Monday, July 25, 2011

A new story about Northeast Airlines is out.

Here's an interesting story, let's see if authorities finally take a crew assault seriously!

Just a quick note please before we get into NEA...


I met Jack Hartery yesterday who worked for Air New England from 1974 until 1979 while he was visiting his sister in NH. After ANE he enjoyed a 25 year career with United Airlines as a dispatcher. He donated much to my ANE collection and my ANE friends can learn more by visiting our Picasa album. Great to see you again Jack and thanks for contacting me.

Northeast Airlines 1931 - 1972

My Dad in a B-727 during his retirement flight in 1980

As many of you know, I have a penchant for Northeast Airlines. An unabashed admiration for those who formed it, flew for it, maintained it, invested in it and otherwise served to keep the colorful airline aloft. Organized in 1931 under contract with Juan Trippe at Pan American Airways, it survived on its own until merging with Delta in 1972. It also had a long railroad affiliation until changing its name from Boston-Maine Airways to Northeast Airlines in 1940 with the introduction of its first, brand new, Douglas DC-3. It's fleet over the years grew from its core of Stinsons, to Lockheed 10A's, DC-3's, Convair 240's, DC-4's, DC-6B's, Viscounts, FH-227's, Convair 880's, 727's and DC-9's. In fact they flew a Curtis-Wright Commando for a short period of time. 

My father as a Convair 240 and DC-3 captain and a B-727 captain

Dad hired on at NEA in 1946 after serving during WWII with the US Army Air Force, flying C-47's, B25's and B26's. He hung around the NEA East Boston hangar complex for days, pestering Chief Pilot Pappy Wheeler until he hired him as a DC-3 copilot. Other names that I grew up with as a kid were captain Andy Anderson, the airlines first pilot who flew their Stinson Tri-motors acquired from The Ludington Line. He retired in the mid sixties flying a Convair 880. Not bad for a little "shoe string" airline. Captain Anderson had also served the airline and its pilots as VP of Flight Ops and later as it's ALPA MEC Chairman. 

There's not much written about Northeast, a trunk carrier that flew pretty much as a regional airline until breaking out in 1957 when the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board, now defunct) awarded it Florida rights, much to the consternation of Rickenbacker at Eastern and Baker at National. However, captain Bob Mudge undertook the challenge and wrote the airlines biography, Adventures of a Yellowbird, that chronicled the airline from 1931 until its entry into the jet age. Bob is another hero of mine, along with retired captain Norman Houle, the official, unofficial company historian. I've spent hours sitting with these men listening to stories that only whet my appetite more to become an airline pilot.

Do an Amazon or Ebay search for captain Mudge's book and you might, just might find one for under a hundred dollars. That's how rare it is. I have three signed copies, but don't ask to borrow one; it's the only book in my collection that I will NOT lend out. Several years ago at an NEA reunion, TWA captain Bob Buck, another legend, asked if I knew of Bob's book concerning meteorology. According to captain Buck, it is "the most scholarly book written in its field." I have one of these too and of course, Bob Mudge mocked me when I asked him to autograph it. "That old thing Rand, why in the world would you want me to sign it?"

Because it's a masterpiece, a piece of history that has contributed to the level of safety that we enjoy today.

My father and "Red's Boy" as his contemporaries refer to me.
I'm very proud of that moniker!

Above, my Dad and me in the cockpit of a B-727 on his retirement flight in January 1980. My four stripes were earned at the time flying as a Twin Otter captain at BOS based Air New England. I loved my time at ANE and flew there right up until they closed the doors in October of 1981. It was as close as I'd get to flying for NEA, over the same routes out of BOS and LGA. As a boy in the late 1950's, I remember flying to Florida with my father in the jumpseat of a DC-6B. 


NEA DC-6B


We departed BOS at midnight in a roaring Noreaster, dumping massive amounts of snow throughout New England. Seven or so hours later, after listening to four Pratt & Whitney R2800's beat flawlessly and navigating a dark and foreboding Eastern Seaboard, the shining city of Miami appeared through the windscreen. White beaches, aqua water, sailboats and glimmering buildings in the sun, erased any thoughts of inclement weather left behind in Boston and further drove me to seek this life aloft. The food was pretty good too, but it would be years later until I acquired a taste for "airline coffee." 

1954 NEA timetable, before the Florida route award.


As a side-note, I interviewed with Delta in 1978 in ATL. After looking through my application and resume, my inquisitor, apparently happy with what he saw said, "Rand, you're going to love it here at Delta, it's a family operation." Needless to say I was excited as visions of DC-9's and 727's danced in my head. Flying those Beech 18's and Twin Otters finally paid off. But hold on a second...

A few moments later he noticed a section on the application that asked, Do you have any family members in the employ of Delta Airlines? Of course I answered affirmatively with "yes, CK Peck, BOS captain." With that my major airline career hopes were dashed and the Twin Otters replaced the Nines and 727's yet again. Delta had a nepotism clause in those days excluding family members from working at THE FAMILY. I've never understood this but that was their policy, so back to flying my New England routes until deregulation came about and changed everything.


A fleet of Northeast Airlines DC-3's at the Barre-Montipelier Airport in Vermont. 


Frankly, I've written about all of this before and most of it can be found on my website under the tab, RAND'S HISTORY, but as you may have guessed there's a reason that I've brought it up again. Author David Stringer has written a three part history of NEA for AIRWAYS MAGAZINE, the last part to appear in the October issue. The first two installments are in the August and September issue of 2011. 

As I'd mentioned to Editor Wegg in an email, "I started reading David's story with a jaded eye, after all, how could an outsider possibly get this right." I'm happy to report that my concerns were unfounded as Stringer has done a superb job of portraying the nations smallest trunk airline. He successfully captured it's flavor, it's essence and it's place in history. Captains, Mudge, Houle and Peck I'm sure would be pleased with his work.

I'm also an unabashed supporter of AIRWAYS MAGAZINE, not just because they publish some of my work, (not all of it, they're very selective) but because it's the bible from my perspective, for the tens of thousands of commercial aviation enthusiasts around the globe. I see them everywhere with their cameras on tripods when landing at airfields throughout the U.S., Asia and Europe. It's the premier commercial aviation publication, written by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. 

Anyway, if you enjoy airline history, particularly when that history includes round engines, cowl flaps and METO power, you won't want to miss Stringer's three part NEA history.

As usual, thanks for reading.

Rand 

38 comments:

  1. I just got that Airways edition today, but only glanced over it so far.

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  2. Just saw the latest Airways on newstands in Auckland, NZ. You're right, the magazine is everywhere.

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  3. Rand,
    I was quite surprised to see you did not have a sidebar in any of the past three issues regarding Northeast Airlines. You could have contributed a great amount to the story! I guess the blog will have to suffice. As you may know, I'm a huge fan of Captain Buck's writing and corresponded with him on a few occasions by mail, but never in person. What was he like as an individual and did you know him well?
    Best Regards,
    Justin

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  4. Justin,

    I've met captain Buck on three occasions at the Northeast Airlines reunions in Plymouth, NH. I met him for the first time when I was a college student in the early 70's when I started flying from the Montpelier Airport in Vermont. I can't say that I know him well, but each encounter has been very enjoyable. He came across as a very down to earth guy who is more than casually interested in aviation. He was very easy to speak with and from what I've learned, involved with getting kids into flying. His son Rob, about my age is a retired DAL pilot whom I see regularly at the NEA reunions and is cut from the same bolt of cloth that his dad was.

    Rand

    Hi Sam,
    Dad

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  5. Great blog, Rand. I always enjoy your writing. Didn't know about your aborted Delta career choice, their loss until you came in the back door via NWA; their gain!
    Best Regards,
    Jon Proctor

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  6. Hello Jon,

    Thanks for writing and your kind words. I've been a fan of yours for years following your writing and your extensive photo collection. I appreciate your leaving a comment.

    Rand

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  7. Hi Rand,

    I know Captain Buck didn't fly at Northeast but did his son? Just curious as to why they were at all the reunions? My guess is they just knew all the people from living and flying in the New England area.

    Justin

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  8. J,

    No, Rob didn't fly at NEA or at ANE; I've forgotten where he got his start. But Bob and Rob are long time Vermont residents, not too awfully far from Plymouth, NH (home to the NEA reunion) and are well acquainted with all of the usual suspects who attend the reunions. More than 300 people show up these days, many from other airlines entirely. Maybe we'll see you at the October event??

    Rand

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  9. If I'm off I'll be there! I've got a Grumman Tiger that i fly for a friend so it stays busy since he never flies it! Do you have enough seniority on the -400 to guarantee if you'll be able to go? That little grass strip looks like heaven.

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  10. J,

    I have terrible news. I learned last night from retired captain George Chuadoin, who keeps NEA people informed through his newsletter, that retired captain Bill Grady died yesterday afternoon, 4 August. Bill hosted the NEA fly in's at his hangar in Plymouth, NH for years. He was a wonderful man, the type that I'd loved to have flown with as an FO.

    Rand

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  11. Sorry to hear about the loss. Hopefully, someone will be able to carry on the tradition in his honor.

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  12. if you you have more weight on the left side of the plane than on the right, would you have to preset aileron trim before takeoff?

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  13. Hi Tim,

    No, we normally zero out trim during our preflight checks, besides there's really no way of knowing lateral weight imbalances. I do though take note of trim positions before I zero them out, particularly if they seem a little on the large size. As airplanes age and they bend and pick up dings and dents, this all contributes to trim settings.

    Rand

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  14. on approach, does your pitch control altitude and does thrust control airspeed?

    if when hand flying the aircraft you notice that you have to apply constant lateral pressure to the left, would you normally use aileron trim?

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  15. Like the masking tape for flt. number reminder. Always wondered how you remembered.

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  16. Hi Rand, I like the new leading picture, complete with the "Who Am I Today" masking tape label. I can easily imagine the memory going blank as soon as you hit the transmit button. Best wishes,
    -Craig (Cedarglen)

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  17. We all have our memory joggers; this one was from the captain who flew the first half of the flight. I flew the second half in this case and normally clip my release to my yoke and print the flight number in the upper right hand corner. I'd noticed his reminder and decided just to leave it.. you can never have too much help!

    Rand

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  18. Thanks for the new PIC, Rand. I'm no expert, but that must be your 'New' Front Office, the B744. Nice! Stickers and reminders belong where they need to be. Readers will look for a new post when you have the time. Best wishes,
    -Craig(Cedarglen)
    P.S. Posting any kind of comment is still difficult. Blogspot is NOT helping. Blog-specific registry often helps, but few offer it. ANONYN is the best that I can force through. Most blogs understand the issues, but few have fixed them.
    Readers too are trying...


    -Craig

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  19. I love these pictures you have had of late of the office! The night/low light pictures being out the best in the instrument lighting - very jealous of such wonderful pictures!

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  20. How's life on the -400 on these days?

    JP

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  21. JP,

    Life on the -400 is very good... even on reserve! I've got about 115 hours at this point, nearly half of which are spent in a bunk and I'm running out of my 3 TO/L's in 90 days. But the airplane is wonderful to fly.

    Rp

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  22. Just checking in to see if yo had posted anything new. Yup, I understand about summer season stuff, it it the same here. Of note, I DID finally read the link about the assault. While not a capital crime, those drunk young men have earned some serious behind-bars time and I hope that they get it.
    Of course, there is ALWAYS more to the story... I love the PR person's BLAND note to the effect that 'we always prefer to deal with these issues on the ground...' I'm really sad to hear that the captain's decisions got him punched, injured and then missed a flight. That said, I suggest that the anonomyous captain made great choices. While still in the ground, a wealth of assistance (and even responsbility shift) is available. While on the ground, is there ever a need to fly when significant risks or unknowns are present? (*) I think not. I think this crew was super smart and make the right choices. And, I sorry to hear that the captain apparently got decked. One has to wonder why he was involved, rather than ground-based security folks. There is ALWAYS more to the story...
    (*)Sure, it easy to make absolute rules about of this kind of story. Let us not forget a few heroic captains who fought and flew their way out of trouble during some ugly events in the 70s. With no ground security support, a few fought back and flew their PAX to safety. While "Fight or Flight" is never the suggested practice, Captains still enjoy the authority to act outside the box when necessary. Let's hope that this never changes.
    Nuff said. -Craig

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  23. Are you still around, Rand? Looking forward to more stories from the -400.

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  24. Yes, sorry for this long interval of no production, but have had a very busy summer and am trying to finish up several projects before the snow flies. Hope to have my last 747 training story (OE) up soon.

    Thanks,

    Rand

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  25. I look forward to your new posts, when you can manage it. I sure hope that the 744 is turning out to be a good ride for you. Tell us how it is going... -Craig

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  26. THe IOE is long past and you are an 'Old Hand' by now. Anything of the experience that you can share with us? Thanks.

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  27. Hi... My name is Gary Fletcher. My father was Captain Gary M. Fletcher who flew for Air New England as well. He couldn't get on with Delta back in the day due to the fact that Delta Captain James S. Fletcher was his brother. Anyway... I've got a fair bit of ANE memorabilia myself after inheriting my father's stuff after he passed away in 2005.

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  28. Gary,
    You speak of your father in the past tense; I must assume from this that he has passed away. If so, please accept my condolences, I flew with him often and enjoyed his company.
    Rand

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  29. Hello Rand,

    Another son of a Northeast pilot here. I was researching the Yellowbird era and came across this blog post. My father started in 1966 after working at Executive Airlines flying the Twin Otter. NE was such as small airline that it's great to see posts like this keep it and it's family alive. I have some NE photos and the personal stories behind them on my blog.

    Best, Dave Goodwin

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    Replies
    1. Hi

      I like this post:

      You create good material for community.

      Please keep posting.

      Let me introduce other material that may be good for net community.

      Source: Police sergeant interview questions

      Best rgs
      Peter

      Delete
  30. Hello Rand,

    It’s a small world isn’t it?

    I stumbled onto your blog while looking for Northeast Airlines info.

    I was impressed and sadden with your story of almost making it with Delta the first time around, but you finally made it, thanks to the Northwest merger.

    My trip was also similar to yours; I made it to Delta, thanks to the Northeast Airlines merger with Delta.

    Your Dad was a great person and a pleasure for me to have known him, along with knowing Andy Anderson, Bob Mudge and Pappy Wheeler. All of the aforementioned pilots were favorite story telling’s by my Dad, about the old days when I was young. My Dad retired from Northeast Airlines in 1959 with seniority # of 6.

    Fortunately, I had the pleasure of flying S/O and F/O with most of them when I was flying with Northeast. I remember Pappy just before he retired off of the DC6-B; I was his S/O a few months before he retired.

    When you were almost hired by Delta in 1978, I was a B-727 Capt., thanks to the NEA & Delta merger in 1972. I retired in 2003 flying Capt. On the triple7 and with a seniority number of 6; ironically, with the same number that my Dad had.
    I am on Facebook, Google Plus, Comcast.com, and classmate.com

    Ciao / David Hazen
    Deltas777@comcast.net

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  31. Can I ask, if anyone might have known or worked with Richard Cowan in the early 1960's? From what I understand he was a baggage handler for Northeast in Philadelphia. Long shot I know, he is a family member I am looking for but so far no luck.

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  32. I'm quite sure my Dad knew your Dad. Does the name Captain Frank Kowalski sound familiar to you? Started with NE in late forties and retired from Delta in 1978. He passed away last August -- as my brother said in his eulogy
    "We were shocked a year ago when Mom suddenly died, and before Daddy, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way. His conscious mind and heart may have felt otherwise, but his soul knew he had to keep his family level, to make sure everyone fastened their seatbelts and weathered the turbulence, before he could join his beautiful bride above the horizon."
    Pat (Kowalski) Romanello

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  33. I don't know if this an active blog or not......I flew with NE Airlines from '67-'70....based in MIA the whole time. Our chief pilot was Clark Willard. Capt Al Marsh was in the office also. Other old timers were George Hamilton, Charlie Liebman, Ted Connor (who I understand was killed in the Delta accident several years ago) - wish I could remember more. Loved working for NE!!!

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  34. Do you have any history on operations at Newport Municipal Airport in Vermont? One of my relatives used to fly to Boston from Newport on what she termed was a "milk run"; I've never been able to find any pictures or data of NE's service at this airport. randall_peasley@yahoo.com

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  35. Hi, I'm wondering which terminal at LAX NE used? Also at ORD? Thank you. Ben

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  36. I just discovered your blog and am immediately interested in learning more about your knowledge: my grandfather was Milton "Andy" Anderson. I have a copy of Adventures Of A Yellowbird in my deep storage, but I know very, very little about my grandfather. Please reply in your blog (if it is still live) if you have information about him, as I would like to get to know him better: I only met him once after infancy. rickle_anderson@yahoo.com

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  37. Does the name Claire McHugh ring a bell with anyone? She was a flight attendant with Northeast in the 1960's. Would love to correspond with anyone who remembers her. mc_lynch@comcast.net

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