10 questions with the man who unlocked the history of the small and medium sized airlines that first connected America by air.
There are people who work in the aviation industry and people who love the aviation industry. There are some rare people who fit both those criteria. Meet David H. Stringer, an accomplished author, aviation professional, and a self professed avgeek, more specifically an “airline geek”.
Hanging out with David is fascinating. He has a near encyclopedic knowledge of the airline industry. He’s leveraged that knowledge and a passion for research to author one of the most comprehensive books about the local service airlines of the 1950s and ’60s. His book does more than just chronologically document overlooked aviation history. It brings to life some of the most fascinating airlines that connected hundreds of small and medium sized cities all across the United States.
His book is available for purchase rom Amazon, from BarnesandNoble.com, and directly from the publisher. To purchase an autographed copy of the book directly from David, click on the Facebook page and click the “Shop Now” button or click here.
1.) Tell us how you fell in love with aviation…
I got hooked when I took my first flight at age 7.
2.) Would you consider yourself an Avgeek?
More specifically, I’m an airline geek. I guess you’d call me a Commercial Av – geek.
3.) You served much of your professional career as a flight attendant. In today’s environment, flight attendants are sometimes treated poorly by passengers. How was your experience? Do you look back fondly on that time?
I flew for 32 years and it was a fantastic career! I interacted with literally thousands of people…. everyday folks, politicians, celebrities. And the camaraderie among airline employees is unlike that in any other industry. As for f/a’s being treated poorly… there have always been some unhappy, unpleasant people in this world. But the nice people far outnumber the miserable. I often tell this story: After having 100 passengers on a flight, we’d be saying “goodbye” to each of them at our destination. Ninety-nine of those people would either smile or say “thank you”, or “nice flight!” or return some other pleasantry. Then one of those one hundred people would say “That was the worst flight ever! I’m never flying this airline again.” And, of those 100 people, who would be the one person that we’d remember? The unhappy passenger because we’d wonder what we did or didn’t do that resulted in them being so unhappy. And oftentimes we’d realize that there was nothing we could have done differently that would have made him / her any less miserable. You can’t take it personally. But try to remember the 99% that enjoyed themselves.
4.) What was your favorite memory of flying for a major airline?
Too many to share.
5.) You have a particular passion for classic airliners and airlines. In fact your first book is on the local service airlines that used to have networks across the US. What do you find so fascinating about these types of airlines that used to exist?
I’m a history geek, too. I had a double major in college: history and political science. And you have to remember that, when my fascination with airlines began… when I was a kid and in my teen years… all of those airlines still existed. The Locals were particularly interesting because they brought air service, in good-sized airliners, to small city airports throughout the U.S. The residents of many of those cities had better commercial transportation alternatives in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s than they have today. And with good transportation comes the possibility of commerce and industry. I took my first flight on one of those local service airlines and, years later, I went to work for that airline (Southern Airways).
6.) Out of all the airlines that you’ve profiled, what is your favorite airline?
We’re talking about airlines of the past… I tend to like the underdogs, the carriers that had to fight for survival. Northeast Airlines comes to mind, and Capital Airlines, which was an innovator. Capital shook up the U.S. airline industry when it introduced the British turboprop Vickers Viscount on its routes. It can also be argued that the Viscount was partly responsible for Capital’s demise. For a few short years the company had the upper hand with this advanced-technology aircraft, but then the jet age dawned and Capital was stuck with a large fleet of “yesterday’s” airplanes.
7.) Ok, we have to know. What is your favorite plane? Why?
Airliners of the past… the Douglas DC-3 and the Vickers Viscount.
The DC-3 was an amazing airplane. It was the game-changer in the airline industry. Its sturdiness made passengers feel safe and it made money for the airlines. Thousands of them were built and they flew everywhere. It was also the first type I ever flew on.
The Viscount was a dazzling step forward. Next to the proud, lumbering piston-engined aircraft of the day, this sleek turboprop airliner would always make its presence known with its whistling Rolls Royce engines. It was truly the link between the piston age and the jet age.
Among the aircraft that I worked, I tell people that “I was raised” on DC-9s. I literally spent years aboard that aircraft: -10s, -30s, -50s, MD-80s (which were called DC-9 Super 80s when they first came on-line).
My claim to fame is that I worked the very last Martin 404 flight for Southern Airways, which happened to be the last flight of a piston-engined airliner operated by a certificated carrier in the United States.
In later years, my absolute favorites to work aboard at Northwest were the Boeing 747 and the Airbus A319. The 747 was just a huge, sturdy machine that radiated a feeling of safety and spaciousness. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 319 was just the right size, an intimate environment for domestic flights… kind of like returning to DC-9-30 days.
8.) With essentially 4 ‘mega’ US airlines now, do you find the industry boring?
Pretty much. But it is still an industry like no other.
9.) Now that you’ve written a book, what’s your next project?
As the History Editor of AIRWAYS Magazine and a member of the Editorial Board of TAH – The Aviation Historian (a British publication), I’m always working on an airline history article. Let me interject here that the most important thing about recording history is to get the story right. You need to double-check your facts and check your sources. A lot of misinformation gets printed and, once it’s out there, it is very hard to retract or correct.
My next major project? I’d like to expand the local airlines book further, giving even more in-depth coverage to each of the carriers. After that, I’d like to write another book: the definitive story of America’s supplemental airlines, which were derisively called the “non-skeds”.
10.) What advice do you have for people who are interested in a career in aviation?
Follow your dream and don’t get discouraged. If you want to work for an airline and you are turned down by one carrier, apply with another. Stay focused and keep trying.