Monday, June 20, 2011

Hughes Airwest Reunion


I'd like to thank Stefan Sjogren from Sweden for sending along these pictures of a Hughes Airwest 727 and DC-9 that he took many years ago in SEA. They're scans of slides. After reading my post concerning Hughes Airwest he thought to share these shots with us. I spent many enjoyable hours flying this 727 from all three seats. I'm not sure if this DC-9 made it to Republic though, I'll need to do a bit of research.

Stefan just passed along this recent photo of an ex-NWA 757 landing on 19L in Stockholm. Note that he caught the strobe on the left winglet as it flashed... perfect planning Stefan! I miss this airplane. And speaking of great shots, click over to Mark Lawrence's site to learn about Lufthansa's A-380 arrival in MIA. 

I just returned home from my first 747-400 trip after OE that included two, JFK - Tel Aviv round trips. This was a 10 day trip that introduced me to Middle Eastern airspace, was extraordinarily interesting to fly and exposed me to many new experiences. But before I get into that trip and my "promised" posts concerning my 747 checkout, I received this photo today from retired NWA captain Jack Kastien.

2011 Hughes Airwest Pilot Reunion

Kneeling-Rick Ames, Tom McGrain, Barry Eckenroth
2nd Row-Lou Smith, Bo Corby, Dan Buskirk, Larry Bingham, Gary Gabbard, Jim Jackson, Tom Flickinger, Don Burnham
Middle Row Kneeling-Tim Hemp, Rich Moynihan, Ernie Prosch, Gary Keilman, Hal Miller

Back Row-Glen Carlson, Bob Brunson, Ken Focht, Bill Crane, Greg Averill, Bob Boyd, John Cosgrave, Dave Trousdale, John Duston, Whitey Sorenson, Jim Bergman, Owen Gladfelder, Gene McClure, Jerry Helmey, Phil Mickelson

This is a photograph of "retired" Hughes Airwest pilots taken on 30 March 2011 in Las Vegas Nevada at a recent reunion. I have to qualify the term retired as I think a couple may still be active pilots today at Delta. Retired NWA and former Hughes Airwest captain Jack Kastien sent it along and I'm appreciative that he did. I flew with many of these fellows when I was hired at Republic Airlines in 1985 as a new 727 flight engineer. 

Tom McGrain (first row) had a hand in that training and I later worked with him in the simulator when I joined the training department. Jerry Helmey (back row) was my OE instructor when I checked out as a 727 copilot. I as well spent many enjoyable hours in the simulator with Jerry. I also flew as a DC-9 copilot with Glenn Carlson (back row) who you may recognize as the author of Captain Carlson's Plane Talk and Angie the Aviator. Once again, these are just a few of the outstanding aviators I've met along my career path who have contributed to my success.

Here's Dan Buskirk (second row) on the left a few years ago when he participated in Dick Mott's retirement flight from Paris to DTW.  Both were A-330 captains and started their careers at Hughes Airwest. Dan's father flew for Hughes Airwest as well and somewhere in my files I have an ALPA picture of Dan and his father in a HAW cockpit. You may remember a story I wrote a couple of years ago concerning meeting Dick in PHX during a layover when he kindly gave me a ton of Airwest memorabilia. I spent many enjoyable hours aloft with Dick in DC-9's. Kathryn, (who had nothing to do with HAW... she's too young) in the center between these two "old guys", was Dick's copilot on that flight and has recently checked out as a 757 captain at Delta. 

If you're new to the airlines or are trying diligently to acquire a cockpit seat there, you may recognize Lou Smith (second row) a co founder of AIRLINE PILOT CENTRAL, the foremost authority on how to get hired at an airline. I took this photo of Lou shortly after his retirement when we had lunch while I enjoyed a Honolulu layover.

Here I am in a 727 cockpit shortly after being hired at Republic in 1985. The captain is Jack Kastien who sent me the photo above of the HAW reunion. Jack also served as a VP of flight operations at HAW before they merged with Republic in 1980. Kent Zimmerman, another HAW pilot is the copilot and retired himself just a couple of years ago. We'd just landed in DTW here completing a five day trip, terminating with a SFO-DTW red eye.

This is how the exterior of the 727 above appeared at that time. Note it's N number, N729RW making it an original Hughes Airwest airplane. For those familiar with 727's, the HAW machines all had -17 engines (JT8D-17) and were screaming machines. Our 727's at NWA on the other hand were -7 powered and lacked the muscle of these airplanes.

Some may be wondering, who was Hughes Airwest? Let me give a quick synopsis. In 1968, three regional airlines, SFO based Pacific Air Lines, PHX based Bonanza Air Lines and SEA based West Coast Airlines merged to form Air West. Just a couple of years later in 1970, Howard Hughes jumped in and purchased the company changing the name to Hughes Airwest. In 1980 Hughes Airwest, flying a fleet of 727's and DC-9's, merged with Republic Airlines formed just a year earlier by the marriage of MSP based North Central Airlines and ATL based Southern Airways. With deregulation and airline consolidation in full swing now, MSP based Republic Airlines was acquired by MSP based Northwest Airlines in 1986. Operations stabilised for more than 20 years until Delta Airlines merged with NWA in 2009. Do you have any idea how many airline uniforms some of these guys have hanging in their closets? An airline wing collector would salivate at their wing collection, still attached to a blouse with four stripes. 

Hughes Airwest memorabilia, donated by captain Dick Mott

Anyway, thanks very much to captain Jack Kastien for sending along this wonderful photo and giving me the opportunity to stroll down memory lane.  To learn more about Hughes Airwest, move over to my Vintage Airline Sites column and click them on. A little further down the column you'll also find an HAW advertisement. 


  1. For any of us on the west coast, you can't mention Hughes Airwest without immediately bringing back memories of their advertising jingle "Yes, Hughes Airwest, the banana in the west!"

  2. Geeesch you have a memory Rand...half the time I don't even remember who is looking back at me in the mirror, or what city/hotel I am in.

    Looking fwd to your IOE stories.

    Tim 8DME W ORD

  3. Tim.... I write things down!!

    Jim, thanks for writing I know that jingle well.


  4. Wow - a lot of memories there Rand!! I had a question - is the Republic of current day anyway related to the Republic of days past? Not having been over in the US during those days, I don't know the relation.

  5. Hi Mark,

    No, no relation what so ever. Great shot of the Spirit Airbus departure from FLL and A-380 coverage at MIA. Just linked it from my latest post.