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:
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.