Joseph Kimm oral history interview
Pilot Joseph E. Kimm is interviewed about his decade-spanning aviation career. He discusses his early experiences as a flight steward on Ford Trimotor aircraft, and his time as a copilot and pilot for Northwest Airways (later Northwest Airlines), spanning the 1930s to the 1970s. He also touches on his military service during World War II with Air Transport Command, U.S. Army Air Corps. Other topics discussed include his work building aircraft models, his experiences with various aircraft, and a memorable flight from Minneapolis to Seattle with Amelia Earhart.
Table Of Contents
Joseph Kimm had a 42-year long career with Northwest Airways and served with the Special Missions Group during World War II.
Joseph Edward Kimm was born August 18, 1911 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Albert Peter and Catherine Kimm. He attended Central High School in Minneapolis, graduating in 1929. Because of the Depression, his family could not afford to send him to college, so he found a job helping make candy at a soda fountain.
As a child he enjoyed building model airplanes. At a meeting for model airplane makers he met Walter Bullock, an early aviator who shared Kimm’s hobby. When Kimm quit his job at the soda fountain, Bullock hired him to help make and sell model airplane kits. Bullock also flew for Northwest Airlines and invited Kimm on a flight. Having enjoyed the flight, Kimm then asked Bullock to help him get a job as a flight steward. Kimm was hired by Northwest Airways July 1, 1929 to serve as steward on the then-new Ford Trimotors. His primary task was to keep the airplane cabin clean. Kimm claims to have invented the air sickness bag while he was working as a steward. Realizing that being a pilot would be more a lucrative job, he sought out flight training. He began working for Northwest as co-pilot, and once he had earned his commercial pilot’s license he was promoted to captain in 1933 at the age of 23. His first route was between Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Over the course of his piloting career, he was involved in opening up two important air routes, one from Minneapolis to Seattle, Washington across the northern Rockies. That flight had Amelia Earhart as a passenger, who was publicizing both her recent book and their history-making flight. He also opened a route across previously uncharted territory from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska.
Fascination with the P-12E motivated him to join the Army Air Corps Reserves prior to the U.S. entry into World War II. This later led to him being called into wartime active duty in 1941 as one of the few dozen pilots forming the Special Missions Group (Brass Hat Squadron) during the war. In this role, he flew various dignitaries around the world, including Senator Albert Hawkes, Mexican Air Force General Salinas, and then General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In October 1956, Kimm 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, Kimm and DeLong appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Show in New York.
Kimm flew his final Northwest Boeing 707 flight on August 17, 1971. In his retirement years he enjoyed skiing, scuba diving, and delivering Meals on Wheels until he was well into his 90s. Kimm lived to be 102 years old, passing away on September 19, 2013.
Biographical information derived from interview and additional information provided by interviewee.