Tuesday, September 18, 2007

'Dear Republic Airlines'

Upon my return home from BRD (by car), I dove into my 'collection' of goodies that were stuffed in the briefcase and began to look through them with excitement. I also gave my parents the film of the trip to be processed, adding 'can we get doubles?' Looking through the Republic Scene magazine, I happened on the 'Customer Relations' section of the 'Welcome Aboard' area. It said to contact them with any questions, comments or complaints. I thought 'hey, I want to spread the word and let them know about my trip!' With that, I set out to write a one paged letter to Republic to let them know I WAS a happy customer. It was mailed off the next day and I hoped someone would read it, let alone know that they had 'made my day' with their airline and service.

About a week later, I came home from school to find 2 packages on the steps, addressed to me, from Republic! I don't think I even got in the door before I started opening them to find a treasure trove of Republic goodies such as pens, pencils, an Annual Report, Timetable, another set of kiddie wings, buttons, photos of Republic aircraft and posters of both the DC-9 and 727 in flight. WOW! Along with the goodies was a card that was addressed to me, with a typed out note saying 'Dear Peder, your note was the nicest I'd received in a long time and I, and Republic, thank you for it! It's a joy to hear you enjoyed yourself recently on some of our Convair aircraft and look forward to serving you again soon! Take care, Marlene J, Krogstad, Director of Consumer Affairs.' This was great! Not only did someone READ my letter but they responded as well. (Would that even occur in today's World?). I began to pen a letter back to Marlene for thanking her for all the goodies when the following day, another package arrived from Republic! There was another note inside, this time hand written, saying 'Hi Peder, Sorry I missed this in the original packages. You deserve one for your wall at home! Take care, Marlene.' Inside that package was a First Flighter Certificate, with my name on it and the date that I'd flown. How cool! I finished my 'thank you' letter and mailed it off the following day...

Soon after, My father mentioned that 'Marlene called from Minneapolis and she'd like for you and I to visit the General Offices next week.' REALLY??? Dad had already set a date, having chosen a non school day at that, and we set off for MSP in the Chevy.

We arrived at the G.O. early on a Friday (I do recall that) and waited in the area around the old '728' propeller that was on display in the lobby. Soon after, Marlene came out to meet us. A wonderful woman, with a great suit and smile! (Photo above) She guided us past the computerized reservations system (new to these eyes) and into her offices located on the First Floor. We sat and talked for a while, getting to know one another when she excused herself from the office, returning shortly thereafter with a brand new, blue satin Republic Airlines jacket..for me! Excited, I put it on right away and beamed in pride. She then said 'let's go for a walk' and we proceeded out of her offices to tour the G.O., even passing then President Daniel May's offices to a long corridor, past the Employee Dining Hall and into the HUGE Highway 494 Hanger! (Photo above) Inside were mechanics working away on DC-9's, a 727 and even a Convair! We walked up into each aircraft to tour and 'play' in the cockpits. What a treat! We left the hanger and headed into the newly formed Republic Airlines Museum where we looked over old items from Wisconsin Central, North Central and Republic, including the old 'Link' trainer simulator, old uniforms, photos, maps, models and pilot wings. Before leaving, Marlene handed me another treat for visiting; a solid Pewter Republic Airlines Key chain. With a hug and a smile, she was off to her offices and we were out the front doors of the G.O. with memories in mind and memorabilia galore. WHAT an airline!

I visited the G.O., and Marlene, along with one of her staff members, Sheri Melius (photo above), a number of times afterwords. Every time I was there, they treated me quite well and always made sure I was having a good time. One of my last visits was prior to the 'eradicating' of the beloved 'Herman' the blue duck symbol; a sign of times to come. By then, even this then teenager, knew that things were changing...and not for the best. Even so, I had my memories, and appreciation for good people, a good airline and letting a little kid from Minnesota be a part of it all...

Monday, September 17, 2007

'What are you doing tomorrow?'

October 10th, 1980 was a typical day for this 10 year old; head to school, come home and pondered what the weekend held for me. Dad arrived home, as usual, 5:15PM from his office and summoned me from my room. He asked 'so what are you doing tomorrow?' Mt reply was, to the affect, 'probably watch cartoons or something.' He then reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a Republic Airlines Ticket Jacket with MY name on it! WHAT?! 'You're going flying tomorrow instead' he said with a grin. I was so elated that I jumped on him, happy as could be and immediately looked through the tickets to see where I was off to. MKT-MSP-BRD. Ah ha! I'm off to see my sister in Brainerd, Minnesota. Apparently my Mom and Dad were already planning a trip to BRD that weekend and decided to let me experience something I'd always wanted; to FLY on the Convair. Needless to say, I could barely sleep that night in anticipation of the following days events...

I woke at 6AM to make the 7:36AM departure of Flight 960 to MSP. The prior evening I'd already set out what I was going to wear on this excursion of mine; blue suit, blue tie, Republic kiddie wings, a briefcase with the Kodak instamatic and an old First Officer's Hat I'd acquired from the MKT Staff a month prior. In essence, I was a 4 foot nothing 'kid pilot.' I checked in with my old friend Keith who was as excited for me as I was and told me to wait in the security area until it was time to board. My parent's waited in the passenger waiting area and chatted over coffee. I saw 'my' Convair 580 land, from Fairmont, right on time. No sooner did the Convair shut down and the air stairs opened when Keith came in and said 'let's go.' I'm OFF! As soon as I walked out the terminal door, I could see the Captain waving and smiling at me and as I ascended the air stairs, I was greeted by a smiling Flight Attendant (to this day, I cannot recall her name but I've a picture attached of her). I was brought right to the cockpit and met Pat Korab, a pilot I'd met before along with his First Officer (Cannot recall his name either!). We chatted for a minute when he said 'we'd better get you to The Cities,' flipped a few switches to which I heard the Allison's begin to hum. heading back to the cabin, I chose a seat back in 'smoking,' mostly so I could see the back of the engines and get a better view of my parents waving at me from the terminal. Not soon after, I felt the Convair sway from right to left to right to left and watched as the props began to start their motion. With a little more shaking and then a settling, we started to taxi out to the runway. Hearing those big props and Allison's humming was such a wonderful sound to this little pilot-wanna-be, then an acceleration to the point I was pushed back in my seat; take off! A steep climb out to get above the October cloud cover and we found sun within a minute. My Flight Attendant came by and offered me an Orange Juice in a 'double-duck' plastic cup which I soon gulped down, wiped it out and spirited it away to my briefcase along with a Republic Scene magazine! (More proof of my flight perhaps?). At this time I took her picture, which is displayed above. No sooner than I took that picture, we were descending into MSP, right past Fort Snelling off the right wing and down onto 29Right (at that time) and taxied into the Green Terminal, Gate 79. I took another photo of my FA and Capt. Korab at that time, shown above. I was met at the gate by an agent that knew I was an unaccompanied minor flying to BRD and escorted me to the Republic Executive Club for 'safe keeping.' My flight to BRD wasn't to depart for another 2 hours. I kept busy with watching cartoons on the TV and my agent would check in with me now and then, offering soda and juice. Time flew by that when she returned for me, it was time to go again! We headed to the gate, my 'other' Convair, Flight 891, was already there when I noticed what I thought to be my pilots for the next leg. I asked them if that was so and they said 'yes, we are, Junior Captain.' That photo is displayed above as well (and, yet again, I've no clue what their names are today!). I boarded with about 20 other passengers and found my seat to be one of the rear facing seats at the front of the cabin, right next to the right propeller. It's an interesting feeling facing backwards when taking off! The short flight to BRD seemed 'higher' to me than the MKT leg and it was. I believe our altitude was about 12,000 feet compared to the cloud skimming we did from MKT. We were soon descending into BRD, right over a tree line that I thought we'd 'clip,' and down on the runway. Taxi seemed like it took forever but I didn't mind. To me, my little excursion was almost over...and I wanted more! Soon, the air stairs were down and I was off. My Flight Crew said 'goodbye young man and take care' as I walked down the stairs to the terminal, seeing my sister and her young children pointing and smiling at me as I arrived. I looked back one last time to see my Captain wave at me with a smile. I waved back and smiled as well, thinking 'you just made my day,' and he, along with MANY others that day...did. :)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

MKT Operations

Beginning in the early part of 1980, I became a regular fixture around the Mankato Airport Terminal, mostly thanks to my Father's patience and transportation for a pleading 10 year old. I'd struck up conversations and subsequent friendships with the Station Agents (Keith, Lowell and Lloyd) and was nicknamed the 'Convair Kid.' Surprise! My time spent with the agents was a learning experience indeed, where I'd be allowed behind the counter to tour/hang out in the offices to see the daily work schedules and routines. (Talk about a rare treat, especially in today's World of security.) On occasion, I'd be allowed to make the announcements of flight arrivals and pre-boarding calls, seeing there was only one agent on at any given flight arrival and departure. 'Republic Airlines announces the arrival of Flight 968 from Minneapolis/St Paul...we will begin the boarding process in 10 minutes or so, thank you.' Now, imagine that in a 10 year olds voice as an awaiting passenger! As the Convair would arrive, I'd see Keith, Lloyd or Lowell take the baggage truck out to the airplane, give the hand signals for engine shut down and 'open door' and would soon disappear to the right-rear baggage holding compartment. On one occasion, I had sent a handmade picture of a Convair up to the Captain and First Officer as a 'gift' from this admirer along with the weather information and assorted paperwork. Almost as immediately as received, I noticed a pilot coming down the air stairs and into the terminal to greet me. With a warm smile, he said 'come on' and I was lead up the Convair air stairs to view the cockpit! What a treat. I was even allowed to sit in the Captain's seat for about 5 minutes, looking over the gauges, playing with the yoke and sharing great conversation with the pilots, and a curious Flight Attendant as well. 'Are you going to be a pilot for us someday' she asked with a smile. 'I SURE hope so!' I exclaimed. With that, I left the Convair, beaming with excitement at what I'd just experienced, and headed back to the office. I watched as they started up and taxied away, waving to me from the cockpit and I thought to myself, 'I NEED to be a part of this...somehow.' I already was, I just didn't realize it!

Over time, I began to recognize the crews that flew into MKT, including pilots Charles Hanebuth, Jim Schuchman, Pat Korab and my favorite Flight Attendants, Marty and Michelle. Whenever they saw me at the terminal, I'd be given their Crew Meals, old pilot handbooks, assorted Republic memorabilia and even an invitation to 'fly' the DC-9 Simulator in MSP whenever I had time. I mean, come on, WHO would go out of their way to allow a kid to fly a simulator, let alone eat their Crew Meals??? What a WONDERFUL group of people that I shall never forget...oh, and thank you again F/A Marty for making me a Birthday Cake one year. :)

Hmmmm, who IS this guy..? Continued...

I'd discovered my new found passion for airplanes, airlines and North Central right before my father finished his position with the South Dakota Government, and, due to an administration change, we soon were loaded up in the car and UHaul for Minnesota. I found our new 'home' to be St. Peter, a small college town located in the Minnesota River Valley. In many ways, I wondered if I'd ever be able to experience North Central and the Convair ever again. As a few years passed, I happened upon a news segment on the TV that stated 'North Central and Southern will merge to form Republic Airlines.' WHAT? How could they? I set out to see if I could find out more information...somehow. With that, I found our small town had a travel agency called Cope Travel and one day I set out on my bike to investigate. I met with a wonderful man named Bob Cope, who owned the agency, who let me know that the newly formed Republic Airlines flew into a small airport near us called Mankato Airport. They had as North Central as well. I'd no clue! All this time, and only 10 miles from it all! I proceeded home and asked Dad if we could 'check it out,' of which he obliged earlier that following morning. We arrived at MKT around 8AM the following day to see a familiar tail sticking out from behind a building I recognized must be the terminal. THERE IT WAS! My Convair 580 again. I jumped out of the car and started snapping pictures with the Kodak Instamatic we owned and was in heaven yet again. As the Convair began to start up, the old familiar sounds of those Allison's were music to my ears and I delighted in this sight and sound again. No sooner did that Convair begin to taxi when another Convair landed and began to taxi to the terminal. What a treat! A two for one special today I thought. :) I began taking pictures again, of each aircraft; one taking off, the other shutting down 30 feet from me. In fact, I believe I ran out of film eventually and just watched the actions from the chain link fence. I looked back at our car, with Dad still in it, and he just smiled and waved, apparently enjoying the experience with me. I waited until the second Convair started up, taxied and took off before we left the airport, satisfied in the knowledge and pictures I'd taken that yes, indeed, I'm still 'hooked' on this airline and the Convair 580...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hmmmm, who IS this guy...?

After a lot of thought about just what should be the first 'official' post of the Blog, I decided to let you know just WHO it is behind the typed words you're reading...now, let's see how long this will become!
First of all, as most of you know, my name is Peder and I reside in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Land of North Central! I was lucky enough to be awarded a liberal childhood in that the only worry was to contemplate the next days activities before bedtime. Much was the way of my introduction to North Central and my beloved Convair 580.
While I was a preschooler and kindergartener in the early 70's, my family and I lived in Brookings, South Dakota, which happened to be a destination on NCA's route system. At this time, my father was working with the South Dakota Government and would travel at least once a week. He would leave in the morning and return in the evening, I thinking he was driving here and there. One evening, prior to my bedtime, my mother asked if I'd like to go and 'pick up Daddy at the airport.' Dressed in my pajamas, slippers and robe, we began the 5 minute drive to the BKX airport. As we arrived, right around dusk, my mother said for me to 'go up to the fence there and wait.' I obliged and wondered why I was standing there! Out of nowhere, I heard a low pitched 'vrooooom' as a Convair came over the treeline at the end of the runway, land and taxi towards me. I was in heaven! I'd never seen such a 'huge' plane as this! The Convair got louder and louder as it approached that I covered my ears from the noise, only to look back at my mother in the car giggling and smiling. The smell of Kerosene fuel was new to me at the time and I haven't forgotten it to this day. As the engines shut down and the airstairs opened, I watched the small parade of passengers disembark to notice one man, with a familiar trenchcoat come down the stairs, wave at me and go into this small building, then come out the door nearest me; it was Dad! I'd no clue he had flown all this time for business, and I was thrilled at this new adventure I was on. As we returned home, Dad pulled out a small item from his pocket and handed it to me...a pair of NCA kiddie wings. I still have those to this day...
So began this long adventure I'm still on, some 34 years later, and am happy to be a part of. :) (More continued later)

Post #1

Well, Hello and Welcome! I've contemplated a BLOG now for some time and have decided to take the plunge and go for it.

This BLOG is intended to 'spread the word' and preserve the memories of a long past airline called NORTH CENTRAL AIRLINES. We'll also get into WISCONSIN CENTRAL AIRLINES and REPUBLIC AIRLINES as well on this journey. Stories, firsthand accounts, photos, videos, statistics and general knowledge/trivia will be given, as well as welcome! Yes, that means YOU! Please feel welcome to contribute your memories, accounts and knowledge with us. The more, the better!

I'll also be adding a number of photos to the Blog and wish to extend my gratitude to those of you who have contributed and granted permission for use in that area. Also, where credit may not be given, I extend my thanks to those as well. If there is a problem with copyright issues or personal isses, please let me know and we'll resolve the issue. THANK YOU ! ! !