Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dave and Betty DeBace Part One


Today I'm very pleased to add Dave and Betty DeBace to our ranks of North Central Employee histories and stories. I've had the pleasure of knowing and being friends with Dave now for a few years, swapping stories, aircraft photos and information. Hopefully I'll get to meet Betty at some point as well!
In reading the great responses from both Dave and Betty, I've decided to break them into Parts One and Two, seeing they're quite long and detailed! Alas, let's start with Dave today.
Dave began his career with North Central Airlines in July of 1966. " I was assigned to the sheet metal shop in Hanger 6. I worked next to Andy Green- the super star of sheet metal men! This guy could do anything. He would go on to save NCA millions of dollars over the years on things he created. I was given the job of overhauling DC-3 Carb scoops. I spent a year in the shop learning the trade with Andy's guiding hand. Of course, I wanted to be around the planes so I started bidding jobs as soon as I was eligible. While I marked time in Hanger 6, the first Convair 580, #549, came in to the hanger so I got to see how a Convair could be taken apart for overhaul. EVERYTHING came out or off that airplane; old paint was stripped off so the whole thing was just an empty shell of bare metal. The crew then started to put it back together with all new wiring harnesses that the shop had been building for months. I can still hear the stamping machine working away in the Southwest corner of the hanger. They would hand the wires up on a bar from the ceiling of the hanger. It was literally a wall of wires. Slowly, #549 came back together; new instrument panels with new f108 flight directors, autopilot and antiskid. (New stuff for NCA). Then came the day we had to cover everything in the hanger with plastic as paint day was here! Just with the white top coat on, the airplane was looking great. By February or March of 1967, #549 was outside doing its flight test. She looked good! Soon the next 580 was in the hanger and the crews started the process over again."

He goes on, "Summer came and in August, the first DC-9 arrived outside. A lot of people held up a banner saying 'WHERE ARE THE PROPS?' In August of 1967, I got my first bid; MSP night line DC-3/DC-9 Crew. This crew worked a DC-3 check or a DC-9 inspection or check. Sometimes we worked both aircraft on the same night. I enjoyed this work. As a new guy on the crew, I got a lot of the dirty jobs. Many guys were happy to teach the correct way to do things and were a great group to work with. I stayed on nights until the Spring of 1969 when I was bumped off. I took an opening in the Tire and Brake Shop. This lasted for about a year when I got a bid to the day shift 580 Check Crew, with rotating days off. We worked the exterior and the Right engine. We also worked the phase checks on weekends, where we did the times changes on the large items of the aircraft; flaps, air condition systems, landing gear and so on. "

" I met my future wife, Betty, while I was in the Tire and Brake Shop. Betty had started working for North Central on March 17, 1969 - the first day maintenance managers worked out of the new offices in the just finished hangers by Highway 494. The General Offices weren't ready until later that year. Betty worked upstairs where the managers and directors were located. She was hired to do clerical work for the managers, and was put in charge of sorting and delivering the mail to the office and hangers. In the Fall of 1969, the company formed a new department called Maintenance Control. Job duties were to type the delay report and file all entries in what were call 'strip books.' Betty also learned to do the Convair 580 horsepower charts."

It's important to note here that Dave corrected me on a prior post about NCA's employee and marriage policy. He goes on to say, "When we announced our engagement in the Fall of 1970, we realized we had a problem. NCA policy was that married couples couldn't work in the same department. The plan was for Betty to go to Flight Control. One day, Betty and I were called in to Les Keely's office. Les told us that Dan Lee had requested that Betty be allowed to stay in Maintenance Control, Since Flights Ops already had a married couple working together, the precedent had been set and Maintenance changed the ruling so Betty could stay! (New rule - married people couldn't work under the same manager, but could be in the same department.) We were married on April 10, 1971 and our hours coincided so most days we were able to drive in together."

In asking Dave the set of questions about being a North Central Employee, he replied with a '9' in rating his experience with NCA on a scale from 1 to 10. Some of the best memories were that it was 'a great place to work, there weren't many times I didn't want to go to work.' In asking him about any bad memories, 'working in the cold, never like that!'

Stayed tuned for PART TWO, coming shortly...:)

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