Joe Kimm



Northwest Airways Co-pilot Joe Kimm, October, 1930

Hired by Northwest Airways July 1, 1929 to serve as steward on then-new Ford Trimotors, Joe soon moved up to co-pilot and then Captain in 1933.  Joe flew his final Northwest Boeing 707 flight August 17, 1971. His retirement years included delivering Meals on Wheels until he was well into his 90s.  He was still driving a car when he was 99 and died two weeks after his 102nd birthday.

Joe acknowledged that he “invented” the burp bag when he was a steward on Ford Trimotors. He picked up a bunch of paper lunch bags from the grocery store.  He said,  “I’d whip one open when a passenger was ready to let go.  You could usually tell because they’d get pink behind the ears.  When he handed the bag back to me I’d head for the door.  If the bag broke I used a squeegee to clean it up.”

Joe is best remembered for the January, 1933 Trimotor Western Transcontinental Survey Flight, proving the feasibility of passenger transport over the Rockies from MSP to Seattle.  Amelia Earhart traveled as a celebrity passenger as far as Spokane.  Joe noted afterwards that “she was a class act.”  In October, 1956, Joe and Senior Captain “Deke” DeLong marked Northwest’s 30th Anniversary by flying a restored Ford Trimotor coast to coast to mark the occasion.  Treated like celebrities at every stop, Joe and “Deke” appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Show in New York.

These were, undeniably, sterling accomplishments.  But Lady Skywriter’s favorite Joe Kimm story is one pictured below:


“Snakes” Bouvette, NWA Station Manager at Pembina, ND, borrowed a nearby farmer’s team to pull Joe Kimm’s Hamilton H-47 out of a snowdrift in January, 1936



Amelia Earhart and Joe Kim. 1933 Trimotor Western Transcontinental Survey Flight.


30th Anniversary Crew included Flight Mechanic Walter Kollath, Capt. Leon S. “Deke” DeLong, Co-pilot Joseph Kimm and Stewardess Coral Yahr


Joe’s daughter Kerry Cotton, Joe Kimm, Jr., and grand-daughter Kimm Viebrock accepting Joe’s Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame Award, 2012

For more information about Joe Kimm, go to Lady Skywriter Photo Essay which contains additional links. Read RNPA Contrails, November, 2013, which features a cover story about Joe.  You’ll find a copy at the NWA History Centre. Here’s Joe’s obituary as it appeared in the Seattle Times.

4 responses to “Joe Kimm”

  1. My son found these pictures and interesting information when he typed in Walter Kollath Northwest Airlines, on the Internet. Walter was my father’s older brother by 2 years with 2 others being younger. They were born in a log cabin on the family farm, near Verona, WI, in the early 1900’s. We have fond memories of my uncle and his family visiting us on the farm from the cities. Nice article. I am glad my son found it. Uncle Walter was quite the “guy”.

  2. Walter Kollath was my Great Uncle. These are pictures of him I have never seen before. Thanks for posting them. if you have more of him, I would love to see them..