Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Carol Burnett's "No Frills Airline"

Thanks to Karen Schmit and BITS AND PIECES for sharing this with me. Not much has changed, has it?
Tip: View full screen.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Red Tails Weekend!

No, not the NWA red tail, which is also gone, but the Tuskegee Airmen Red Tails!
It began last Saturday, January 21, when son Rick and I motored over to the Commemorative Air Force - Minnesota Wing (CAF) Museum at Fleming Field in South St. Paul. We knew they had a North American P-51 Mustang like those flown by the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII.
We had already made plans to see the new movie release "Red Tails" on Sunday, and an article in the StarTribune alerted us that the CAF had a P-51C in their museum. We thought it would be fun to see the real thing before we saw the movie.
Volunteers at the CAF museum couldn't have been nicer. Being winter, their airplanes were all in the hangars in various stages of maintenance. We'll go back this summer, when the aircraft will be displayed outside and flyable.
On Saturday, it was such fun to see a B-25 and the P-51C cheek to jowl
(nose to vertical stabilizer) in the hangar.
"Miss Mitchell" was a charmer, too.
Rick and I both had rides in a different B-25 named "I See No Problem" back in the 1970s, so it was especially fun to see this shiny bird.
Sunday we enjoyed the Red Tails movie.
A perfect weekend!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Nila Kleinsasser Paselk, a Fellow NWA Stewardess From the 1950s Dead at 82

My eye immediately went to the photograph at the top of the obituary page in the StarTribune yesterday, Sunday, January 15. What caught my attention was the stewardess uniform in the photograph. it was navy blue with white piping around the tuxedo-styled collar revealing a white blouse underneath. I wore the same uniform in the mid-50s - so although I didn't recognize the last (married) name, I recognized the first name - Nila.
Nila Kleinsasser was kind and gracious. She often appeared in Northwest Airlines advertising. She was a wonderful good-will ambassador for the airline.
We lost touch over the years. I would see her very occasionally at a NESA (Northwest Ex-Stewardess Association) event since our flying days, but not for many years now.
I wish we had kept in better touch.
Rest in peace, Nila. My thoughts are with your family.

Friday, January 13, 2012

George Grim Dead at 99 - played NWA Stratocruiser organ on a flight from New York City to Mpls.-St. Paul in 1959

I wish I had known George Grim was still alive when I published my book, Fujiyama Trays & Oshibori Towels in 2009. How I would have loved to ask him about the time he saved the day by performing as organist on a NWA flight from New York City to MSP around Christmas, 1959.
His performance is immortalized in a chapter called The 'Organic' Stratocruiser.
The chapter begins with the story of why and how a Heritage Model Lowrey organ was installed in NWA Stratocruiser 709 in the first place. The "how" is testament to the wiley airframe engineering staff at the airline and the forebearance of the F.A.A. I'm not totally sure about the "why," but I suspect it had something to do with the fact that C. R. 'Swanee' Swanson, owner of Northwest Organ Company, donated the instrument to the airline provided he and other Northwest Organ organists would play it inflight and get free flights to New York and other East Coast cities in return. It was win-win, so to speak.
One such organist, 'Swanee's son Chuck Swanson, is the reason George Grim stepped to the keyboard that day. Chuck was 19 years old, on his first flight to New York. The outbound flight went just fine. Trouble was, the return flight was delayed and Chuck wasn't in the loop. He missed the flight and it left NYC sans organist.
George Grim was on this flight. George was a well-known personality in the Twin Cities. He wrote a column in the Minneapolis Tribune called "I Like it Here." There were folks on the flight who knew George had an electric organ in his home and knew how to play it. They prevailed upon him to entertain as they winged their way to Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Northwest Airlines was delighted that George dedicated his next column to his experience.
I'll bet that he still remembered this incident when I was writing about it in 2008. Sadly, it never occurred to me that George was still alive. I had heard nothing of him for decades and didn't even try to find out about him. Some reporter I am! When I read his obituary this past Tuesday, Jan. 10, I learned that he moved to Florida in the 1970s and had lived there ever since.
Thanks, George, for entertaining folks in MSP so many years with your foreign correspondence, your columns, your radio and TV appearances and for launching "Santa Anonymous."
What a productive life!

Joe Lapensky followed Donald Nyrop at the helm of Northwest Airlines

Lady Skywriter is sad to report the death of Joe Lapensky, a highly regarded leader in the airline industry as well as his community. When he died Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012 at the age of 93, he still lived in the same house in Richfield, MN where he lived before and during his tenure as C.E.O. of Northwest Airlines.

He began at Northwest in 1945 as a junior accountant and never left. He was named president in 1976 and became chief executive officer, replacing Donald Nyrop, three years later.

He led a huge Minnesota company the same way he led his life. Skillfully, quietly and modestly. He saw Northwest Airlines through the turbulent deregulation years; modernizing its fleet, expanding its horizons in Asia and Europe and still avoided the crushing debt that assailed its competitors.

Joe Lapensky never sought the spotlight, in business or life, and gave generously and anonymously to many worthy causes.

He will be missed.