Thursday, April 23, 2009

ORD SHOW reminder

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Posts coming!

Hello everyone, Just a quick note to say that more posts are coming...time's been very short lately but it'll improve in the next few days. Thanks!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


N962N was the 12th of the DC-9-31's to join the North Central Airlines' fleet in the Spring of 1969. This aircraft was retired in 2005 and subsequently 'broken up' in 2008. Here is a website dedicated to that aircraft, created by Perry Van Veen, to it's 'rebirth' as the NWA N962N Instrument Panel Restoration Project. Take a look!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Skip Powell part five

The OAG (Official Airline Guide) was the basic available reservation building tool, a well thumbed inch thick document, received monthly. Nope, this was not the more expensive semi-monthly QRE (Quick Reference Edition), readble and usable by most any novice. Found in the OAG were airline schedules in alpha sequence, shown in a reproduced image of those public timetables found on ticket counters. The OAG had two sections; Domestic airlines followed by International. International queries were most always referred to local travel agents.

The Domestic OAG section contained schedules for 13 Trunk (UA, EA, CA, DL, etc), 13 Local Service (OZ, MO, LC, NC, etc.) and 3 Helicopter (NYC, CHI and LAX) carriers. By the year 2008, most folks had never heard of most of these airlines. The only remaining ones are AA, CO, DL, NW, UA and US (former AL) along with a number of 'commuter' carriers.

Believe me using that OAG took diligent 'on-the-job' training to piece together acceptable trip routing across multiple airlines, let alone obtaining seat confirmations, a much more difficult process during holiday travel times, when seats were hard to find.

The value of my Airline School (CTI) tuition paid off in my ability to 'root out' the more complicated interline itineraries. At CTI, we learned each airlines routes, cities served and its geographical area of service. It became a rare 3-ALPHA city/airport code not committed to memory! Such memory knowledge did not gain one a pay bonus but it was a nice asset, since in those days some 60-70% of all NC bookings included connections to other airlines (OA). Rarely, within a short period, did one handle multiple reservations to the same interline destination.

It was rather common knowledge that any city code beginning with a Z or Y was a Canadian city. Less well known were several 'US of A' Y-Z exceptions. What are they?? 3 pop to mind.

Often several 'mucking about' days were required to complete an acceptable interline reservation along with seat confirmations. Obtaining such began with the trusty teletype keyboard. First one had to understand another manual, SIPP (Standard interline Policy and Procedures) which dictated precise interline message, format and content. Compliance failure resulted in no response or a nasty response from some unknown 'expert.'

Once the PSGR was happy with the quoted itinerary notifications to boarding locations were required.
Itinerary example: Watertown SD to Detriot, MI (YIP) via Minneapolis, MN.
On flights of NC, Capital (CA) and Northwest (NW)
A teletype (TTY) message would be addressed to : CRCRCNC, MSPRRCA, YIPRRNW, MSPRRNC
Originator identification: ATYRRNC 20DEC1000Z
Each booked flight would be expressed as: NC 765/23DEC ATYMSP SS 1
THANK YOU Army for that typing class!!

From today's view, it was a mind-boggling process. Once the booking message was keyboarded (fat fingered) producing an inch wide hole-punched paper tape, it was inserted in the Sending Unit and when line became available, it was sent. A comparable paper tape would be generated in the NC Chicago Communications Center where it would be manually moved to each of the two outbound transmitters servicing CA and NW.

The reverse would occur when CA and NW would respond within the expected 24 hours confirming or denying the booking. All booking messages included CRCRC (NC Central Res Control) who maintained system wide NC seat inventory. Later message switching between airlines was automated via an upgraded ARINC (A-circuit) system. ARINC (Aeronautical Radio, INC>) was an airline owned system, it's purpose communications - both Ground to Air and message processing.

Imagine the difficulty obtaining interline seats during peak travel. One could one hope 'all' airlines would favorably respond with confirmed seats. If not, start over. Later procedures were improved with Free Sell (FS) and assume a (KK) confirmed seat, absent a response within (I think it was) 12 hours. Upon receiving favorable responses from each airline, the PSGR would be called confirming his reservation and an airport ticket pickup time arranged. Most tickets were purchased in advance of departure date.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Skip Powell part four

ATY (Watertown) had a nice building. It was crammed with such technology as VHF/HF Radio, ASR (Auto Send/Receive at 40 (later 75) WPM) teletype, ticket validater (customer weapon) telephone, ball point pens, TS-3's 3 x 5 Reservation Cards and o-24's (for on-off load records, MGL, a/c Wt & Balance for the Crew weight tab. In addition there were a couple manual operated bag carts and a 'muscle builder' nose loader. Oh yeah, there was also barrels of 'de-icer' fluid with mops and a long piece of flannel - if needed for winter grooming of a/c. Later, a couple of snow shovels appeared. In a few months time, after the tumble weed blow-by season, I was to enjoy pure glory of a South Dakota winter.

After a couple days closely 'bird-dogged' by the SM, it was time to earn our keep by working shifts - alone. It was during this period I learned some ATY and SM Sherman history. The most memorable was why I was so soon a 'replacement hire,' after Sherman opened the station just several months earlier. Seems the original staff had involuntarily departed, failing to match SM Sherman's expectations. And, since I had no desire to go back to the Army or the chicken farm, I paid close attention to SM Sherman's expectations, my first SA lesson. My first year in particular revealed many unique 'learning's.' These the result of surprises, always appearing at the most unexpected inconvenient time - requiring rapid 'cracking' of the books. Perhaps my many SA indiscretions are typical of an aggressive youth in their 20's (my excuse), while yet a full time student at the 'school of hard knocks.'

We had eight DC-3 flights daily. Two people were on duty each shift. first four flights, one headed each prime-compass direction, came and went in about a 30 minute period. Even though loads were typically light, it amazes me yet to this day, we could check-in passengers/baggage, write tickets, process express/mail, work weight & balance, handle a/c radio (in-range, ramp checks, ATC for IFR ops), load/unload aircraft, get FMR's (Flight Movement Reports) received/sent by teletype and work Reservation phones, while maintaining the scheduled 3 minute stop. One motivation was the required; Ground Delay 'write up' should we exceed stop time, knowing our 'our' justification (excuses) would be questioned - and they were!

Getting those Weight & Balance forms correctly prepared was kind of intense. There was little time for this exercise. Use of ball point pen was required, making last minute error corrections hard to erase - I do not recall an adding machine. Completed (often cleaned up) forms were kept on file. Their 90 day retention was plenty of time for GO types, most often 'cigar chomping' Regional Manager Richard Cooper, to appear for an audit and that our shoes were polished.

His first act was those files he just KNEW contained errors. Length of 'audit' was determined by time required to fill his yellow tablet with 'gigs.' Rare was his disappointment, his audit was of merit; he had typing work for his secretary. After enjoying the 'miracle' of Watertown's downtown 'Miracle Mile,' he'd retreat home smiling (he did that?) another 'dinging' success trip.

While flight time was hectic, agent activities were soon choreographed. Lacking the always lurking 'hiccups,' most days went smoothly. Flights 'bedded' down, it was coffee time, maybe a game, or two, of cribbage or gin, and noontime Paul Harvey, plus always the ringing reservation phone. Later it was 'Wind down' time at local watering holes, to view yet another Yogi-the-Bear and Land-of-Sky-Blue-Waters (nope, not forest fire prevention) poster. Other enjoyments were fishing the local creeks or lakes. Also, appreciated by local farmers, was trying to pick-off a few gophers - just a loud whistle, heads up popped and oops - another gopher done gone! During the fall we would even chase a few pheasants.

Meanwhile, and throughout the day, the reservation phone 'always' required prompt attention, incoming flights or not, hoping it was a simple itinerary to be concocted. Attendant to booking reservations was the continual maintenance of the NC Seat Availability Charts. Reservation results were recorded on a 3 x 5 Res Card (TS-3), prepared in block lettering, using a ball point pen. Making reservations to exotic places was a laborious process and our tools were rudimentary. No long distance phone calls permitted, such came out of SM Sherman's pocket money.