Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Charles 'Charlie' Allen

I'm pleased to add Charles Allen to our employees histories and stories segment today. Charles 'answered the call' from the blogs posting in the recent edition of Clear & Sixty (thank you again Barb Ike!) Clear & Sixty is a wonderful, Seasonal publication written by, and for, Republic Airlines' retired pilots, other employees, associates and families. A great little booklet of stories and information. Please contact me if you're interested in subscribing (even if you're not a former employee like myself!)

The 'interview' process is quite simple and short, with a series of 10 questions. I'll add these at the beginning of each response from Mr. Allen...

1) Your Name: Charlie Allen
2) Your Base/Domicile: MTW/GRR/MKG/PHL
3) Your Title/Position/Duties: Agent/SR, Agent/Manager, Agent
4) Date/Year you started with NCA/RCA: February 24, 1954
5) Retirement date: December 31, 1988
6) What is/are your fondest memories of NCA/RCA: It was a job I enjoyed. It was not boring, like a factory job, every day was new, no two days alike.
7) What is/are your worst memories of NCA/RCA: Nothing with the company but being called out at 11PM when some sicko would call in a bomb threat!
8) On a scale from 1-10, 10 being 'excellent,' how would you rate your career with NCA/RCA: 10 all the way...until we bumped into NWA.
9) What are you 'doing now' in retirement: Right now, nothing, but I did work for nine years for a super market.
10) Share stories here...any/all/long/short: (N/A)
11) Please share a photo of yourself from your airline days and/or retirement years: scan attached.

As you can see, these are pretty easy! PLEASE do consider adding/sharing your own histories and stories to the blog, as Charles has, and the others before him. We'd LOVE to hear them!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Deerslayer

Hello! I recently received the latest copy of 'Clear & Sixty' and read an interesting article written by a former NCA Pilot. It is a story I'd not heard before and wanted to share with everyone. (I've included a photo of #505, provided to me by Dave DeBace, during happier times.)


It was a crisp, clear October evening in 1969, when Flight 689, a Convair 580, departed MSP (Minneapolis/St.Paul) for INL (International Falls) with a scheduled stop in HIB (Hibbing). The load was light with fewer than a dozen passengers on board as Ship #505 N90858, departed MSP with Captain Len Hanson at the controls. Having flown this trip so many times, we expected another enjoyable albeit routine flight to 'The Falls.' This night would prove to be anything but routine.

The en route weather was clear, punctuated by a star-filled, moonless sky. The flight to HIB took only 35 minutes. As we neared our descent point, we could see the runway lights and airport beacon amidst a sea of darkness. The HIB airport was carved out of a large area of white pine trees and in the evening hours, especially with a lack of snow cover, it resembled a 'black hole.' The HIB station reported calm winds, so we planned on a straight in visual approach to Runway 31. As the FAA Flight Service was closed in the late evening hours, we relied on the station agent to provide us with any visual air traffic. Charlie Cox, the HIB Station Manager, reported 'No traffic in sight' and we proceeded to set up for the approach.

The landing went smoothly and as Captain Hanson lowered the nose and began applying reverse thrust, I observed a group of deer in the distance off to the right of the runway. I yelled DEER!

Len quickly applied full reverse and maximum braking. The noise and the landing lights must have startled the deer as several vaulted across the runway on a collision course with our ship.

"WHAM", we hit one, two, maybe three of the creatures. At this point it was quite difficult to discern. Next, the aircraft yawed to the right accompanied by a left engine fire warning. Captain Hanson did an outstanding job of keeping the aircraft on the runway. With the aircraft stopped, the left engine E-Handle (emergency handle) was pulled and we began to access the situation.

The Stewardess abruptly entered the cockpit and inquired if she should begin a passenger evacuation. Len told her to standby. He then looked out of his left side window to check the condition of the engine and fire indication. He turned quickly to me and exclaimed, "It's gone!! The engine is gone!!"

I radioed the HIB Station and told Charlie to call the Fire Department. After evaluating the aircraft's ground handling capabilities, Len felt confident that he would be able to taxi safely to the gate.

When we arrived at the ramp, we shut down the number two engine and completed the necessary checklists before exiting the cockpit. Imagine out surprise, as we entered a cabin replete with deer bones, innards and blood covering the companion way! In addition, a jagged section of one of the massive Hamilton-Standard propeller blades had torn through the fuselage forward of row one. It had traversed the width of the aircraft and was embedded in the opposite side of the fuselage!

It was fortunate that no passengers were seated in this area. We proceeded to escort the rightfully shaken passengers off the plane, and we immediately met by the Hibbing Fire Department. And now, as we deplaned via the ship's airstair, we witnessed an unbelievable sight! Everything from the left engine's firewall forward was, indeed, GONE! All that remained were severed hydraulic, fuel and oil lines.

Upon further inspection, the degree of the impact became most apparent. There was considerable damage to the wing flaps, nose gear and in addition, a large gash caused by the propeller blade and numerous perforations were found on the left side of the fuselage. With no fire present, the fire trucks departed, and we secured the aircraft. The HIB agents assisted the passengers in providing either ground transportation to INL or overnight accommodations. After a long night, our crew proceeded to a local motel for a brief rest.

The next morning, an aircraft was ferried from MSP in order to get the remaining INL passengers to their destination. North Central mechanics were on board to examine the aircraft and to determine the extent of the damage. Charlie Cox said that after a thorough search of the airport, only a few pieces of the left engine were able to be found. None of the other three propeller blades were recovered. The remains of one deer were located near the runway, and another with a severed leg was found dead in the nearby woods.

After accessing the damage, a decision was made, and the aircraft was to remain on the airport site while the required repairs were accomplished. After three months of extensive rebuild, Aircraft #505 would rejoin the fleet and remain in service until June 29, 1972.

For, it was on that fateful day, that while operating as a ferry flight from OSH to GRB, the aircraft was involved in a midair crash with an Air Wisconsin Twin Otter over Lake Winnebago. All souls on board both aircraft perished, including North Central Captain Jim Cuzzort and his crew.

The accident resulted in the tragic loss of life and the ultimate end of Aircraft #505. Was it simply coincidence that both accidents involved the same ship? Or, did the circumstances on that dark, October night in 1969 seal the eventual fate of Aircraft #505?

We will never know.

Gary Baglien, NOR retired

Saturday, April 19, 2008

ATL 1980

Here's an interesting film made at ATL in 1980...lots of old birds and airlines here! Near the middle of the film will be some surprises; Republic Convairs and DC-9's! Thanks to my friend Arron in MKE who brought this to my attention. Simply click the video once to view. Enjoy...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dave & Betty DeBace Part Two

Again, I'm pleased to present Dave & Betty DeBace to our postings of North Central Retirees histories and stories. Today's posting is Part Two from the original post last weekend that followed Dave's career with the carrier...now it's Betty's turn!

Betty began her career with North Central in March of 1969, as a Secretary who was assigned to mail delivery. As she recalls, "I lived on Pleasant Avenue in Minneapolis, with no car, so getting to work required a city bus. The bus dropped me off at the end of the drive going to the new building (General Offices). From there I had to walk through the shell of the building, and into the new hanger/office area. I got to see the General Offices being built day by day going in and out of work, until the Grand Opening later that year.
NCA was my first 'real' job, and I loved it. I was hired by Emily Heller, who was Les Keely's assistant. For the first 6 months I sat in the 'secretary row,' but was assigned to mail delivery. That got me out of the office and into the hangers sometimes. I used Les Keely's golf cart to deliver the mail to the hangers - FUN! I would also relieve our receptionist, Ruby Gray, when she took her breaks. The Flight Kitchen was housed between the hangers and the General Offices, and at lunch the office staff would go there and eat wonderful and inexpensive meals. It was pretty close to fine dining at McDonald's prices."

I asked Betty what were some of her fondest memories of working with North Central, to which she replied, "Friendship, concern and care for all employees and the airplanes - people considered the airplanes part of the NCA Family." (I've added this question here to segue into the following history from Betty).

"When Maintenance Control was started, the new manager of that, Dan Lee, whom I had met while delivering mail, asked me if I wanted to work in M/C. Working with Dan, Don Brown, Ken Boutang, Bob Broemer and Bob Kohls was great. Gus Carlson and Dave Burns joined us a little later, as the Fleet Crew. The job was very interesting and I enjoyed typing and filing the maintenance/delay reports, which were used in the morning meetings. I got to know each airplane and their personalities. It was also interesting to follow an airplane's problem for several weeks before one of the mechanics finally had an 'ah ha' moment and found the root of the problem. The airplanes felt like living, breathing creatures. After many years with an excellent safety record, one of our 580's went down. The office was devastated. The loss of passengers and crew was the worst loss, of course, but losing the airplane felt like a death as well. Removing the aircraft records from our files felt like a funeral and made me cry."

With that being said, Betty replied with, 'the airplanes we lost' as her worst memories of her years with North Central. Even with such sad occurrences, Betty would give the number '10' on the scale from 1 to 10 in her rating of her career with the airline. If I'm not mistaken, this is our first 10 rating!

Betty continued, "It may be hard to imagine it now, but our office and the hangers were like one big family, bound together by a love of airplanes and flying. Meeting David was the best thing that happened to me there, so I also have NCA to thank for that! We had been saying 'hi' in the hangers occasionally while I delivered the mail on the golf cart. One day in late 1969, he held up a sign on a piece of cardboard that said 'How about a date?' I didn't date people from work, but I changed my mind and dated him. 38 years and three children later, I'm still glad I did."

"We stayed with NCA until July of 1973. David had been working on his pilot licenses, and he got a job in Pine Bluff, Arkansas as a pilot/mechanic. So we packed up our stuff and moved away from the airline. I was expecting our first child at the time so my time with the company would have been limited anyway, but we both missed the work very much."

Back to David, remembering the years not working for NCA: "At Astro Airways in Pine Bluff, there were long days doing whatever had to be done. We had a flight school and a freight operation, along with working outside A/C. Five days a week we flew to MSY Lakefront Airport, with a plane full of computer cards for the power company. We also picked up car parts from several towns around Arkansas for the auto companies in STL. We flew baby chicks all over the country and into Mexico. We used B-18 and De Havilland Dove and Herons, plus we had a Lockheed PV 1 for the very long range stuff. There was a long list of Piper products for the small loads. The owner was good to us and we enjoyed the fine weather in ARK. By chance, I was offered a job in southern ARK flying for a large hardware chain with Twin Bonanzas. When not flying, I again worked other aircraft and even helped maintain the airport operation. In 1976, I can into two pilots who were flying for a company in PA. They had two Convair 580s and a Saberliner 60. They took my name and soon I was asked to come to PA for an interview. I worked for this company until November 1979 when the company had cutbacks and the Flight Department had layoffs. By this time Betty and I had 3 children and we needed to find something stable.
I reapplied at NCA and found myself back on nights working DC-9's and Convair 580s. In 1986 I was asked to come in and interview for a job in Maintenance Control, which I got. I stayed in M/C until 1997 when I was again asked to interview for a job on the MSP B side hanger/ramp. I worked this job until the Fall of 2005. As we all know, things were very had at NWA. It was taking a toll on my health so at age 59 1/2, I retired. I didn't stay retired long though as I was asked to come back as a consultant and just work aircraft problems. I didn't have to get involved with the politics! I did this until August of 2006 when I finally said goodbye."

THANK YOU to The DeBace's for sharing their stories and histories with all of us!!! Please consider sharing your own stories and histories with us as well by contacting me through my email address...we'd love to hear from all!! :)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dave and Betty DeBace Part One

Today I'm very pleased to add Dave and Betty DeBace to our ranks of North Central Employee histories and stories. I've had the pleasure of knowing and being friends with Dave now for a few years, swapping stories, aircraft photos and information. Hopefully I'll get to meet Betty at some point as well!
In reading the great responses from both Dave and Betty, I've decided to break them into Parts One and Two, seeing they're quite long and detailed! Alas, let's start with Dave today.
Dave began his career with North Central Airlines in July of 1966. " I was assigned to the sheet metal shop in Hanger 6. I worked next to Andy Green- the super star of sheet metal men! This guy could do anything. He would go on to save NCA millions of dollars over the years on things he created. I was given the job of overhauling DC-3 Carb scoops. I spent a year in the shop learning the trade with Andy's guiding hand. Of course, I wanted to be around the planes so I started bidding jobs as soon as I was eligible. While I marked time in Hanger 6, the first Convair 580, #549, came in to the hanger so I got to see how a Convair could be taken apart for overhaul. EVERYTHING came out or off that airplane; old paint was stripped off so the whole thing was just an empty shell of bare metal. The crew then started to put it back together with all new wiring harnesses that the shop had been building for months. I can still hear the stamping machine working away in the Southwest corner of the hanger. They would hand the wires up on a bar from the ceiling of the hanger. It was literally a wall of wires. Slowly, #549 came back together; new instrument panels with new f108 flight directors, autopilot and antiskid. (New stuff for NCA). Then came the day we had to cover everything in the hanger with plastic as paint day was here! Just with the white top coat on, the airplane was looking great. By February or March of 1967, #549 was outside doing its flight test. She looked good! Soon the next 580 was in the hanger and the crews started the process over again."

He goes on, "Summer came and in August, the first DC-9 arrived outside. A lot of people held up a banner saying 'WHERE ARE THE PROPS?' In August of 1967, I got my first bid; MSP night line DC-3/DC-9 Crew. This crew worked a DC-3 check or a DC-9 inspection or check. Sometimes we worked both aircraft on the same night. I enjoyed this work. As a new guy on the crew, I got a lot of the dirty jobs. Many guys were happy to teach the correct way to do things and were a great group to work with. I stayed on nights until the Spring of 1969 when I was bumped off. I took an opening in the Tire and Brake Shop. This lasted for about a year when I got a bid to the day shift 580 Check Crew, with rotating days off. We worked the exterior and the Right engine. We also worked the phase checks on weekends, where we did the times changes on the large items of the aircraft; flaps, air condition systems, landing gear and so on. "

" I met my future wife, Betty, while I was in the Tire and Brake Shop. Betty had started working for North Central on March 17, 1969 - the first day maintenance managers worked out of the new offices in the just finished hangers by Highway 494. The General Offices weren't ready until later that year. Betty worked upstairs where the managers and directors were located. She was hired to do clerical work for the managers, and was put in charge of sorting and delivering the mail to the office and hangers. In the Fall of 1969, the company formed a new department called Maintenance Control. Job duties were to type the delay report and file all entries in what were call 'strip books.' Betty also learned to do the Convair 580 horsepower charts."

It's important to note here that Dave corrected me on a prior post about NCA's employee and marriage policy. He goes on to say, "When we announced our engagement in the Fall of 1970, we realized we had a problem. NCA policy was that married couples couldn't work in the same department. The plan was for Betty to go to Flight Control. One day, Betty and I were called in to Les Keely's office. Les told us that Dan Lee had requested that Betty be allowed to stay in Maintenance Control, Since Flights Ops already had a married couple working together, the precedent had been set and Maintenance changed the ruling so Betty could stay! (New rule - married people couldn't work under the same manager, but could be in the same department.) We were married on April 10, 1971 and our hours coincided so most days we were able to drive in together."

In asking Dave the set of questions about being a North Central Employee, he replied with a '9' in rating his experience with NCA on a scale from 1 to 10. Some of the best memories were that it was 'a great place to work, there weren't many times I didn't want to go to work.' In asking him about any bad memories, 'working in the cold, never like that!'

Stayed tuned for PART TWO, coming shortly...:)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Coming soon!

Hello everyone! Just a few updates today, most importantly is that another Employee History and Stories will soon be posted, hopefully by this coming weekend. I will also be meeting and interviewing another employee this coming week of which I'll keep 'secret' until their history/stories is posted. :) SUSPENSE!! Please DO consider participating if you're a former Wisconsin Central, North Central or Republic Employee. We appreciate ALL! Just contact me at my email address of
Thanks again to all who have participated and to the many who enjoy and support OUR blog. :)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

More 728

Thanks to my NCA and photos 'cronies,' I'm adding a few more of old 728 today. Enjoy!

Friday, April 4, 2008

728's early days

Today I'm adding a few photos of the venerable DC-3 known as '728' when it came to Wisconsin Central and in it's sad retirement (emotional and condition wise) prior to Northwest's refurbishment a few years ago at the Ford Museum in Michigan. 728 is also seen above in the cover photo for the blog, in formation with the fleet for the Anniversary Flight. Enjoy!