Relief Station Agent - Vagabond days in my '57 Pink & Cream Buick and Rooming Houses

I worked short stints in some nine stations, some twice. Relief Agent was at times scornfully welcomed. Their remorse, I understood, since I the intruder working the vacant shift, reduced their next pay check. Happily this was the exception. I was much surprised at being able to quickly adapt and be ready for work, at times that very afternoon.

One ‘enjoyable’ station in upper Wisconsin was ASX (Ashland, WI). Agent Ed Helms (in off hours) was playing “quick-draw’ with his trusty pistol. Yep, he ‘quick-drawed’, his very self in the thigh. Thus, Ed was my reason for being in ASX – a beautiful place. I would meet Ed again as an ESCORT Programmer.

After several rainy days on the GRB (Green Bay, WI) ramp I reported to CMX (Houghton-Hancock, MI), the most northern point of Michigan. The airport was surrounded on 3-sides by nearby Lake Superior and suffered the peculiarities of its location. CMX perhaps has the greatest annual snow fall of all NC stations. Summertime was expected when the calendar read July and that was during my short CMX tour. During summer, a beautiful place, plenty of abandoned copper mines to explore, lutefisk-to be tried once, Scandinavians a different breed, nastiest tasting bakery products ever, and the biggest - tastiest strawberries anywhere. My land lady even showed me her left-handed mustache cup. Here, the CMX SM “Idea Dollar’d” those black runway marker signs often seen at many snow prone airports.

On a moonless dark evening, an aging ex-military C-47 pulled up on the ramp un-announced. Over the lake his left engine became oil covered, his prop ceased spinning. A young pale pilot, happy to have reached a safe port, stepped off along with his passengers, Don and Phil Everley. The equally pale Everley Brothers big question; “where are we?”

On another dark late night, the Airport Manager took exception to my bag cart parking. The animated exchange resulted in the GRB-OR (R.J. Smith) booting me out of CMX.

Arriving along the mighty Mississippi River, I arrived in ONA (Winona, MN). Here an extra duty was ‘the-fun’ time mandated to assemble those plastic covered info packets found in aircraft seat pockets. I’d previously pondered, who performed such an ‘exciting’ task - I now knew! The major excitement here was researching the NC produced (SA) hourly aviation weather and forecasts, producing live daily local radio weather broadcasts. Another bit of fun, was watching the local Watkins Company DC-3 jet (JATO) assisted departures. Here I met SA Dave Engelsgard, later an ESCORT Programmer.

I spent a lifetime across two winter weeks in INR (SSM-Sault Ste Marie), a SAC Base. When a/c left the ramp, they disappeared behind snow piled higher than an aviator’s ego. INR had both DC-3 and CV340 overnighters. One got a glorious view of the ‘northern lights’ (aurora borealis), reporting for the 4:30AM shift. It was always very cold and snowy, thus there was plenty of Herman-Nelson heater and de-icing work. SM Darrel Thorseth, had a good crew. Warning - Never, ever touch bare metal with naked fingers!

Here I met SA Jack Brown, the former PTK (Pontiac, MI) SM, later a companion ESCORT Programmer. It was still dark for the first departure, Flight 693, a DC-3 at 6:30AM headed toward MSP, arriving some 5 hrs 30 minutes later via MQT CMX IWD ASX & DLH – a long ride across the northern tundra. One cold morning Flight 693 departed the ramp. Soon it returned. Opening his window, the Pilot (as I recall he liked Irish Setters) simply pointed to his tail. The ‘red-lock’ was still on his elevator control. It was removed and he again departed – and no more was heard of the incident.

For years Jack and I accused each other of that mis-deed, it yet continues to rage. Jack was a unique feller, the smartest man I ever knew. A few years earlier, as a young Navy coxswain, after General McArthur’s landing in Inchon Korea, he trucked his boat north to support crossing of the Chosin Reservoir. He almost made it, but the Chi-com’s objected to his presence. He unceremoniously abandoned his truck loaded boat not far from the Chosin Reservoir. Following which, he along with other Marines and Soldiers, in -30 degree weather rapidly headed south – afoot, racing ahead of the bad guys.

At INR we also worked Trans-Canada (TC) Airlines Viscount ramp service, including their flight (Wt & Bal / MGL) departure calculations. I notified the TC folks a flight exceeded MGL (max weight), the onboard Non-Rev’s would be bumped. They said no-way, bump Revenue PSGRs. We did. Not all airlines treat Non-Rev’s the same way.

In CLI (Clintonville, WI), I learned in spite of the ground fog, an old-timey pilot could make a non-ILS landing using two opposing farm silos. Yep, that’s what he said. I loaded a single mail sack and away he went, lost in the fog before he got to the runway. Here I watched Ruburto Clemente and his Pittsburgh Pirates defeat all comers. Also, I learned the fun of riding in a spiffy yellow Piper CUB with a daring aviator. They are not all nuts, but some certainly are.

To become a Relief Agent, I first had to become a certified Weather Observer. It was in BEH (Benton Harbor, MI) I fully recognized how this sometimes worked. BEH was a 400 & 1 (feet of ceiling height and miles of horizontal visibility) Station. It was a low overcast day. Flight 845 was inbound, requesting WX. He got it, (Balloon) B300 & 1. The incoming Pilots cryptic response, “take another look, this time hold the balloon string, after starting the stop-watch”. Yes he did. So I did. The next Special WX report was B400 & 1. He came and went.

My BEH stint coincided with the ‘JFK – Nixon’ Presidential race. JFK and his entourage arrived. Like a flock of locust they covered the place, taking over every square foot and phone they could find. Luckily, we had no flight ops, so we just stood aside and enjoyed the view.

The big employer in BEH was Whirlpool. Annually they chartered a plane for an employee joy trip. So, I got to work my first and only TWA Super Constellation. It was a big machine, with a bit of sweat, I got it parked on that ‘postage card’ size ramp. My cohort loaded the passengers and me the baggage. But whoa, as the loading progressed, the aircraft had settled upon the bag cart top, making a ‘small’ depression in the a/c belly. Solution; unload some passengers and reload them. Departed per plan.

It was in BEH I first saw (or knew) a Convair could travel backwards, he missed a taxiway turn.

After BEH, it was a couple weeks in YKN (Yankton, SD). Here my major attraction was a huge six+ foot albino catfish taken from the ‘Big-Mo”, t hung in the local watering hole. A very tall tower stood atop a range of hills near the airport. I think it was that tower, later clipped by a NC Convair?

Then off to TVC (Traverse City, MI). Padrta knew how to insure plenty of road miles between my stations YKN to TVC was an exciting road trip; one Wisconsin US 12 speeding ticket, a MTW-LUD (Manitowoc WI – Ludington MI) over night boat ride, Stop sign violation in LUD followed by a Michigan Troopers ‘no-tail light warning” and speeding ticket. At 7 cents a mile, a loosing trip. The major attraction remembered in winter time TVC was the stack of ice outside the terminals front door. It was created by a stack of water pipes, with over night running water that froze, another short piece of pipe was added to the stack – and the ice was extended toward the heavens. Otherwise, an uneventful tour soon after Capital Airlines had vacated TVC service.

Later, I hit the big time, mid-winter on the MSP Ramp – it had fully motorized ramp gear, a novelty to an experienced ‘hand’ operater. I’d performed the spectrum of SA duties in many smaller stations, but work in MSP was different. It was a continuous 8 hours on the ramp. Memory? My ears froze. Lesson? Do not do it again. Hell, I’m Irish, not from Norway.

Following this tour of NC Stations it was time for a more permanent roost, not to mention that the blue uniformed Stew had purchased and executed a marriage license. Working all those NC Stations was most educational. I’d report to the SM for duty, he’d give me keys, shift hours and his phone number (which I never used) and show me the light switch – introductions complete. The tools of the trade and technique were standard system wide – only flight numbers, faces and local accommodations changed.

Of course all of these locations were staffed with union (ALEA) SA’s. Thusly, work shifts were seniority bid. So my second step during a new stations introduction was to insure my shift was that of the guy I was replacing. At times I found that the SM permitted his regular SA’s to take a more preferred, but later vacated by SA absence, the shift I was here to fill. It didn’t work.

Muskegon, MI (MKG), Station Agent - my last NC Station – Vagabond Relief Agent Days History

Perhaps my memory fails, or perhaps it was SM Sherman’s, but he invited me to MKG, where he reigned as its first SM, as of November 1960 - leaving ATY behind. I arrived 6 months later in May 1961. The terminal building was interesting, 2-story older brick structure, situated next to the small office of an ‘ole timey’ aviator with a single digit aviator license; he had earned his wings in an (??)‘OX Wing’.

The MKG airport terminal housed a Weather Bureau Station, a Flight Service Station (FSS), Capital Airlines (being absorbed into United Airlines) and NC. I thought this long ago brick built terminal building was interesting. From its rooftop, when the airport was closed on foggy mornings, the sun shown brightly.

Also on the roof top was a contraption used by the local Weather Bureau folks to calculate measured winds aloft (upper winds).. This was done using a balloon, stop watch and a platform mounted telescope having a pointer showing its degrees of rotation and elevation. The scope had markings for 1,000 foot intervals of elevation. With these tools, after releasing the precisely weighted helium filled balloon, they tracked its drift in degrees at 1,000 foot intervals. From this gathered data, upper wind speed and direction would be calculated and transmitted to USofA locations as MKG “Winds Aloft”. Those winds in conjunction with those from other reporting sites were a key to plotting favorable altitudes during ‘long-haul’ flight planning. The process was most interesting and educational.

We moved to the newly built MKG airport terminal in 1961. Like many of its time, it was of modern architecture, with few nice lines added. Compared to the old terminal, the new one was ‘eyeball boring”.

Muskegon was a neat place to live and work; fair WX, good perch/coho fishing, fine large, sandy beaches and forests to explore. By this time I was wedded to the “winged lass in Blue” I’d consorted with at ATY. A nice place to start a family and we did, 3 boys / 1 Girl. MKG with its favorable soils and lee-shore weather had mega-fruit orchards and truck gardens, plus a super large Farmers Market. We created mucho canned and frozen goodies. Button mushrooms grew by the bag full in its nearby forests.

MKG had an annual air show. One featured the Navy Blue Angels. It drew more people then flies on a fresh cow-pie, all roped away from close action. My home was located on the airports edge, maybe 70 yards from a runway end. From my back garden, I had a birds-eye view straight down the runway. There I was to witnesses the speed of a Blue Angels fighter jet. Peering straight down the runway, I spotted a ‘speck’, a tiny aircraft on its far end. The next second (felt like it), I was covered by its passing tail-pipe heat - those ‘boggers’ could move. At night, assisting the dish washer, at the kitchen window, departing DC-6s would closely show their four blue-hot exhaust pipes while shaking the trees and rattling my window.

Work here was much like that of my previous stations; reservations, cargo, ticketing, teletype, VHF radio, people, flight operations, and snow shoveling. Noon-time was Paul Harvey time, and maybe a game or two of cribbage (or ½ cent a point gin, which can hurt). Here, I survived a couple of documented troubles. Otherwise, it was a quite, smooth tour of duty.

Eight (maybe it was 6) DC-3 flights graced the schedule spread across two daily shifts, of 2 SA’s each.. Convair’s came later. About this time, Capital Airlines was being ‘absorbed’ into United with several CHI trips. It was interesting to note, that the MKG-ORD flight time for those big ole DC-4 and DC-6’s exceeded that of our MKG-MKE-ORD puny DC-3 trips. Also a bit interesting was watching UA load their DC-4 (maybe it was a DC-6) while it settled on its tail – tail prop placement failure.

MKG, being hard on Lake Michigan’s lee-shore, we got lots of snow. Snow would come sudden and deep. Remember Paul Harvey’s comment about “Muskegon’s Yard of Snow” - unusual, not by much. The airport folks rarely failed to have runways timely cleared. When freezing rain was forecast they blew snow back on to the runways. When the nasty ice making conditions quit, the runways would be cleared leaving a suitable landing surface.

Another flight ops villain was frequent dense morning ground FOG preventing flight operations even tho it might be only 8 to 10 feet deep with clear skies above. MKG minimums were 400 & 1 (No WX obscurations below 400 and minimum of 1 mile horizontal visibility). Typical FOG burn-off by the rising sun warming the air would often occur after our early morning flight. At times with marginal conditions, barely above landing minimums, the first landing plane would stir the fog, causing it to condense and further delay subsequent landings.

It was not unusual for fall, winter and spring WX across southern Michigan to be a problem for evening flight operations. MKG flights from Detroit via multiple stops to Milwaukee would suffer delays; those delays often grew un-expectably larger as enroute stops took longer then normal.

In MKG I learned the reality and value of a “Crystal Ball” in defense of a bad WX evening. One Friday evening, a MKE ‘commuter passenger (customer making same trip frequently)’ became increasingly anxious to return home. Those nasty ‘creeping’ delays kept creeping. Multiple times he approached the ticket counter from his airport bar stool, seeking an “accurate” time – we did not have such, another ‘iffy’ estimate we did have.

Finally, ‘quite’ disturbed (not his words), he challenged me for an accurate departure time. Flustered, I said let's check together. I reached under the ticket counter and retrieved my “make believe crystal ball’. It was gingerly placed on the counter top between us. His eyes widened, ‘what?” “It’s my Crystal Ball; let’s check it together - for an accurate time?’ I waited for his response. He laughed and returned to his stool. No fallout. I used this ruse again several times during later fun events. No fallout!

Ole timey NC’ers will recall the long 1960’s strike by a number of ‘trunk’ airlines. NC Flights were full and many were over sold. It was mayhem at flight time, when both scheduled NC and cancelled United passengers ‘milled’ about the ticket counter, both hoping or demanding a seat. For many weeks I worked every day, most for 12+ hours. The resulting paycheck with all those specified and union required hours at time and ½ and double time - eased the pain, and there was pain.

MKG was the last stop on line-of-flight, preceded by Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids (GRR); all were also cities in which the striking Untied operated, passing their passengers over to NC. GRR would solve their over sold passenger problem by stuffing MKE flights – stealing our seats, leaving us holding an empty sack. Those dogs would de-plane MKG passengers and bus’em (40 miles) home, just to settle their own neurosis. Do you think we could make the MKG - MKE passengers understand why they were now stranded? Sure! Most always chagrined, they would enjoy an overnight boat ride on the aging Milwaukee Clipper – on NC’s “dime”.

During this time of trepidation as a "troubled seats" flight drew near, we constantly checked and double checked our local boarding and through MKG passengers boarded by up-line stations. On one flight, we surprisingly realized only one open seat would be available at MKG. Records were checked and the first booked passenger would be given that seat. The balance of passengers, stirring about the lobby fully expecting to board that flight would be denied boarding and told the sorry reason why! Such explications could rival that of a Sunday morning radio preacher. Again, the Milwaukee Clipper would be used. At that time unhappy denied passengers could not be mollified by compensation of any type; cash, or other flights of their choice, as is common in 2008. The net often was sort of a ‘pat-on-the-head’, a smile and free boat trip.

Enhancing that situation, up stepped a business suited passenger to plead his unique case. He also claimed to personally know some high NC muck-a-mucks. Hearing my ”sorry sir”, he headed toward the phones. Next, my phone rang, identifying myself, I heard, “You have a Mr. So & So wanting on your next flight?” “Yes sir we do.”! My attention was intense! “Do you know who this is?’ By now I had it figured, “Yes Sir, Mr. Carr, It’ll be taken care of”- he got the seat. Eating Crow is not ‘always’ unhealthy.

During this time, a kind of ‘secret’ late night MKG-MKE flight was conducted. I told the regular flights Captain, we were big time oversold, some 20 people stomping around the terminal making demands. Heck, for our 600 per month passenger quota, 20+ was a big number. I asked, maybe he could return to MKG, maybe a 40 minute roundtrip flight, delaying his MKE bed time? Naw - Flight Control nixed the idea. Having the Dispatch decision in hand, the Captain told us “Hold those passengers, see ya in awhile”. He did exactly that, the passengers arrived MKE just a tad late. I never found out who all knew about this ‘off-the-books’ flight. I wasn’t asking! Try that today!

Cost incurred during a strike, really mattered not. True, NC did pay out added strike related expense for overtime and passenger happiness. BUT, NC participated, as did the struck airlines in a “Mutual Aide Pack”. That participation meant, any increased revenue benefited from such strike, across completive markets, less related expense, would be rebated to the struck airline. Thus, any beneficial benefits appeared in individual paychecks

One foggy evening, a GRR – GRB (Green Bay, WI) DC-3 dropped in.. It seems a duck flew through the Captains’ window. Being over, but near the east side of Lake Michigan, the co-pilot decided a un-announced MKG landing appropriate. Both appeared pale on arrival. The Pilot had some minor eye concerns, which were resolved by the local Med-co’s. The only other such event I’d heard, was Capt Harry Alton flying a DC-3 into CMX with a goose in his lap. The goose completed its last trip between the Captains breezy feet! Yep, that’s the same Harry Alton who years later retired holding Seniority #1 on the ‘Red Tail’ Pilot Roster – good, heh.

One nice Sunday spring day, I was watching a ‘buttoned-down’ United DC-6 crank up for departure. Wham, the front terminal door banged open, the hurried man ran through the terminal (No, not O.J.), out the ramp door, over the 4-foot security fence, and stopped in front of the prop-spinning DC-6. He was a tad late, but still wanted his seat. Un-responsive to Agents, the Police soon convinced him otherwise and the flight departed. Would ya believe, he turned out to be a Captain for one of the “Trunks”. His fate is unknown.

Last tale. Excitement around the airport always drew our special attention. A long time aviator had his office in the MKG terminal. He commuted daily in his private plane, often landing opposite our office window about 9 AM’ish. As we were young boys, we loved to watch planes land, but this landing was ‘slightly’ askew – an aviator embarrassment. The aviator ignored the warning horn as he sat down upon the runway - gear was un-extended. No, it wasn’t equipment malfunction! He was more surprised then we. It was not his favorite discussion topic. Pilots do not always listen to those horns, heh!

End of the line as a Station Agent

Late 1967, a memo appeared on the MKG Bulletin Board. W. E. Wolf, the NC Data Processing Manager, was searching employee ranks for Computer Programmer candidates. I responded, got tested, and tripped to MSP for an interview. Mr. Wolf must have been having a bad day, as I got selected, after he consulted with my current and former bosses for the ‘real’ Powell scoop. Would they lie? Maybe; is it not a common rule to always export your best man? At least that was what my Army First Sergeant taught!

At MKG I was living a contented, comfortable life, a settled home owner in a nice area not distant from the waters of Lake Michigan. My family had grown to three kids and an almost hatched daughter. I knew where to hunt, when to pick mushrooms, and having learned the diff between a Dog Fish and Trout, when and where to fish. Fishing Lake Michigan for co-ho, I caught one, maybe 40 inches long. It was a gusty day, not a good one for a 16 ft open boat. One minute the boat was at a swells bottom showing water all around. The next we were sitting atop a mountain of water. Sea sick no, worried yes, till I realized the man driving the boat was headed wherever I would.

My union number enabled holding down a nice work schedule (8 days of AM shifts, 4 days off, and 6 PM shifts on and 2 days off). I thought it quite a risk to leave a known world, holding a nice spot on the (union) ALEA seniority roster with a ‘top scale’ ALEA mandated monthly ($550 plus overtime) salary. Leave this Union protected position, for a “Non-Protected” position with no salary increase, in fact a decrease since future OT was unpaid. On top of that, it was a move to a higher cost of living location to boot, and to the expectation was lots of excess work hours. But I did.

With my move to the GO, some routine pleasures were vacated. No longer would I benefit from visiting Interline salesmen dishing out confirmed first class positive spaced passes to such exotic spots as SFO, RNO and LAS, often with paid rooms and meals. We’ve all heard about life in the 60’s in SFO, whew, topless bars and more. I learned quickly that in SFO, a ‘glass’ of beer cost $1 (ghezz). And even in SFO, abusive use of a martini glass in proximity to an incompletely clad waitress, can get one evicted to the treet - pronto. (I’ll leave the why to your imagination).

Always a glorious NC benefit was the ability to ride as a Non-Rev on NC DC-3s and CV340s. True, onboard service was basic; coffee, tea, rolls and a choice of Lucky, Camel or Chesterfield 4-pack cigarettes. It was a joy to ride the DLH-ORD non-stop CV340 and enjoy full dinner service, its quality compared to biggie airline service in 2008 was truly first class. Riding on the big airlines was quite different then on NC; linens, china, silver, meal choice, booze, wine and even tasty dessert. Yep a ride on a giant DC-7, CV 880, Electra, even the then new twin-jet French Caravelle was quite a treat.

Under the tutelage of SM Sherman, MKG was a 1964 Station of The Year. The brass, Mr. Buttomer(RIP), Mr. Needham(RIP), Mr. Baker(RIP) and Mr. Hubertus(RIP), arrived, bringing neighboring GRR agents to work our shifts while they “dinner’d and socialized” us (and themselves) for a evening. Toasts were made, names drawn, and awards presented. I got the biggie, a full one week in Mexico City with guided tour, and all expenses paid by AA - whew! The Station of the Year Plaque was consigned to the MKG station Ops Wall.

NC service to MKG began late 1960 with SM Wayne Sherman. Wayne moved up to DTW SM 4+ years later, replaced by a GRR Sr. SA; C. J. “Charlie” Allen, the SM during the balance of my time at MKG. Charley later relocated to PHL and was replaced with another GRR Sr. Agent, Paul Bulow. Paul remained the SM until 1983 when RC terminated MKG service. Cleaning house, Paul sent me that 1964 MKG Station of the Year Plaque. Now, 25+ years later, it proudly hangs on my office wall. TUM Paul.

After almost 10 years, my SA career ended. I departed, leaving MKG behind. More fun was about to begin. Some might say; “what does Powell really know about NC business, he only worked in small stations”. They might claim the real action was in the biggie places like, ORD, DTW, GRB or MSP. I suppose such is a ‘view’ valid by some. BUT consider; in small stations, you worked very much on your own performing all tasks, more than one working a large station.

It was my experience after encountering various surprise problems, working in 11 stations, “if you had a problem, you figured it out”, often under pressure of the moment and within a very short time. Rare was there immediate help, most of that “help’ came via interrogation, after ‘the action’ was history. Available communications back then was not ‘even-close’ to that of later years, no cell phones, or even beepers.

Leaving Muskegon for the General Office in Minneapolis to become a ESCORT Programmer

In February 1968, I departed, reporting to the mysterious MSP GO and Data Processing Manager, Bill Wolf. He made the home relocation issues disappear. There I learned I was one of three initial ESCORT Programmers, beginning with about a year of technical training.

My 10 years SA experience proved itself many times over during my 15 years working with ESCORT. The original Programmer Staff were mostly all Ex-NC Agents. Our agent time; performing Agent duties was ‘basic-training’ for ESCORT work. It was their skills that made ESCORT a more complete airline system.

Such “NC sensitive” experience was routinely written into ESCORT programs used by NC personnel.

An added value was the un-official ‘proposals’ received from ole agent buddies. Likewise, we often solicited their ideas and opinions for underway tasks – and ghezz, even flight crews helped, in particular one Capt Brown.

The ESCORT (Electronic System Combining Operations Reservations Training) system was made available to NC Stations and Reservations personnel in early 1970. NC was an early airline to implement the IBM developed system known as PARS (Programmed Airline Reservation System). Others would come later.

When ESCORT was activated, a number of NC unique software changes were included. For day one use, NC and a number of other airline (OA) flight schedules were loaded. Of course, all previous existing future passenger reservations and current NC and OA flight seat inventories were loaded.

From day one of ESCORT activation, all NC locations could quickly retrieve and modify accurate Passenger Name Records (PNRs), produce accurate Passenger Name Lists (PNLs), access other airline schedules, obtain up-to-date NC and OA seat availability, and flight progress (FLIFO). Seat Availability Charts and PSGR Cards (TS-3s) were immediately obsolete. Typing of long PSGR booking messages was history. The teletype (TTY) machines obsoleted.

Soon there after, came such functions as Flight Times, Flight Release, Fare Quote & Ticketing, Weather, tele-ticketing, Weight/Balance, MGL, credit-checks, fuel system, cash drawer closeout, seat selection, revenue/accounting systems, and interface to the new SCEPTRE, along with many others.

Was ESCORT a good NC undertaking? Was it beneficial to tasks performed by the rank and file folks? Was their productivity that built our NC to its great success, improved? I’m biased! Are You? Look at this chart

Year / Nbr Passengers Per Employee

1967 893 Prior to ESCORT operations

1973 1,311 +46% After ESCORT began operation in 1970

1978 1,550 +18% Last pure NC Year - best ever employee productivity year

1981 1,171 -24% First full year of combined NC/SO/RW as RC

1984 1,138 - 2%


So, what happens when a duck fly’s on its back? It Quacks up!’ When RC was ‘ate-up’ by the ‘redtail’, I was several years gone. Later, I learned that the ‘redtail’ had announced their decision to use ESCORT as their system. Soon thereafter, lesser heads reversed that decision for use of their UNISYS (NW was the only domestic airline using such) system, tho in use by several International airlines. Later they again announced a new decision.

That reversal, I believe, can be laid at the feet of the then RC ‘computer experts’ lacking ability to adequately communicate the benefits they had documented using the ESCORT. Their analysis had clearly shown ESCORT would effectively handle the combined RC/NW Airline, while use of the pre-existing NW system had a dicey future. With all this turmoil and problems realized by RC/NW combined use of UNISYS, a third decision was made. A ‘redtail’ Exec made a deal with a Kansas City system to perform its ESCORT - UNISYS purpose. This resulted in ESCORT being discarded to the “bit-bucket”, except for a few important functions not otherwise available. The 3rd decision implemented, I was to receive phone calls from former fellow employees, snarling about the ESCORT replacement.

The computer work required within ‘redtail’, considering the electronic links and agent functions between ESCORT , UNISYS and SCEPTRE, must have been considerable, but I assume with time, made tenable.. Use of SCEPTRE at NW was continued and perhaps now with the new NW-DL relationship, its life will gain an expanded mission.

Noteworthy for this biased ex-NC feller was that not all individual ESCORT programs were consigned to the ‘bit-bucket’. A job I later held included the system that replaced ESCORT. Prowling, I found in its program library, programs written by Ex-NC’ers, even mine – so life goes on, heh!

Feedback, opinions, corrections, greetings are welcome:

Should you find the foregoing entertaining, watch for my 15 years of “ESCORT Life and Times”.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be!

copyright 2009 by Coston E. "Skip" Powell