hurricane that made a sharp turn and devastated Corpus Cristy. Bad for those folks, good for this ol’ boy!
Soon, I was underway and, unable to get fuel at Dow, planned my next stop at Lake Charles, Louisiana. With the weather related to Hurricane Celia I was just barely VFR (Visual Flight Rules). I was not scud running! Well maybe a little…
I found my way to Lake Charles, with no radio. Of course I needed to get the tower’s attention. I did! Boy Howdy! I crossed the field perpendicular to their instrument runway. I looked for a green light, saw it and landed. As soon as I had parked, I grabbed the phone in the pilot’s lounge and checked in with the tower. I explained my situation pleading my case. Luckily, the tower chief was a good fellow and an ex-military controller. He even helped me arrange a no-radio departure. WHEW!
I serviced the T-28, called the tower for an OK to taxi to the departure runway. I was to point the airplane towards the tower when I was ready to go. But, I wasn’t. The control lock for this version of the T-28 is mounted on the throttle quadrant. Something jimmied the latching mechanism. I wasn’t going anywhere. So, I turned to the tower and they gave me the “green light.” To their surprise and my chagrin I taxied back to the ramp. I shut down, and called the tower to explain again! Highly entertaining for them, not so much for me!
Borrowing a Phillips screw-driver and pliers I soon “fixed” the malady and was ready to try again. Taxiing out I could not help noticing a fast-moving thunder-head moving straight for the airport. I turned to the tower, got the green light, and blasted off Chandelling away from the now threatening thunderstorm. WHEW again! Soon I was heading across the Gulf of Mexico with Clearwater, Florida my next stop.
THEN IT HIT ME!
I had planned my fuel burn based on a normal take-off, raising the gear, coming back to climb power, then, soon after, climb cruise power. The 1820-80 sucks a lot of gas and a whole-lot more when at MAX POWER! In my desire to steer away from the thunderstorm, I had MAX POWER set for much longer than normal. Not good now looking down at the single fuel gauge already pointing towards the “EMPTY” mark.
I was trying to remember where that last freighter was that I’d flown over a few minutes ago. I was thinking that I did NOT have proper over-water survival gear. All I had was a floatable seat cushion. I was thinking there were large fish down there that will eat me. I was thinking and wishing that I had done more of thinking earlier! I was realizing how much that I was challenging my “Luck Bucket.” I would do that even more before the day was finished.
I had always prided myself in using good judgement and flight-safety practices. So far, I was belying these principles.
There is absolutely NO WAY to press one’s nose against the forward wind screen in the T-28. I will swear to you that MY NOSE was pressed flat against that windscreen looking for land. Every time I would think land was coming into view it was a shadow from the fair weather cumulus clouds ahead and below me. Now the fuel gauge was not moving at all. It was smack-dab stuck on EMPTY!
Have you ever been angry with your self for doing something really dumb? You have never been as angry as I was at myself at that time. Not even close. I was certain things were about to get real quiet and I had no means of hollerin’ for help!
THEN I SAW IT!
I saw land and Chrystal River Field. I might just make it!
I was hopeful there would not be any other aircraft to compete with and headed straight for the runway. Lucky again! No traffic! Gear down, flaps down, the squeak-squeak of the tires, followed by a huge sigh of relief!
I taxied in and kept the engine running while I coaxed the line-boy up on the wing. I explained my rather inconvenient electrical system and that I would need a battery-cart or an external power unit to start again. NONE! They did not have even a spare battery to boost from.
Now I had several issues to deal with. I needed fuel very quickly and I needed to use the bathroom even more! I asked the line boy to get his boss up there. I asked him if he would let me “hot-fuel” the airplane (while the engine is running). At first it was “hell no” then “OK” and he agreed to hold the brakes while I scurried inside to the Men’s room.
I paid for the gas, and gave an extra $ ten-bucks to the line boy along with the phone number for the Miami International tower. He was to call and give them my ETA (estimated time of arrival). I really felt fortunate to have landed at this charming little airport with some especially nice aviation folks who bent over backwards to help me and bent a few rules to boot! So, the least I could do is give them a little private air show!
I held the brakes as I set the power to MAX. I released the brakes and roared down the runway catching their waves in my periphery. Rather than rock the wings back, I pulled up the gear, gaining speed, then pulled the nose to some twenty degrees pitch-up and rolled the T-28. They must have thought I was Bob Hoover in disguise!
OH MY GAWD! I dished-out in the roll descending below tree top level and nearly busted my sorry butt! The airport bunch watching likely thought it was planned! It wasn’t. How many more times would I dip into my, apparently oversized, luck bucket? As it turned out a couple more time on this odyssey alone…
With no adequate navigation and no radio, I wanted to cross the Florida peninsula and follow the eastern coast-line to Miami. I still had my WAC chart on my lap and, with improved weather, knew my exact position. I was circumnavigation the airports with positive control air space and had just looked down at my map to identify Lake Kissimmee when I saw a Cessna 150 about to join me in the cockpit. !@%(*)&^!!! as I yanked back on the stick! I have no idea how the mid-air did not happen. I banked back to see where the Cessna went and never again saw that airplane. I’d seen enough of that guy albeit I still see him! Some of life’s happenings are welded to your soul. I still can feel my heart racing in my throat and wonder yet today what my heart rate was. WHEW!
I kept working my way around restricted areas and the bigger airports unit I saw Miami International. I continued working my way around a maze of airports, military operating areas (MOA), and restricted areas until I was finally circling the Miami International tower waiting for a green light. Nothing! I circled some more. Nothing! I was growing concerned that my friend back at Chrystal River had failed to call Miami for me.
All I could think of doing then was to make a normal pattern entry and, if I received no landing green light, go around. On final in landing configuration I received a green light and quickly realized why they had delayed me. After I touched down and was rolling-out on the runway I was suddenly being chased by several black SUV-type cars with flashing lights. I stopped on the runway and slid the canopy back as a man in black fatigues clambered up on the wing. He was pointing a semi-automatic pistol at me. At this point, I was getting way behind on my worryin’!
Another equally dressed and armed fellow was soon on the other wing but saying nothing. I didn’t want to shut the airplane down. I kept it idling. His hair kept blowing in the prop-wash. I do not recall a more uncomfortable moment.
Of course the first fellow wanted to know who I was, what the airplane was, and why I had landed an unmarked warplane at Miami International. I gave him my name and said that I had the paperwork right here in the side pouch. I started to reach for the manila envelope. He said, “do NOT move or I will blow your head off.” I kept very still. I was developing an overpowering urge to use the mens room.
The fellow on the other wing reached in and retrieved my paperwork. With the engine running the prop blast was to severe for him to read anything. He hopped down. Then another similar dressed individual steps out of one of the mysterious black vehicles and looks at my paperwork. He signaled to the man holding the gun to ride with me as they paraded me to a very secure area where a tall chain-link fence gate was electrically opened. I taxied in and, on their signal, shut the engine down.
The people inside this rather interesting compound were more welcoming than my black fatigued escorts. Soon, they assured me I would taken to the airport to catch my flight home. Not soon enough!
Of course I had to call the Miami tower and plead my case. The leader of the people accepting control of the T-28 assured the tower that it had been a slight mix-up and that I was, in fact, supposed to be there. WHEW!
I did miss my flight on Easter Air Lines to St. Louis where I was to catch a Frontier jet to Denver and then SLC. My then girlfriend was preparing a marvelous surprise birthday party for my pal, Captain Jimmy D. Appleby. Apparently, the party was a success even though the host missed the party. It was at my home! I finally arrived to a rather cool reception.
I would fly many more T-28’s but none where the flight was anything like this! I flew several T-28s to Honduras where they became the country’s main fighter.
T-28s in Tegucigalpa, Honduras
The years went by, things went along pretty well. Frontier was actually THE premier airline amongst all U.S. air-carriers. Under the tutelage of CEO, Al Feldman, Frontier was making more money than any airline. Life was good. It was just prior to the sunset of the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board).
Prior to de-regulation, Frontier was getting additional aircraft added to it’s fleet. The new ultra-modern Douglas “Super 80” entered the scene. Then Bob Six, CEO of Continental, lured Al Feldman away from Frontier to CAL.
Frontier’s second in command, Glen Ryland, took the helm of Frontier. It didn’t take long for Ryland to start our boat sinking. As competent as Feldman was Ryland was his polar opposite. Granted, Ryland had some abilities, but they were seemingly more suited to being locked up in a back room somewhere.
The Frontier Employees could clearly see what this myopic poor excuse of a manager failed to visualize. Ryland soon had our feeder fleet of Conviar’s sold and began going head-to-head with the larger airlines that used big longer range aircraft. Granted, the 580s were long in the tooth with increasing maintenance costs. We also knew there were solutions. We offered to work something out with the company to retain the 580 fleet. Our pleas fell on deaf ears.
Regarding the use of our 737s to compete with United and Continental, we knew that some routes westbound in the winter would require fuel stops. It all spelled disaster. It was the Boeing 737 VS the DC-10. NOT T’DAY!
I was then the chairman of the Frontier pilot group. I went to Ryland and could literally see my words going in one Ryland ear and out the other. It ended badly. It was a disaster.
A year following Frontier’s demise I wrote the following:
on the First Anniversary of the cessation of operations at Frontier Airlines.
Bankruptcy was declared a few days later and the airline was dead.
Then the vultures moved in to feast on the remains.
He had been a pilot for Frontier since 1967.
There were four other unions at Frontier in addition to ALPA.
ALEA represented agents & clerks, IAM the mechanics, AFA the flight attendants, and TWU the dispatchers.
All 5 unions formed the FEC – Frontier Employees Coalition.
It was this group that tried so desperately to save Frontier Airlines.
Wage givebacks, work rule changes, & other union efforts to save the company started as early as 1982.
August 24, 1987
ONE YEAR LATER… It was just a year ago that the safest airline in the worldwide history of civil aviation was shut- down. Why?
Surprisingly, an easy question to answer. But it would take a long time to lead someone through the series of violent roller-coaster rides the Frontier family has been on in its incredible odyssey these past few years since the start of deregulation
Actually, just prior to deregulation Frontier was one of two carriers supportive of such a radical change to the air transportation industry. Al Feldman, then president of Frontier, along with Richard Ferris (UAL) wanted deregulation. Interestingly, Frank Lorenzo did not.
Things might be a lot different now had Al Feldman stayed with Frontier. I certainly view that being better for both Al and FAL. When Big Al was C.E.O. at Frontier we went from being a troubled carrier to an incredible success story. At one point we led the nation in airline profits. But Big Al left to run Continental, and Frontier’s trouble began.
Al Feldman’s successor at Frontier was his Executive Vice President, Glen Ryland. Ryland came to Frontier from Aero- Jet General when Feldman was brought on board. After Feldman left, Ryland let the O’Neil family know he was leaving too. The O’Neils offered Ryland the job along with an incredible package.
Ryland turned out to be an incompetent manager. He failed in so many ways it was obvious to the most casual observer that Frontier would be doomed if corrections were not immediate. Ryland would not focus on the airline and its future viability. Rather, he believed it would continue to operate as it had in the past and he could diversify into other areas. He formed a holding company and bought other business interests. Then he decided Frontier did not need a feeder operation, so he sold the CV-580 fleet and began to run our little B-737’s head to head with United and other larger carriers flying wide-body aircraft on longer-haul routes. Our horrible ordeal was just beginning.
Once upon a time in 1982 some fellows went on a fishing trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Dick Ferris, Bob Crandall, Frank Lorenzo and Glen Ryland were there, only they did not go fishin.’
What they did we learned sometime later, for in July, 1983 Frontier Horizon (an alter-ego airline) was formed. Then on September 23rd, 1983 Lorenzo put Continental into bankruptcy even though he had $800,000,000.00 plus in the bank. United had a wonderful opportunity along with Frontier to stop what would become the largest airline in the free world (Texas Air), but they didn’t. Why?
The Frontier pilots offered to fly the Horizon aircraft at the same rates they were offering pilots off the street. Ryland turned us down. We offered to fly the CV-580’s on a separate contract sensing the need to retain our feeder operation and have a conduit for our furloughed pilots. Again, we were turned down. Certainly, this couldn’t be a labor busting tactic could it? Just because we are not paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get us! Right?
The Frontier pilots joined with other employee groups in a coalition. We fought hard and we eventually were able to rid ourselves of Ryland and this insidious Horizon thing. But at what cost?
Ryland hurt us in other areas too. The O’Neils had expressed interest in divesting their ownership of Frontier. The O’Neils owned around 12% of GenCorp. Gen Corp wholly owned RKO General. RKO owned 45.2% of Frontier.
Ryland attempted to personally capitalize on the O’Neil’s desire to sell by making his own moves to gain control. It was the view of we employee leaders that once Ryland gained control he would then liquidate from within. Morally bad, yet economically a good idea, as Frontier was an exceptionally strong company with an excellent asset/debt ratio.
We employee leaderss went to Gerry O’Neil who promptly canned Ryland and replaced him with Hank Lund. Lund’s credentials were excellent with the exception he had been the president of the Frontier Horizon horror. He had been with Northwest and then with Frontier many years before replacing Ryland. Regardless, Lund soon endeared himself to the Frontier family.
While the Frontier employees had begun their quest at gaining some control over their own destiny through development of an ESOP little to nothing was accomplished with Ryland. We were, however, able to make great progress with Lund’s administration. O’Neil even indicated support initially.
We later learned what a swell guy O’Neil was. He wanted Hank Lund to posture Frontier for liquidation. Lund refused and was fired. Lunds replacement was Joe O’Gorman (O’Gorman came from Aloha after being with Air Cal, United). While Lund had become an excellent C.E.O. and had worked with the Coalition O’Gorman had to overcome a lot before the employees would trust him.
O’Gorman put on the effort and developed a credible management team. With the evelopment of the ESOP (the Frontier ESOP would have been the first airline to have been totally owned by the employees), restructuring the airline was necessary. O’Neil had sold 25 B-737’s to United along with the 5 Horizon B-727’s and our 5 MD-80’s. We had to replace these aircraft in order to survive.
Frank Lorenzo was buzzing around and O’Neil was considering his offers. We employees were burning the midnight oil working on every means to thwart the Lorenzo threat.
This was happening at a time when our “brothers” at United went on strike. Here was our proud little airline crashing down about us – 35 aircraft gone to United – United Pilots on strike – and Dick Ferris inviting the Frontier pilots to cross the line for $75,000/year for Captains, $50,000/year for First Officers.
There were over 200 United pilots who crossed the strike line initially. More than 300 UAL pilots earned the name “scab” before the 29 day strike ended.
3 Frontier pilots broke ranks. Only three Frontier Pilots (2 Captains and one First Officer) became strike breakers at a time many of the Frontier pilots were certain Frontier couldn’t survive the Ryland/O’Neil destruction.
Not only did the Frontier family walk tall they kept the airline’s safety record intact despite the tremendous pressure born out of the terrible uncertainty they and their family’s lived with daily.
Ferris was having trouble training replacement pilots. O’Gorman requested our approval to use the Boeing 737 simulator as Frontier would get a bonus rate. We threatened ol’ Joe with bodily harm if he accepted. We were totally committed to the United pilots strike. To Joe’s credit he did not push the simulator proposal.
Our ESOP was approved by the Frontier Board. We employees paid a dear price to fight off Mr. Lorenzo. However, we then believed we soon would control our destiny.
Lorenzo had become enamoured with TWA. He and Carl Ican went head-to-head. Ican was the victor, but it cost the Frontier folks dearly. Lorenzo came back to the Frontier deal days before shareholder approval of our ESOP. Lorenzo’s offer was too rich for the employees to out bid.
What would I be writing about today if only ol’ Carl had kept friend Frank busy a bit longer? We looked everywhere for a white hat.
While we felt our ESOP would be successful because O’Gorman had worked a deal with Bob Crandall and American Airlines through an alliance, we would need a buyer willing to out bid Lorenzo.
Crandall was interested. O’Gorman sent Vice-Chairman Doug Bader and myself to DFW for a 3 hour meeting with the Allied pilots. The purpose of this meeting was to see if the APA pilots would help bring a group of ALPA pilots on board with American. The meeting lasted nearly all night. It was a positive meeting. Hank Duffy, ALPA president, called from an IFALPA conference in Sweden saying he would roll out the red carpet if the Frontier pilots wanted to go with American.
The next day, a Saturday, Doug and I boarded an American 727 for Denver with good feelings about our meeting. We met Mr. and Mrs. Bob Crandall on board who were traveling to Denver for a retirement party for some American pilots. Crandall sitting next to us across the isle, leaned over and said: “you know we have to have this deal done by Tuesday don’t you?” I replied:”Yes sir! We had a good meeting with your pilot leadership, and feel there will be no problem moving forward.”
That was the last we heard from Crandall. On Sunday I called O’Gorman to report on the trip and my brief conversation with Crandall. Joe then asked me to meet him in his office Monday around noon.
Monday 8:00 AM O’Gorman called to ask me to restate that which I had reported to him the day before. I restated this and then asked what was up. O’Gorman said he had been unable to contact Crandall. He felt Crandall was refusing his calls and was not returning them either.
The American deal was dead. Fred Vogel, president of APA, later informed me of a meeting called by American upper management Sunday. He said the feelings were this would be the “announcement.” Nothing happened and the meeting broke up.
Speculation was that Lorenzo got to Crandall and reminded him of a few things. Things possibly like “I won’t play in your back yard if you don’t play in mine.” American had announced big plans in the Denver market. No such plans exist today. Continental, while expanding into many back yards hasn’t done so in American’s two new hub operations. If this speculation is true, you can bet it wasn’t done on the telephone… (ref: the conversation between Crandall and Braniff’s Lawerence that caused a major public uproar a few years prior).
Meanwhile, a lot of effort was put forth looking for Mr. “White Hat,” who happened to end up being PeoplExpress’ Don Burr. Burr was in Monterey, California playing tennis with Jack Macatee a lawyer with Davis & Polk, a New York law firm who worked for Frontier in the past. Macatee was lamenting on the fact that poor ole Frontier was being gobbled up by Lorenzo. They discussed this and by lunch time Burr was very interested. All this happened on the Wednesday following the Saturday plane ride with Crandall. On Thursday Joe O’Gorman and two Frontier Coalition lawyers went to Monterey to meet Burr. They hacked out a few basic points of agreement after which Burr asked to meet the leaders of the employee groups. The Employee Coalition controlled a lot of what would happen through our “Merger Agreement” developed in the ESOP program.
We met Don Burr and his following the Saturday following the Crandall plane ride. 72 hours later we walked arm-in-arm into the Frontier Board of Directors meeting in New York and pulled the deal away from Lorenzo.
The employees had offered $19.00/share. Lorenzo offered $21.00/share until 3:00AM the morning of the Board meeting when he upped the offer to $22.00/share. The coalition was waiting in the Davis & Polk office through the night and learned Lorenzo had upped the “ante.” We approached Burr thinking he would end up in a bidding war. Interestingly, he decided to “go for broke” and offer $24.00 if the Frontier board would lock up the deal. The coalition agreed to beseech the board. We explained that if O’Neil and the board decided on going with Lorenzo we would go to war, but that if the board chose Burr’s proposal we employees would be willing participants.
The way the employees structured the deal was based on totally democratic principles. While there were ways for the union leaders to act with autonomy, at least in the case of the pilots, it was preferential to give the employees the vote on these major issues. In fact I insisted on this approach throughout my tenure as MEC Chairman.
During the ratification process of what became known as the “October 17th Agreement,” I was contacted by Frank Lorenzo.
My first conversation with Lorenzo was a secret telephone conversation held in our old friend Hank Lund’s office. Along with Hank, the Vice-Chairman, Doug Bader, and the Executive Administrator, Bob Williams, and I had a lengthy conversation where Lorenzo made us an offer considerably greater than Burr’s. Lorenzo asked for a meeting in person. I explained to him that we would carefully consider his proposal, but I needed to discuss this further with members of my MEC. Lorenzo offered his private home number and asked me to call him that evening. I agreed.
The MEC decided to keep all this very close to our chest as the pilots group would be extremely agitated at even the idea of our talking with Lorenzo at this point in time. It was obviously of equal importance to analyze ALL options available.
We did agree to meet Lorenzo personally if he would be willing to put his proposal in writing. He said he would give us a written proposal after we met personally.
My second conversation was equally cordial. Lorenzo was one to radiate confidence and he bet me the PeoplExpress thing would not work. He bet me a steak dinner. However, Lorenzo was still unwilling to give me a written proposal prior to any meeting in person. I had expressed concerns as to the credibility issue. Lorenzo sounded agitated and remarked that he did not “eat his employees. “That he was a family man with four small children.” I mentioned that there was a rumor that he ate his young. This was the one point in our conversation that caused the cordiality to dim substantially. I then commented that if anything was to grow out of our conversation I proposed to shoot from the hip. That he did not enjoy a good rating in the industry with respect to dealings with employees. I further explained that I would move forward if it was in the apparent best interests of the Frontier Family. I would, however, not meet personally without a proposal of his earlier guarantees in writing.
There were several other calls from Lorenzo. One even to me while in session with the Executive Board of Directors meeting with ALPA in Washington just a day or so before the Peoples ratification was to be final.
With more of a business relationship than the former management/labor adversary kind, I informed both Burr and O’Gorman of Lorenzo’s overture.
Burr went through the ceiling for a while on that. Burr wanted to sick the attorney’s on Lorenzo but, cooler heads prevailed. O’Gorman and I talked him out of this course of action. The employees ratified the October 17th agreement by a very high majority.
Less than a year later the PeoplExpress experiment proved a miserable failure. Burr was to the point of irrational behavior. One executive decision would be followed by something totally different. Many many things were happening which indicated our quest for “buying time” with Peoples would be short lived.
Burr announced in June of ’86 that “all or part of PeoplExpress would be for sale.” I promptly reached Joe O’Gorman, now a Vice-President with United asking for his help. I felt comfortable calling O’Gorman as we had developed a cordial business relationship while he was with Frontier. He was the one who authorized myself and the other coalition members to act on behalf of the company in our negotiations leading to the “October 17th Agreement.” I had also called Roger Hall my counter part at United.
O’Gorman called to say he had set a secret meeting in Chicago. It would be the 25th of June, 1986 when the head of the ALEA and AFA unions would, along with myself, meet with O’Gorman and David Pringle, Vice President Human Resources, at United’s hotel near the Chicago airport. It was a cordial meeting lasting a couple of hours with all feeling positive as the meeting broke up. In fact Pringle dropped the three of us off at United ALPA and AFA headquarters in his own car. We then briefed our counterparts on the meeting.
There were a few subsequent telephone exchanges to let us know things were being discussed. Then on the 9th of July Pringle called me to let me know there would be an announcement the next day that United was buying Frontier from PeoplExpress.
Jump for Joy!
Soon the employee leadership, with the exception of the IAM who separated from the Coalition prior the Peoples deal, met with United’s Pringle and others who would be involved with labor negotiations. We felt we would be treated fairly such as the PanAm/United deal a year earlier… Wrong!
It was evident United would only deal with the pilots first and then expect the other unions to follow suit. It was also obvious we were about learn some new dance steps a-la Pringle. Doug Bader,MEC Vice Chairman, Skip Taylor, MEC Secretary, and I flew to Seattle for the United pilots MEC meeting. I instructed the pilots Negotiating Committee to begin the process in hopes our initial indication was just posturing on the part of Pringle.
Our initial fears proved justified as United clearly wanted the Frontier pilots to negotiate a deal based on our then current wages and then it would be up to us to convince the United pilots to accept it. In essence, we were being asked to do something illegal. We were being asked to abrogate the United pilots contract.
At that time we felt fortunate as we had developed a great relationship with the United pilots. Doug and I had several meetings with Roger Hall the United MEC chairman. Earlier, Roger had made some efforts to approach Ferris with the hope he would be interested in acquiring Frontier. We had gone to point to agree, in principle, that a future merger would be on a straight date-of-hire basis.
The next step was to put our respective MEC negotiating committees together to work in concert.
We had several meetings both jointly and severally. The United pilots many many times promised, assured, and guaranteed the Frontier pilots that what happened August 28th, 1986 could not, would not happen. But it did. Why?
Roger Hall was called on by members of the Frontier Coalition for re-confirmation of these promises. More than once the Coalition traveled to Chicago for personal meetings with Hall and Pat Friend, United AFA Chairperson. Each time we received the same answer first espoused by Pat Austin…”We might dangle you, but we won’t let you drop.” Doug Bader requested re-assurance on several occasions.
Randy Babbitt, Executive Administrator ALPA, worried that the United pilots were in Las Vegas gambling with the Frontier pilots money. I asked what options were available. Of course there were none, only the promise that in the end all bets would be covered by our United “brothers.”
Meanwhile the two negotiating committees met on and off with Pringle and his team. There was plenty of posturing and game playing, much to the consternation of the Frontier folks. We asked Congressman Tim Wirth (later a Senator from Colo) to intercede. Tim would come to our aid many times and into the negotiations twice.
It was becoming apparent that United had structured a win-win deal for themselves and a lose-lose deal for us. Ironically, United would end up losing the Frontier assets to Continental. These Frontier Assets were acquired illegally by United. UAL paid PeopleExpress for specific FAL assets with People transferring ownership direct to United. Nothing ever flowed through Frontier. Even more ironic was the later Continental’s argument, through its new subsidiary Frontier, showed United failed to bargain in good faith with the Frontier employees.
With these concerns becoming more apparent the Frontier Negotiating Committee expressed their position, as did I for the MEC, to the United MEC.
A few days prior to the FAL bankruptcy I requested ALPA president, Hank Duffy’s, presence in Chicago. Duffy rearranged his schedule and met with Hall and myself for a complete briefing at which time I reiterated my concerns. I intimated I had been left dangling out a 40 story building. That I was hanging by a couple of finger nails, but that Roger Hall and the UAL ALPA negotiating committee assured me they would not let me drop. I explained that, although I had locked arms with the UAL MEC up to this point, I now disagreed with Hall’s view. That unless the United pilots agreed to take United up on their last offer we could well be sacrificed.
We Frontier folks should feel confident the United pilots would not let us down. After all we among their strongest supporters during the 1985 29 day strike. Probably, we were their strongest allies.
Duffy turned to Hall and asked him for his assessment, which Hall agreed was as I had described. Hall went on to reiterate his position, that he and the MEC knew this management and that they would be there to pull me to safety at the “right time.” That we might have to suffer going through a shut down of operations and possibly a bankruptcy, but that last call from Hartigan (then president of UAL) would come or Hall would make that last call himself. Believe me, if I didn’t have an ulcer by then it wasn’t for the lack of trying.
This meeting occurred hours before the shut down. The shuttle negotiations having failed, not for lack of effort by Tim Wirth and his aid Phil Clapp, brought the next crisis.
Burr threatened that unless the pilots struck a deal he was going to put Frontier into Chapter 11. Again, I requested Duffy’s presence. Again, Duffy responded and met with Hall and myself for a lengthy briefing on our situation.
Duffy asked me to assess things from my perspective. I painted the picture of having been hanging by finger nails since he left our last meeting. Only now I was certain Hall and the UAL MEC would renege on the promises, assurances, and guarantees made to the Frontier family and I had better try to work my way to safety. I went on to say I had worked my way up to the roof-top, but the building was a blazing inferno and I would burn to death or jump. If I jumped the only thing that could save me would be someone with a net. I turned to Roger Hall and looked him square in the eye and asked, “are you going to be there with that net, Roger?” Roger did not hesitate and said he would definitely be there.
In ALPA’s defense, Duffy could have done little with the way the Airline Pilots Association is structured with MEC autonomy. Certainly, with Roger Halls continued reassurances ALPA national could do little more than pressure the UAL MEC.
The following day, one year ago today, August 28th, 1986 the UAL MEC listened to my appeal, turned their brotherly backs, and have ignored the plight of the Frontier family to this day.
Certainly, there were concerned UAL individuals expressing their dismay. They, along with the rest of us found it hard to believe their management would be so stupid as to toss the golden nugget, they perceived Frontier to be, to the likes of Francisco Lorenzo.
What then is UAL ALPA’s guilt. They simply failed to judge their managements motives and misjudged their business acumen. For by throwing away Frontier’s biggest assets, the employees, (as UAL V.P. Monte Lazerus cited in a bald faced lie to the Denver City Council) they ended up the big loser by losing the material goods as well. They actually catapulted Lorenzo into 1st place, controlling well over 22% of the U.S. domestic market share.
What a long plane ride home. Instead of being met by a lynch mob, I was greeted like a conquering hero. How enigmatic!
Yet the devastation felt by the Frontier family can only be appreciated by folks like ONA, Braniff, Transamerica, Transtar, Eastern, Midway and the others sickened by the effects of incompetent management.
With the blood of the Frontier employees oozing onto the United Airlines ramp there was only one option available.
I still had a phone number given me a year earlier. I placed a call to Mr. Lorenzo. The call was placed just prior to the annual Labor Day Parade in Denver. Ironically, the Frontier unions marching that day won 1st place. The only real win since before Al Feldman left to run Continental.
Lorenzo was not in, but returned my call a couple of days later. Again, a cordial positive visit. I confirmed the fact I owed him a steak dinner for the casual bet made regarding the outcome of the PEX merger with FAL. I allowed that our position had changed and I was not attempting to try posturing. But, if we could work a “fair and equitable” arrangement for the Frontier employees it would mean a public relations coup of the century for Continental. I further agreed that the strike was over, that he had won, that it was time to put all that behind us and together fight the real enemy. Dick Ferris and United airlines!
Lorenzo stated he felt good about our conversation and that the Frontier Captains should keep their seats if something was to work out. I stated that the earlier letter sent to Burr threatening dire consequences if he dared consider a merger with Lorenzo be ignored. I wanted to see all of our pilots receive a fair and equitable integration.
While Lorenzo made no further commitments he left me with a sense of promise. Amazing, here I was asking the very man, I had joined to fight against ever owning Frontier, for a job and to buy him dinner. Steak, no less.
Shortly, we were involved with the Prince of Darkness, John Adams, Vice President Human Resources, Continental Airlines in negotiations for what was to become the “Job Preservation and Litigation Agreement.” In roughly 4 weeks through night and day efforts we produced a very complicated document that was described by Adams in meetings with the Frontier employees as “fair and equitable.” If the FAL employees would be willing to waive their bankruptcy claims against Frontier and PeoplExpress along with Continental and ALPA they would be guaranteed a job. The pilots would “keep their seats.” “Captains would be Captains – First Officers would be First Officers.” Of course an arbitrator would decide the ultimate seniority integration if the two pilot groups were unwilling or unable to resolve their positions.
In dealing with Adams we saw a tough, but fair minded man. We saw a man who had a reputation for dealing through omission rather than out-and-out lying. While deceptive practices with Lorenzo’s operation was common knowledge, we felt that, while Adams was trying to stack the deck in favor of the “scabs,” we would get a fair shake. While rumors that Judges had been bought, a Arbitrator would not act improperly especially if we used the strike method of choosing one.
We were amazed with the speed the Lorenzo machine moved in achieving the “JPA” through employee ratification. Then dismayed at how they would drag their feet in implementing the small things of relative low cost already agreed to. Yet, many of these things were important to the individuals involved.
It would take pages to outline the shabby operation former Frontier people were now experiencing. Frontier, even in her toughest time, did a much better job servicing the customer, maintaining equipment and walking tall. Where Frontier aircraft flew 12 hours daily, Continental was utilizing them half that. Naturally that made Frontier junior Captains fly as First Officers. Maybe an arbitrator would consider this in future arbitration proceedings.
In any event Continental did well through the idiocy of Ferris and his nefarious bunch. They acquired all the assets United gleaned from Frontier except a couple MD-80 delivery slots already disposed of.
However, Continental, in their desire to protect the CAL strike “scabs,” blew what would have been a tremendous public relations coup.
On October 2nd, 1986 the pilots in attendance at the meeting describing the plus’ and minus’ of the JPA unanimously directed me to sign that agreement. Following the initial ratification 492 pilots out of 558 former Frontier pilots elected to fly for Continental.
One year later…less than 390 former FAL pilots are on the Continental seniority list. When can aviation history show such an exodus. Possibly in the 30’s with E.L. Cord’s operation. Maybe today with the exodus at Eastern.
Actually, there are several of the aforementioned 390 who are on a medical leave of absence. Therefore the probable number of FAL pilots flying for Continental would be less. One more glaring example is in the perception that existed just following our being blasted out of existence by United. There would be hardly a FAL employee who did not blame all of ALPA for the sins of UAL ALPA.
However, with the “promotion” of ALPA or any union by Lorenzo in his meager efforts to offer moldy carrots to the CAL pilots, many are reassessing their earlier views as of August 28, 1986.
What exists in the way of hope for the Frontier Family? There is some hope, albeit limited, that there will be some if not total re-arbitration of what has to be a totally unfair and “intellectually dishonest” award. Other avenues of legal review are apparently being pursued as well.
The indomitable spirit of the former employees of the safest airline in the world wide history of civil aviation will never die. Her people have blown to the four winds, but they remain together in spirit, personal contact, and in a brotherhood as right as right itself and as lasting as humanity.
We had a few “warts and pimples,” but we could match our pride and professionalism with the best of ’em. As Congress evaluates the down side of deregulation and the lack of LPP’s and other inalienable rights of the very people who made the sacrifices creating company’s such as Frontier, you can bet they will refuse to correct their mistakes.
We were raped and murdered by United and further sodomized by Texas Air. If we get into the court room our proof of these facts will finally bring our Frontier family some monetary relief for the horrible damages caused by the callous acts of United Airlines and Texas Air.
Yet, as a profession we are as doomed as the Dinosaurs were… Unless we individually, and collectively resolve to abandon the cannibalism so prevalent in our professional society today.
No reflection on great airlines like Hawaiian, Southwest and America West, but based on the most stringent measure of take-offs and landings Frontier holds the safest record in the world wide history of civil aviation. Frontier flew from coast to coast, from Canada through Mexico, in and out of mountain valleys day and night in the worst of weather with mostly older aircraft and poor navigational aids, safely. Billions of miles carrying millions of passengers, safely. Frontier lost a single revenue passenger killed when an old DC-3 lost a battle to low level icing on approach into Miles City, Montana over 23 years ago.
Glen Ryland was fired by the O’Neils when we went to complain about the destruction Ryland was doing to our airline. We objected to the fact he ignored the airline and concentrated on monumental blunders like the catalog company, DFW training facility, and, of course, our then newest nemesis, Frontier Horizon. Jerry O’neil agreed and canned Ryland. Then, discovering Frontier was worth more dead than alive, he hired Hank Lund to liquidate our airline. To Hank’s credit, he sided with the employees and was replaced by O’Gorman. O’Gorman looked bad to us at first, but then he got in step with the employee buyout. However, ol’ Joe could not get along with Don Burr at Peoples Express and left for United. Larry Martin was a nice guy, but incompetent.
Later when Burr announced he was willing to sell all, or part, of Peoples Express, I called O’Gorman (by then back at United as a VP). I asked Joe if he thought UAL might want to pick up FAL in light of Burr’s announcement. Quickly, O’Gorman called back and invited the coalition out for a hush-hush visit. Remember, the employees had bought a contractual right to have a strong voice in the Frontier corporate matters by virtue of the October 17th Agreement with Peoples Express.
Myself, Carolyn Boller, and Lorraine Loflin went to Chicago. The IAM was off on their own by then and the TWU rep couldn’t go. So the three of us went and met with O’Gorman and David Pringle (UAL HR). It was a satisfying meeting after which they personally drove us over the the UAL pilots and F/A’s MEC offices. That meeting went well too. So we all crossed our fingers. That was on June 26th, 1986.
On July 9th, I received a call from Pringle who told me the next day UAL would announce they had purchased Frontier!. This was a high point in my life! On July 10th, UAL, in fact, did announce the purchase of Frontier. We employee leaders were asked to meet with UAL representatives at the FAL board room that Saturday.
From a fantastic high on the 9th, I went to one of my lowest when Pringle showed up in very casual attire along with his horse holders equally casually attired at our appointed Saturday meeting.
We were all dressed up in our finery expecting to hear good things about the UAL/FAL merger. This is when we were shocked into the reality that Buzz Larkin was , perhaps, right all along…”All roads lead to liquidation.”
Pringle announced that he was unwilling to discuss anything with any of the groups represented there except the pilots and that if UAL reached an agreement with the Frontier pilots, he would then speak to the other groups.
In essence he was asking the Frontier pilots to abrogate the UAL pilots contract! Simply put, he wanted to use us to beat up on the United pilots as pay back for the strike in 1985!
Well, the rest is history albeit a sad commentary for business ethics and the fact that Frontier never had a moments disruption to its schedule in its 40 years due to labor unrest. Go figure!
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Billy Walker fought the good fight for a lot of people. The turkeys won but Billy still flies with the eagles. Take a look at him today.
When Jake Lamkins published this along with the reports of other employee leadership I was back in Arizona still trying to find a way to fly. Frontier had just been destroyed by corporate megalomania as the 64th airline to succumb to airline bankruptcy. That dark and foreboding day was August 8th, 1986. The first post-CAB Sunset airline, New York Airways, to go out of business did so on May 18th, 1979, the 117th airline to fall out of the skies was States West Airlines December 12th, 1992.
The records are a bit messy with twenty four airlines having filed Chapter 7 and liquidated. Another 27 filed Chapter 11 with some of those ceasing operations and some merged into other airlines. A few big names have filed and then worked out of their bankruptcies. American and Delta come to mind as does U S Airways.
Interestingly, both U S Airways AND American were saved by the little airline Ed built. Ed Beauvais founded America West Airlines that became, thru mergers, the largest airline in the world. This amazing accomplishment is foreshadowed by the use of the larger carrier ‘s name done ostensibly for the international name recognition.
American Airlines flies today because of the seed Ed Beauvais planted. Ed got his start in the airline industry with good ol’ Frontier Airlines. Google “Ed Beauvais” and you will find a plethora of interesting articles and videos of this true aviation great.
Ed and Mary Ellen wrote a book ” which tells the America West story from 1981 thru 1992.
AWA plucked U S Airways out of their near death in 2005. U S Airways had a more internationally recognized name. So, instead of the surviving airline, America West Airlines, keeping it’s name, the name U S Airways was used.
Later, America West Airlines, now using the name U S Airways, saved American Airlines out of their road to disaster. The former America West executives led by CEO Doug Parker continue to lead the massive airline, American. This, my friends, is a very crazy “bidness!”
Above: Mary Ellen with the love of her life at the grand party celebrating Ed’s induction into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame in 2014. It should have been a joint induction as they exemplify the meaning of the word “partners.”
Cheryl took this photo at the Biltmore gala “Turquoise and Tuxedos” History Maker’s event March 4th 2017. I serve on the board of directors of the CAC (Arizona State Historical Society). So, it was natural that Cheryl and I were there honoring six of Arizona’s most worthy citizens deserving recognition for their contributions to Arizona society. None more than Ed & Mary Ellen Beauvais.
Another of our close friends, Wink Crigler, was honored as well. There will be a Wink Crigler – XDiamond Ranch story added soon.
I did find a way back into the skies via the Lafayette Escadrille d’Arizona a squadron of replica WWI Nieuport 17s that we flew formation flights in to honor our nation’s veterans. There is a separate story on this site about our decade’s flying these little bi-planes. Look for: Formation Flying Lafayette Escadrille d’Arizona
Val Vista Balloon
I flew hot air balloons as well! In fact I flew my Val Vista Lakes balloon 10 years commercially along with giving friends and family rides. It was a fun period for Cheryl, Preston, and me until the early morning get-ups wore Cheryl and Preston down as the crew and balloon chasers. Cheryl did fly the balloon once. After landing spot-on the painted yellow “X” on a closed runway at the old Memorial Airport, Cheryl refused to fly it again. She lamented, “I could not possibly improve on my first and only flight?” She had a point so I didn’t push.
Preston soloed the ballon when he was fourteen. It was the only flight I was ever involved with where I felt fear! Everything was all set as several other balloons launched from the Jomax/Cave Creek Road launch site. Just as Preston launched the wind suddenly came up. Preston and our balloon took off with a twenty to twenty five mile per hour wind when five miles per hour is about maximum!
Off Cheryl and I went as fast as our van an trailer could go to reach the place we knew he had to pass by. We made it on time, but Preston sailed by us so fast we were unable to tackle the balloon. I was near panic mode by then and issued instruction-after-instruction to Preston via our two-way radio.
Preston stayed cool-as-a-cucumber! His mother and I were anything but! Off we went streaming a large cloud of dust as we screamed along to the next point on our, hopeful, intercept of this now hot-rod balloon!
Preston turned OFF the radio! Much to my chagrin I now had no communications. “Preston, you are killing me!” kept running thru my head. No telling what Cheryl’s thoughts were. She was conspicuously silent!
The next place we could intercept Preston was where the Carefree Highway and a creek drainage bridge is located. Preston blew by us again. With no valium to calm us, Cheryl and I were now heading to the very last place we would have a chance to intercept Preston. If we missed this spot Preston would be in wild desert country north of Care Free and Cave Creek with no road accessibility. Not good!
We roared down this last road when Cheryl said, “Stop!” “There’s Preston!” She was pointing to our son standing calmly by the fence bordering the southern road edge.
Preston had watched the other balloons manned by seasoned commercial balloonists. He let down so that the basket was slowed by the tops of the creosote bushes then, nearing the fence, pulled out the top of the balloon envelope causing it to collapse a foot or two from the fence. Picture perfect!
He even had the balloon “milked” and ready to pack up. Soon, we were loaded up heading back to celebrate his first solo flight. Well known area balloonist, John Bagwell, had observed much of Preston’s flight including the landing and was very complimentary to how adroitly he’d handled a very dicey situation especially on his solo flight!
Preston would go on to solo Ron Burson’s Decathlon aerobatic airplane when he was just sixteen. I thought it would be something “like father, like son” but far from it. I as Preston if he planned to make aviation a career? “Are you kidding me! I’ve seen the roller-coaster ride you’ve been on since my earliest memories. I plan to make enough money to buy my own airplane and then I will tell it when I want to go and where!” So, far that hasn’t happened.
Our family had some very enjoyable experiences with this bag of hot air. In addition to our Valley of the Sun flights we enjoyed a magnificent flight or two in Monument Valley. Flights near Lake Havasu, Sedona, Prescott, Cortez, and Denver Colorado, as well as San Diego became fond memories along with the people we met. Balloons in the evening and dark of night are a magnificent site. We call them “Moon Glo Flights” but they are tethered as balloon flying at night is unappealing!
We still maintain our friendships with many of those of our balloon club the Gila and Salt River Base and Meridian Hot Air Balloon and Airship Ascension Social Society, Inc. Some pretty terrific folks to share the love of flight and camaraderie with…
Cheryl and I owned the balloon some ten years before selling it to a book-store owner. I was then busy with the Lafayette Escadrille d’Arizona. I sold the balloon, but kept the hot air! I still can recite the balloonist’s prayer:
Before we fly:
May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well
that God joins you in laughter
and sets you gently back again
into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
After the flight and prior to the champaign celebration:
The Winds have Welcomed you with softness.
The Sun has blessed you with its warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well
that God has joined you in your laughter
and set you gently back again
into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
W DILLARD “PIC” WALKER
Mom with D18S N-80201 Cheyenne in 1995 for Pop’s induction into the WYO Aviation Hall of Fame
My father never looked for honors and accolades, but they showed up late in his life. A couple of news reporters had heard about his being honored by the Civil Air Patrol’s national commander. Soon, he was asked to speak about his early aviation career.
Some of his friends and real-estate colleagues remarked to me how surprised they were seeing stories appear about Pic’s aviation history.
In 1991 at the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Air Patrol Pic was honored as it’s sole surviving founding member. The Arizona CAP honored him again the next year as they celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Arizona’s involvement with the CAP. Next, in 1992 the National Aeronautic Association honored Pic with the Elder Statesman of Aviation Award. In 1995 Wyoming selected Pic as the first inductee for the Aviation Hall of Fame. I had the great honor of being the keynote speaker and was introduced by Governor Stanley Hathaway.
ALL IN A DAY’S WORK
“THE MOUNTAIN MASTER”
One of the more involved flights I experienced in my forty-year career was spelled out in Tex Searle’s book The Golden Years of Flying. Tex’s book is a real page turner and my story is but a small part. Arv Schultz has this particular flight spelled out in his story about me herein. It gives me more credit than I deserved. Jeff Benger, the first-officer, and Sally Douglas, the stewardess, were equal partners to a successful outcome. AND! …we had TWO mechanics on board. This, in and of itself, is unusual. We often had malfunctions where the flight crew would write-up the problem. Then, the sign-off would be “ground-checked OK” as though nothing was wrong. In this flight there would be no doubt as to everything being just as written in the log. I still have have a copy of that log-sheet.
The Convair A340/A440 (580) was truly a “Mountain Master!” It had amazing performance and Frontier’s even more so with “water injected” Allison 501-D13H engines producing nearly double the power of the original piston powered CB-16 Pratt & Whitney radial engines.
The 580 could lose one engine at take-off (from a high altitude airport), climb to 10000 feet above sea level, then cruise faster on one engine than the original piston-powered predecessor. The single engine maximum altitude for the CV-340/440 was nine thousand five hundred feet! Again, easy to see how the 580 really made Frontier and went far in helping achieve FAL’s phenomenal safety record.
I ended up with nine thousand five hundred hours and poor hearing flying that extraordinary flying machine! My favorite airliner ended up being the Airbus A-320. My least favorite is the MD-80. My all-time favorite flying machine is the one-of-a-kind The Ghost Ship described in a separate story herein…
I had spent the better part of two decades flying and teaching the Boeing 737. When I went into the new Airbus fly-by-wire A-320 I did NOT like the airplane.
The A-320 has four hundred and twenty two computers in it. The manufacture, Airbus, uses acronyms upon acronyms. It would take some getting used to.
I was actually surprised at how fast I made friends with this ultra-modern flying machine. At the end of my forty year career, after fifteen years flying the ‘bus,’ I was convinced it was the best airliner I had flown.
Photo by Captain Tom Sceurman
Certainly, there are the naysayers. I hear and read many negative comments on the Airbus. Usually, the comments are from people who have no actual experience with the airplane.
True, there are some who have experience with flying the Boeings and Airbus who prefer the Boeing. Like having a preference of chocolate over vanilla ice cream. I like chocolate and I like the Airbus.
Most of what the news media has reported on the “hazards” encountered flying the Airbus are in error blaming the aircraft. In almost every case, the problem has been education! Airbus, Air France, and other training departments have NOT done their job properly.
For example, the Air France A-330 (Fight 445) crashed into the sea after the two pilots mishandled the flight controls and mis-identified the mechanical problem. The captain, had he been in his seat, instead of the rest station, likely would have resolved the issue. Regardless, they could have flown all the way to Paris with the problem left unresolved. It was a simple case of knowing the unreliable airspeed procedure. Sad!
I enjoyed the eleven years I spent with America West Airlines. The culture was much as it was with Frontier. Some of the reasoning for this was in that there were a goodly number of former Frontier folks who had joined America West.
AWA’s founder was former Frontier as was the Director of Training, Captain Boyd Stevens, and Manager of Simulator Training, Ardell Arfsten. It was “The Boss,” Boyd Stevens and Ardell who hired me.
Boyd had a long and distinguished career. At Frontier, Boyd became Director of Training and moved to that position with AWA. Ardell came with FAL in 1967 and moved up the ladder of success becoming the Vice President of Flight Operations.
Ardell’s son, Ron, had worked for me in his early flying career before joining Frontier before his career path took him to America West where he became my boss! Ron is still there albeit his uniform is now that of an American Airlines captain.
Both “Gone West” now, I often remember Boyd and Ardell. They were two really great aviators.
It was early in 1999 when I saw an article in “Aviation Week & Space Digest.” The article mentioned a new airline, called “New Air” was starting up and would be flying the A-320 based at JFK.
There was an e-mail address with the article. Curious, I sent an e-mail asking for more information. I mentioned that I was managing the America West Airlines Airbus training program only to encourage a reply.
Next thing I knew, I was having lunch with Ann Rhoades, VP People. Ann would later become a member of the board of directors with JetBlue.
Then the small group of the initial New Air team showed up to interview me and offered me a job.
I had no plans of leaving AWA. I loved my job. I had the best boss ever with my immediate supervisor, Jim Tucker. The Director of Training, Roger Parrish, was a flying buddy. The rest of the pilot training team was absolutely terrific and we played well together.
I was home every night with only a rare need to travel. I was paid well and received an excellent benefits package. If there was a downside it was that I didn’t get to fly much. And, I missed flying the line.
I was a check airman and FAA APD (Aircrew Program Designee) administering type ratings to new captains. We still did “bounce” training which involved some actual aircraft flying. I would always swap seats with the pilot who had just completed his training requirement and make a few take-offs and landings.
So, the New Air offer stirred things up some. They offered what promised to be considerably more money, more benefits, and a very senior number.
The downside was that New Air was just that, new! The founder, David Neeleman, had an established track record having founded Morris Air which had been purchased by Southwest Airlines and he started up the Canadian airline, Westair.
Still, I would be gambling a sure thing where I was for an yet unproven airline. I called my pal, Dave Kaplan. Dave had talked me into going with Frontier Airlines three decades earlier. Dave was and is one of my closest friends. Dave is a rarity in the pilot ranks.
Pilots tend to do poorly in investing. The majority buy high and sell low. Kaplan is the opposite and was a financial success early-on. So, I ran the New Air offer past him.
Dave said, “I’ll call you back, and do a three-way conversation with a friend of mine who will likely be familiar with New Air’s program.” A few minutes later I was speaking with Dave and Joe Lorenzo.
Dave had told me that Joe was not related to the infamous Frank Lorenzo who was finally banished from the US airline industry for his megalomaniacal shenanigans.
Joe is a well respected aviation industry consultant who has helped a number of airlines establish viable business plans. Joe had worked with David Neeleman and knew a lot about New Air.
Joe said, “Billy, Dave tells me you have an opportunity to go with New Air. My suggestion is for you to hang up from our call and call New Air and accept their offer. Then call me back and I’ll spend all day telling you how you have made a smart move. The are a winner out of the box. They have more start-up money than any airline ever and their business plan is a sure thing if there is a sure thing!”
If you are reading this Dave or Joe, a sincere “Thank You!”
I would have preferred to have spent my entire career with the historic Frontier Airlines. That was not to be. Even though I felt the pain of loss with Frontier’s demise, there was life after Frontier and the America West experience was great working with some terrific people.
I became part of the New Air start-up team. On September 5th, 1999 I was in NYC on Park Avenue for the first gathering of all the employees. There were thirty five of us gathered in the board room of New Air’s rented office space.
Just five pilots were at this meeting with three in upper management. Al Spain was seniority Number One, Brian Coulter Number Two and Mike Barger Number Three. I was Number Four but, more importantly, I would be the senior line captain bidding number one! Because of his youthful age, the fifth pilot, would end up tenth on the seniority list.
It was not until our first class was assembled, and in ground school in Miami at the Airbus training center, that the initial seniority list was etched in stone. One thing happened that was a a bit of a shock. Mike Clark who was to be the Chief Pilot was let go. Apparently, there was some tension between Mike and other’s within flight operations management.
I knew Mike from America West Airlines. Mike was an FAA inspector. America West had a contract to provide training to the FAA. I was assigned to work with Mike and we struck up a lasting friendship. So, I was delighted to find him at the initial meeting on September 5th, 1999. I was sad and disappointed when things didn’t work out for Mike’s long-term relationship with New Air.
Mike called to ask who, among our class of twelve, might be a good candidate to become the second chief pilot. My seat partner in the simulator was Lanny McAndrew. Lanny had been a senior master sergeant in the USAF. I said as much to Mike and suggested, “Chief Master Sergeants ran the Air Force. Lanny might be the right one for the job.” I might have given that suggestion more thought.
I remembered starting with Frontier when, as the youngest in my class, the most junior in the airline for a while. The prospects of being the senior line pilot was very appealing! However, we still needed to get past the fact that New Air had no airplanes, no gates, and no FAA certification.
One inspector from the FAA CMO office in Phoenix where I was an APD (examiner) said, “It will take at least two years for that new airline to become certified!” I replied, “the New Air upper-management folks are a lot more optimistic than that.” My friend at the local FAA was a bit off.
It wasn’t long before New Air was off and running. Airplanes were bought, gates were acquired, and the FAA (under a new certification program) issued the paperwork that would put us in the air.
- 12/4 JetBlue takes delivery of its first Airbus A320 aircraft
- Sept. JetBlue receives an unprecedented exemption for 75 take-off and landing slots at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- July JetBlue reveals that all its aircraft will offer 24 channels of live satellite television at every seat, a first for the airline industry
- Apr. JetBlue (then known as “New Air”) places a $4 billion order with Airbus Industrie for up 75 new A320 aircraft, and commences leasing arrangements for another eight aircraft
- Feb. Founder David Neeleman announces plans for his new airline
- Sep.5th David Neeleman and Dave Barger hold their first crew briefing.
JetBlue flies its one millionth customer and reports $100 million in flown revenue for 2000
- 11/18JetBlue adds service between JFK and Fort Myers, FL
- 11/17JetBlue inaugurates service between JFK and Salt Lake City, UT
- 11/10JetBlue takes delivery of its 10th Airbus A320 aircraft
- 10/18JetBlue commences flights between JFK and West Palm Beach, FL
- 9/7JetBlue adds service between JFK and Burlington, VT
- 8/3JetBlue launches services from JFK to Rochester, NY and Oakland, CA, in the San Francisco Bay area
- 7/21JetBlue commences flights between JFK and Ontario, CA, near Los Angeles
- 6/23JetBlue takes delivery of its 5th Airbus A320 aircraft
- 6/21JetBlue begins flights between JFK and Orlando, FL
- 3/16JetBlue launches service between JFK and Tampa, FL
- 2/17JetBlue adds service between JFK and Buffalo NY
- 2/11JetBlue launches operations with its inaugural flight between JFK and Fort Lauderdale, FL
- 2/3The United States Department of Transport (DOT) issues JetBlue with a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, representing the successful completion of the airline’s application processes before both the DOT and the Federal Aviation Administration
- 12/19JetBlue expands service between JFK and Fort Lauderdale, FL to ten daily flights
- 11/28JetBlue launches twice-daily service between Washington DC (Dulles) and Fort Lauderdale, FL
- 11/9JetBlue takes delivery of its 20th Airbus A320 aircraft
- 11/1JetBlue completes installation of bullet-proof, dead-bolted cockpit doors across its fleet
- 8/29JetBlue launches second focus city in Long Beach, CA with two daily flights to JFK
- 7/26JetBlue starts twice daily service between JFK and New Orleans, LA
- 7/18JetBlue orders up to 48 more Airbus A320 aircraft valued at $2.5 billion. The airline’s fleet order now totals up to 131 new A320 aircraft
- 5/17JetBlue inaugurates service between JFK and Denver, CO and adds a daytime flight to Ontario, CA
- 5/7JetBlue inaugurates service between JFK and Syracuse, NY, its third upstate city
- 5/1JetBlue inaugurates service between JFK and Seattle, WA and adds a daytime flight to Oakland, CA
- 4/26JetBlue flies its two millionth customer
- 2/11JetBlue celebrates its 1st anniversary!
- 11/15JetBlue launches service between New York’s JFK and Las Vegas
- 11/15JetBlue adds VH1 Classic, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite and TV Land to DIRECTV® programming
- 10/10JetBlue starts service between Long Beach and Las Vegas (JetBlue’s 20th destination)
- 9/27JetBlue Airways acquires LiveTV, LLC, provider of airline’s inflight satellite TV entertainment system
- 9/24JetBlue adds NBC and Telemundo to DIRECTV® programming
- 9/6JetBlue commences service between Long Beach and Oakland
- 6/13JetBlue launches the TrueBlue customer appreciation program
- 5/31JetBlue begins service to San Juan, Puerto Rico
- 5/1JetBlue adds service from Washington DC, nonstop to the West Coast
- 4/30JetBlue purchases two more A320s
- 4/11JetBlue announces initial public offering of its common stock
- 3/7JetBlue flies its five millionth customer
- 2/11JetBlue celebrates its 2nd anniversary!
- 1/14JetBlue orders 10 Airbus A320 aircraft valued In excess Of $500 million
During the days of “New Air” David hired a search team to come up with a permanent name. “New Air” was never intended to be the name of the operating airline.
David hired a company to come up with “THE” name. They did, but the lawyers shot it down. I no longer remember the original name suggested. David simply said, “I like the color ‘blue’ we’ll name our company ‘BlueJet’ and we will make the name a ‘brand.’ It morphed into JetBlue Airways and, in fact IS a brand.
From our meager beginnings, JetBlue went from being ‘New Air’ with thirty-five employees, no airplanes, no gates, and no certification to becoming a major airline, the fifth largest, with some two hundred and thirty aircraft and one hundred destinations. Incredible!
Cheryl and I are proud to have been founding members of this great aviation success story. There was a single base, JFK and now there are five. The airline’s demographics have changed considerably since the beginning. Likely, more changes will come with dictates of this crazy industry.
- Boston Logan International Airport
- Fort Lauderdale International Airport
- John F. Kennedy International Airport
- Long Beach Airport
- Orlando International Airport
1st Pilot Class:
Al Spain Brian Coulter, Mike Barger, Billy Walker, Lanny McAndrew, Alex Wisse, Jeff Hubbard, Brian Bishop, Ed Brennan, Kevin Carr, Joe Sallee, and Jon Applebaugh. Al Spain, Kevin Carr, Jon Applebaugh and Billy Walker after arriving in Salt Lake City in a brand new JetBlue jet. Al flew as my co-pilot as we performed one of the first proving runs and, to honor David Neeleman and the JetBlue reservations center in SLC. David was along on this flight. Cheryl was as well. It was she who took the photo below. Jon and Kevin flew the return flight as Cheryl and I stayed a few days in SLC to visit with ol’ Frontier friends from those long-ago days…
The JetBlue experience was such a happy time for both Cheryl and me. Cheryl went along on the proving-run flights and roughly half of the seventy seven international delivery flights I made bringing new Airbus jets to AWA and JetBlue. She went on numerous maintenance flights in and out of Winnipeg, Canada and El Salvador.
If someone suggested, “Let’s go to New York to see a play!” Cheryl would say, “Give me five minutes, I’ll be packed and ready to go!” I would say, “Have a nice trip!”
I still hear from David Neeleman on occasion and several of the JetBlue Crew. I hunger for those contacts. Yet, given the JetBlue “Value System” of ‘SAFETY-CARING-INTEGRITY-PASSION-FUN,’ when I retired the second time it was as though I had died! I was completely cut off and not even allowed to attend the tenth anniversary of a company I was so proud to have been part of. In a word, puzzling! Some value system?
MORE TO FOLLOW in PART THREE… Stories such as My Dad’s induction into the Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame. …and more! Please check in again in a few weeks. I’ve been compelled to go back and edit some with some deletions and additions. Hope you like the effort! Please comment via e-mail: BillyWalker@cox.net !