YIP-LAN-GRR-LAN-YIP on North Central Airlines 1966. A trip down memory lane, part III
I have seen very few references to a grand old
company, North Central Airlines. I hope this trip report will jog a few memories of a bygone era.
Having rejected the idea of going to Syracuse NY to work (see Jim’s first flight on AA) I had a job offer in Hastings, Michigan. The only problem was....I was a college senior without a car. Solution. Fly to Grand Rapids, Mich. for the day.
Only folk like us could still get a thrill and yes, “goose bumps” (sorry, couldn’t resist that one) at the thought of seeing the logo for North Central Airlines for the first time 36 years ago.
A college friend dropped me off at Willow Run Airport (YIP), which was the main airport for the greater Detroit area prior to Detroit’s Wayne Major Airport becoming Detroit Metropolitan (DTW). North Central, which was celebrating it’s 18th anniversary in 1966 still had not made the move to the new airport. These flights in May of 1966 were among the very last North Central was to fly from YIP.
After check-in...(my first flight ever with no luggage) there awaiting me was a Convair 440, with “Herman” on the tail. Herman was also known as the “Ruptured Duck” but for most of us...simply...the “Blue Goose”. The CV-440 carried 48 passengers when full. North Central at that time only flew the CV and the DC-3 (26 pax) The DC-9 was added three years later.
This was pre-Jim’s tail number mania and alas I do not know the N umber of this wonderful aircraft. A perfect clear sunny day to fly the 120 miles up to Grand Rapids with one stop in Lansing. Most of my fellow pax were businessmen in suits. I was just delighted to be flying again, even for a short day trip.
We left YIP at 07:35 on NC Flt 343. A continental breakfast of coffee, juice and Danish Roll were immediately served.There just enough time for the stewardess to serve this as a stop at Lansing, Michigan was scheduled for 8:04. We were off again from LAN at 08:14 and arrival at the new Grand Rapids Kent County Airport (it was not yet International and years from being known as Gerald R. Ford International. Arrival there was at 0835. This aircraft would have continued on to Green Bay, Wisconsin as the same flight number but after Green Bay, the aircraft became flight 291 to Iron Mountain, and Houghton, Michigan. Those NC stewardesses really earned their pay. Lots of short hops and low altitude flying.
A full day of job interviewing at Hastings High School netted me a job teaching French, which I held for 35 years. After being dropped off again at GRR, at the end of the school day, I boarded NC flight 346 for the trip back to LAN and YIP. The aircraft came in from Green Bay, Wisc, having started as flight NC 296 in Marquette, with service also to Escanaba and Menominee before becoming NC Flt 346 in Green Bay. Departure from GRR was an OT 16:30 with a stop at LAN from 16:50 until 17:01 and arrival back at YIP (Ypsilanti/Detroit) was 17:26. The cost to me for this round-trip on the two CV 440s was $30.20 including tax. A routine trip for the businessman. A lifetime of memories for me.
A quick side note. Because this airline served Wisconsin, many longer flights featured complimentary beer service as indicated on the schedule by an open beer stine logo. The Blue Goose flew in 1966 as far east as CLE and as far west as Rapid City, SD. Northern-most airport was Port Arthur, ONT Canada and southern-most city was OMA. Neb. It was, “the Route of the Northliners”, but for most of us, it was simply “flying the Blue Goose” Long live Herman's memory.
Clear skies and great tail winds to all.