Capt. Robert Russo, United Airlines (ret.)
Our own Capt. Bob Russo is a co-founder of the Midway Historians. He was recently
contacted by Robert DuBert, Editor of the Northwest Airlines History Center Newsletter and the question arose as to
how our organization started. Bob set forth the following excellent look back on how it all began. Although
the club didn't finally get underway as the Midway Historians until 2004, after Chris Lynch and Dave Kent got
all excited about pulling together a new group with Bob Russo and Bob Soraparu, the roots go all the way
back to 1987.
As Bob Russo recounted to Robert DuBert: "The foundation for the Midway
Historians began in 1987 when I was introduced to Bob Soraparu through a mutual friend, an aviation slide
dealer in Chicago. Having grown up off the Northwest corner of MDW during the "glory years" of the 1950s, I had
taken many pictures on the observation deck and had started a collection of 8"x10" photos of the MDW terminal.
After meeting Bob Soraparu, I learned he had grown up off the Southeast corner of MDW and had spent his youth in
the terminal and on the observation deck during the late 1950s, and was also collecting MDW photos.
At the time, I was flying for UAL and Bob was a CSR for Allegheny/USAIR. We compared collections and realized our
collections were similar, and yet each collection had unique photos we soon combined to complete the other's
collection. Bob Soraparu also had the unique ability to find MDW photos in unlikely areas which really enhanced our
collections. We then started The Midway Chapter of The World Historical Society and began having informal meetings
at our homes. Our guests included early MDW historians from the 1930's and anyone who had an interest in MDW or
photos to share. Invitations were word of mouth and everyone was welcome. There were no officers, by-laws, or dues;
the only requirement was an interest in MDW. In 1989 we published a MDW postcard featuring a Midway Airlines DC-9
departing MDW. Bob and I continued increasing the size of our collections over the intervening years.
In 2002, at a book signing for his new book, "Chicago's Midway Airport: The First Seventy-Five Years", we met the
author, Chris Lynch and fellow author Dave Kent. Chris,the grandson of Pierce "Scotty" O'Carroll (the founder of
Monarch Air Service, which was the first FBO at MDW) had written the first book detailing the history of MDW
and his grandfather, an early pioneer at the airport. We also learned that Dave Kent, a pilot himself, was also
doing research on a book about a TWA Constellation which had crashed shortly after departing MDW. We discussed our
similar interests and shortly thereafter, Chris and Dave announced the first meeting of The Midway Historians. The
first meeting at a local restaurant was such a success, we had another meeting a few months later which again was
Today, the Midway Historians meet 2-3 times a year. We have no officers, by-laws, or dues. The
meetings are simply people interested in the history of MDW who come to look at our collection of photos and
memorabilia and talk about "the good old days"! We are pilots, mechanics, ground service, and just about anyone who
has an interest in MDW; being an airline employee is not required! Our collection of photos has increased immensely
and we now have the largest photo collection covering the history of MDW.
Now we have our own website, which is a treasure trove of MDW history. Chris Lynch has also published his
second book on MDW through the unique perspective of MDW's official "photographer of the stars", Mike Rotunno,
titled "When Hollywood Landed at Chicago's Midway Airport". Dave Kent's first book on MDW, "Images of
Aviation: Midway Airport" debuts March 25, 2013.
Another valued member of our group, Pat Bukiri, has started downloading our photo collection onto Flickr, which is
accessible through the Midway Historians Website.
As for my email address, "conniedriver749", no I did not fly for Capital! I was hired by UAL in 1978 (although I
really wanted to fly for NWA) and retired in 2009. I flew as co-pilot on the MATS Connie, which was on the airshow
circuit in 2002 and 2003. The MATS Connie was a C121A, same model as the civilian Lockheed L-749. As they say,
"Jets are for Kids!"
Bob Russo retired the Boeing 737 from service with United
Airlines. A number of years ago he was asked to put words to his passion for flight, and penned
"Why pilots fly is simply summed up in the famous poem,
High Flight, composed by RCAF
pilot officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., who was killed on 11 December 1941 in the early years of
'Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...'
"I did not choose to fly: I believe that
I was chosen to fly. Flying to me is as natural as breathing and eating. For as long as I can remember, I have
wanted to be an airline pilot, and for over three decades, I have been accomplishing my goal. To become one
with an airplane--to feel its movement, and to listen to its sounds as you accomplish the task that requires
complete concentration is the most satisfying task I can imagine. To defy the forces of nature by taking off
and encounter rain, snow, wind, ice and fog--followed by an approach and safe landing...overcoming all these
obstacles, is what makes us look forward to the next flight.
"Once again quoting High
'I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.'”
Bob Russo owns and flies a Cessna 182. He also runs the Midway Historians on a regular basis,
along with fellow charter Midway Historian, Bob Soraparu.
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