Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Photo Essay In Tribute To Joe Kimm

Joe Kimm Flew West on September 19, 2013 at the age of 102 years, one month.
Joe had a 43 year career with Northwest Airlines, from 7/1/1929, as a flight steward, during which time he invented the burp bag.  He noticed the pilots earned much more than he did, so he learned to fly, got his Limited Commercial License 11/15/1930, and flew his first NWA Captain flight 5/20/1933.
Joe Kimm as NWA Co-Pilot, 1930

"Snakes" Bouvette, Station Manager at Pembina N.C.
had to borrow a team of horses from a neighboring farm to pull Joe Kimm's Hamilton out of a snowbank in Pembina N.D. January, 1936

Joe flew on aircraft from the Ford Tri-motor to the Boeing 707; was co-pilot on the Northern tier proving run between MSP and SEA with Hugh Ruschenberg in January, 1933, with Amelia Earhart as passenger.
           Deke DeLong, Great Falls Mayor Russell Conklin, Postmaster Mark Fuller and 
                     Captain Joe Kimm during NWA 30th Anniversary Fort Tri-Motor flight in 1956.
Arthur Godfrey, Deke DeLong, Joe Kimm  on NWA 30th
Anniversary coast-to-coast flight.
Kerry Cotton, Joe Kimm, Jr., Kimm Viebrock

Joe served as System and Eastern Region Chief Pilot from 1949-1951; was a founding member of ALPA; and served as a transport pilot in WW II.

Joe was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in April, 2012. He wasn't able to attend in person, but appeared virtually, courtesy of his granddaughter Kimm Viebrock. His daughter Kerry Cotton, and son Joe Kimm, Jr., also attended in person.
Thanks, Joe and Kimm Viebrock. Your presence via Skype
at the Minnesota Aviation Awards Dinner made it very special.

Joe was a wonderful resource for me during the years I edited the NWA History Centre newsletter, Reflections.  He had the most amazing stories!  I will miss him.
Although Joe"s family is honoring his wish for no formal services, they have created a virtual memorial, which can be accessed at 
For more about Joe Kimm, go to for Winter 2012, Fall 2011 and March, 2011 Reflections Newsletters.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thank you, Debra Burlingame

Imagine my delight today, when I received the following email from Debra Burlingame after she read my book:
Debra Burlingame, TWA Boeing 727-200 **
Dear Anne,
What a fun read.  I was a TWA flight attendant from 1978 to 1985, hired on the eve of deregulation, which really changed the industry and flying.
But still, was amazed to read how much was similar to your days—the weigh ins, grooming regs, check rides, training, open overhead racks, pillows/blankets, hot towels and hot food (two choices) even on 30 minute flights. 
Even in my flying days, we still did First Class cart service, ice sculptures, caviar, 8-course cooked to order meals.  I remember sitting in my jumpseat on take off, memorizing all the passengers’ names.
Now, not much fun anymore.  Sadly, flight attendants deal with a very different environment today.
One of the last trips I flew, I remember a very senior pilot talking about the “old days.”  Lamenting their passing, he joked, “I always wanted my wife to look like a flight attendant.  Now she does.”
Thanks for writing this memoir of the days of white gloves and corsages.  I remember flying in the 50s. 
By the way, you were adorable, and you haven’t changed—just vintage adorable now.
Debra Burlingame,
Sister of Capt. Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame, pilot in command of American Airlines flt. 77,  hijacked and crashed at the Pentagon, 9/11/01

I immediately answered:
Hello Debra:
What a wonderful way to start my writing day!  Your message is heartwarming and so appreciated.  I cannot imagine the heartache and sorrow you and your family have endured as a result of 9/11/01.  I remember flying into Boston as a passenger in early October of that year and encountering all the safeguards, including armed guards, newly in place.  
With your permission, I would love to share your message with my blog readers.  It would be nice to include a photo of you in uniform from your flying days . . . And a photo of you with your brother, Capt. Burlingame, would certainly further tell your story.  Your Sr. pilot anecdote is priceless. 
 . . . Thank you again for the huge lift to my day.  Now must knuckle down to a story about Northwest's experiences with the ill-fated Martin 202 in the late 40s and early 50s  (even before my time).                                             
Anne Kerr 
P.S.  How did you hear about my book?
Then came . . .
Anne, so great to hear back from you.  You may certainly post this. 
Attaching a photo of me and Chic (as he was called). **
 Also, shot of him in a B-757 cockpit. **
Our Dad took the photo, when he went with Chic on a trip to Equador
Finally, attaching a shot of me, age 27, in a Boeing 727-200. ** 
I had been flying two years.  Note the wedding band.  Yes, we could be married, but had to be grounded the moment we knew we were pregnant. I had a daughter a year later.  I flew for as long as I could (we’d keep  our pregnancy a secret from management.)  I didn’t last long….morning sickness and smell of airplane food does not mix.  J
I found your book when I was searching Google images, forget what for.  There in the mix was your  shot of Nancy Rogers in the DC-4.  I love these old pictures, so I clicked on the website where it appeared.   Voila.  Fujiyama Trays and Oshibora Towels.  Really enjoyed the read.  Innocent days.
Yes, I was flying immediately after 9/11.  Very difficult for my family…and the crews.  The public has no idea how traumatized they were.  Many quit flying after that. 
Whatever joy was left after the Golden Age of commercial travel was gone forever after 9/11.


P.S. Note **photos may not be reposted without permission.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fatal Crossing: The Mysterious Disappearance of NWA Flight 2501 and the Quest for Answers by V. O. van Heest

Karen Schmit, editor of BITS AND PIECES newsletter for NWA flight attendants has this to say:  "I am completely absorbed in the pages of this book. BRAVA to V.O. van Heest. She has done an incredible job of researching and writing this story. I am so fascinated with the history of all the people who are involved one way or the other in this plane crash. The diving information is so interesting. I had no idea so many ship and airplane wrecks are in Lake Michigan. I loved the way she began the book and how she pulled me in with the NWA history and that of the crew and families. it's absolutely wonderful." 
Valerie van Heest has documented, in absorbing style, a 10-year search for long-forgotten NWA Flight 2501. The Douglas DC-4 disappeared in the waters of Lake Michigan carrying 58 passengers and crew shortly after midnight on June 24, 1950. At the time, the loss of Flight 2501 was the United States' worst commercial airline disaster. Six months later the Civil Aeronautics Board (precursor to the FAA) declared that there was not sufficient evidence upon which to make a determination as to probable cause.
Van Heest is a shipwreck hunter, one of the founders of the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association (MSRA), dedicated to searching for ships of historical significance. In 2002, shortly after MSRA's success locating the H.C. Akley, a bulk freighter lost in Lake Michigan in a storm in 1883, one of her associates suggested they go hunting for Flight 2501.
Word got to author and explorer Clive Cussler, founder of the National Underwater Marine Agency (NUMA) and he offered to help. For ten consecutive years, NUMA underwrote the expense of a professional team to assist in the search. Cussler joined the effort on two occasions.
Over the years the author sought out and interviewed anyone whom she believed could shed light on the incident, including relatives of passengers and crew. Lady Skywriter readers will recognize many of the names. Joe Kimm was NWA Chief Pilot when Flight 2501 was lost and is quoted and mentioned frequently. Felix Perry was on the NWA team sent to investigate. Donald Nyrop, H.V. "Pete" Patzke, Jerry Nielsen Bob Gibson and Rick Cochran were also interviewed.  Photographs were provided by the NWAHC, Joe Kimm and Rick Cochran.
A compelling read for anyone in the Northwest Airlines family, Van Heest not only documents the diligent search, but serves up a heartfelt tribute to passengers and crew lost on Flight 2501.  For more information:   The book is available at