Sunday, December 20, 2009

NWA Flight 188 Was Not The First Time a NWA Crew Overflew Their Destination !

People - you are not going to believe this. Information has recently come to light that the same thing happened in 1948. Of course, laptops were not the culprit then - it was the Minneapolis Sunday newspaper!
Bob Johnson, NWA historian and author of the book Voices From The Sky ~ Little-Known and Long-Forgotten Stories About Northwest Airlines' Earlier Years, recently shared this fun fact with me. I have sent a request for more information to Bob Chemick, retired NWA Sales Executive. Chemick was the NWA transportation agent in Fargo, N.D. in 1948, site of the incident, who shared his eye-witness account with Bob Johnson. I am hoping to hear confirmation of this tale from Bob Chemick soon, hopefully with some additional details.
Until then, this is what I know:
On a beautiful sunny day in 1948, a shiny new Martin 2-0-2 was put into service on the MSP-Fargo route, replacing the slower Douglas DC-3. A large crowd of people and the press were waiting on the tarmac to celebrate the arrival of the new Martin 2-0-2. The appointed arrival time came and went. Nothing happened. Folks were scanning the skies as they waited. Finally it appeared, approaching the airport from the North. L. S. (Deke) DeLong, even then a NWA legend, was captain. When asked what happened, Deke later said, "I forgot I wasn't in a DC-3. We were reading the Sunday papers and we got there before we knew it." (As earlier noted, the DC-3 was slower than the new Martin 2-0-2.)
Deke died in 1964. Wouldn't you love to have the chance to ask him what he thought about NWA #188 pilots saying they overflew MSP because they were using their laptops? In 1948, reading the newspaper proved equally as distracting, but the long-forgotten Fargo flyover brought good-natured ribbing then, and brings chuckles today. A far cry from the potentially career-ending transgressions by NWA #188 pilots that continue to dominate aviation news month after month in 2009.
It was a kinder, gentler, time.

Bob Johnson's book Voices From The Sky is available at the NWA History Centre, 8101 34th Avenue South, Bloomington, MN 55425. 952-698-4478 www.nwahistory.0rg

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In the 1950s, passengers flew the skies in style | Minnesota Public Radio NewsQ

Monday, December 14, 2009

Joe Koskovich Has Flown West

Joe Koskovich, Boeing Stratocruiser captain, on Feb. 7, 2009 at the
Fujiyama Trayx & Oshibori Towels book launch at the NWA History Centre.

He flew 38 years and accrued over 30,000 hours. Joe Koskovich, veteran Northwest Airlines captain, died in Shakopee, MN on Saturday, December 12, 2009 at the age of 89. Funeral arrangements are pending.
I was delighted that Joe attended my book launch at the NWA History Centre last February. He flew the last inbound flight of the Boeing Stratocruiser from New York to MSP in September, 1960. As you may imagine, Joe was full of wonderful stories. And the first thing anybody says about Joe is what a nice guy he was.
My favorite Joe Koskovich story is the one he told about "Wing Walker Nancy." In Joe's own words:
"It was the late 1950s, a DC-6B to New York from the old Minneapolis terminal. It was a night trip. I suppose about 9 o"clock. We had a new stewardess on board, I think it was her first trip. There were three on board and I don't know why the other two didn't override her. Anyway, we went to fire up the engines and I started three and four. They used to backfire sometimes, they'd belch flame out the exhaust. Occasionally you'd get what's called a stack fire, too much fuel in the exhaust system. It would burn off and there'd be a big flame coming out the back.
Well, this stewardess thought the airplane was on fire. I had three and four going and I'm looking down at the guy on the ground and as I started number two he gave me the chop sign. About this time one of the other stewardesses comes up and says, 'We've got a problem.' I told my co-pilot to see what's going on. He says, 'Look out the window.' I turned around and there's three or four people standing out on the wing with their shoes off. If they'd fallen off it would have been eight feet at least. She'd opened the left side emergency door and sent them out there. She thought the airplane was on fire.
She came up front to apologize when we were aloft. I guess she thought she was going to get chewed out. I smiled and said 'What were you trying to do, tip over my airplane?'"

(See more Joe Koskovich stories in the chapter "Joe Koskovich Remembers" in Voices From The Sky, Little-Known and Long-Forgotten Stories about Northwest Airlines Earlier Years by Bob Johnson. Available at the NWA History Centre.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave . . .

Flight 188 and its consequences just won't go away. Now we learn that it is highly probable the pilots were tuned in to the wrong frequency and were dialed into Canadian Air Traffic Control instead of the good 'ol USA, which would help us understand (sort of) their failure to respond to repeated attempts to contact them.

Just like that, it becomes an "international incident."

The FAA claims it did not have this information before releasing its findings earlier this month.

Meantime, the pilots have named Air Traffic Control as a "contributing factor" in their failure to land, as scheduled, in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Hmmm. Are they saying USA Air Traffic Control or Canadian Air Traffic Control is to blame, I wonder.
See - it just gets confusinger and confusinger.
Will this saga ever wind down?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Detroit Woman Gives Northwest Airlines The Knee

It had to happen. I was kind of expecting the first lawsuit over impossibly small airplanes and seats to be a head injury. You know, when you crack your head against the overhead bin when you try to stand up to exit your row. It has to have happened to you if you are over 5 ft. tall

But no. The first federal lawsuit to be filed against an airline for injuries sustained during the excruciating task of getting into and out of your airplane seat involves a knee. I'll bet she also hit her head during her attempt to negotiate the hurdle. Speaking of which, it would help to be a world-class hurdler in this situation, wouldn't it?
Kathy Kuhn of suburban Detroit was attempting to land in a middle coach seat. You could say she should know better, but lets be honest. Most of us have tried this maneuver at one time or another. Some successfully, some not. In Kathy's case, she couldn't get the armrest to go away. Her knee and the armrest tangled. Kathy lost.
She was on her way to Las Vegas with her husband, who says she was on crutches the whole time they were there. I hope her injury at least got her some sympathy at the blackjack table.
You knew this was coming next . . . Now if it was 50 years ago and Kathy was boarding a Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser . . . she not only wouldn't have had a middle seat to contend with, both she and her husband could have shared one of those huge, soft, cushy Stratocruiser seats and had room to spare.
Well . . . almost.